Why Does My Cat Always Want Me to Watch Her Eat?
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Many cat owners see the oddest behavior in their feline friends. Some report cats only eating whenever their human family sits down to eat. We imagine they'd sit at the table with a knife and fork if they could. Others have a similar habit where they want you to come and watch them while they eat. This is a common occurrence and not necessarily one to worry about, but it does reveal something about our cats of which we may need to be mindful. This is because we need to ensure our cat feels safe, secure and doesn't go into hiding when they sense an imbalance.
Do you identify with this situation? Perhaps it is a cat you have known all their lives or you may have a new introduction to your family. Either way, AnimalWised helps illuminate with the answer to why your cat always wants you to watch them eat. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
Cats are animals of habit
Cats have gained a bad reputation for some due to the impression of being demanding or capricious when it comes to their palate and eating habits. However, we need to consider that some of these supposed ‘whims’ are actually due to the habits we have imbued in them as pet owners. If your cat wants you to watch them while they eat, then it is very likely this is a behavior which has been instilled during their upbringing and early education.
First, it is important to understand that cats cling to a routine as a way to preserve their health and well-being. It also helps them to avoid dangerous situations or unfavorable situations where they don't have adequate chance of evasion. Although a cat's routine has a lot to do with where it spends their time, it also includes their food, their interaction with you, their toys and anything they have in their home environment.
When we adopt a kitten, it is natural we want them to receive the best care and the right kind of food to keep them in good health. For this reason, many cat owners will accompany their kittens to the food bowl to ensure they are indeed eating and supervise the amount of food they consume in a sitting.
While this approach is neither bad nor wrong (it is essential we monitor our cat's eating habits to ensure they are getting enough sustenance), it may be the explanation of why they want you to watch them eat. Kittens get used to having their guardian present when feeding and may continue this habit into their adulthood. They may even refuse to eat while alone. As you are their point of reference and a parental figure for them, how you behave towards them can, in turn, affect their own behavior.
All animals need a safe environment to feed
In the wild, feeding can be a very delicate time for animals. Their focus on eating can leave them distracted in front of potential predators and other various hazards. The myriad considerations cats have to make in the wild means that their environment is full of dangers and eating makes them vulnerable in front of them. Surprise attacks can be lethal and the focus cats have on their feeding can make them less aware. Also, having been fed can slow them down if they were to try to make an escape.
Although our home is not a wild habitat, instinctual feelings can make a domesticated cat feel similarly vulnerable while eating. This is one of the many reasons it is important to have a calm and stable environment for our pets where they can feel safe to enjoy their food and receive the right nutrition. For many cats, the presence of their owner is how they generate the sense of security they need to eat in peace.
We may feel gratified that our cats love us to this point and that our mere presence provides security, trust and calmness. However, this dependency isn't always healthy as the stress when you are not around isn't good for them. It's important to ask why your cat doesn't feel safe when they are home alone.
What to do if your cat wants you to watch them eat
While many tutors normalize the fact that their cats want them to watch them eat, it is important we are not reinforcing unhealthy behavior. In the day-to-day, it may seem like this habit doesn't negatively impact your cat's health or nutrition. However, when you go away on vacation or you are not in the home for whatever reason, this dependency can cause emotional stress.
If you are absent for any length of time, your cat may end up going through a prolonged fast as they are too stressed to eat. If a cat spends enough time on an empty stomach, they will stat to accumulate digestive juices in their stomach. This can cause intense irritation and inflammation of the stomach's mucous membrane. They may end up vomiting bile due to the lack of food. If prolonged fasting occurs, this inflammation can lead to ulcers or other gastrointestinal issues which can severely affect their quality of life.
So what should we do if our cat refuses to eat alone? First of all, we need to have patience as changing a cat's habits is never easy. To help stop this habit in your cat, we can start by moving their feeding bowl to a different place in the home, e.g. from the dining room to the kitchen. It is important to choose a clean, safe and well-conditioned environment. This is so the cat can feel safe when it feeds. It should also be away from their litter box and their water source.
We should move their food bowl or feeder while the cat is at home, but we should not stay in the same room after we do so. The goal is to make the cat learn, little by little, that they do not require your presence to feed. When you notice the cat is comfortable enough to eat alone in this room, you can move on to the next stage. Put their favorite food in their feeder (in the newly chosen room) and then leave the house for a while. This should help encourage them to eat even when you are not on the premises.
Offering them some paté or wet food will help entice them to eat, hopefully putting aside their anxiety in favor of some tasty grub. Cats in the wild eat their prey alive, meaning they will often have the same body temperature of between 36.5 ºC and 38 ºC. If you gently warm the food before offering it to our pet, it might encourage them. This doesn't mean make it hot as this may put them off.
If this process is not effective, it is best to seek the guidance of a feline expert or ethologist. As we have mentioned, each feline is an individual which demonstrates a unique personality. This is why a professional might be helpful in taking a fuller and more holistic approach to your cat's anxiety.
Enriching your cat's environment
It is not only your cat's relationship to food which can lead to their neediness at mealtime. If they don't have an enriched environment, it can lead to them looking for stimulation in other places. By an enriched environment, we mean having enough stimuli in the place they spend their time to alleviate stress and/or boredom. If your cat has these things to play with and expend energy, they should relieve pent up stress, feel more positive and also work up an appetite. This means, regardless of whether you are present, they should be more inclined to eat. Additionally, good mental and physical stimulation is essential in preserving general good health and preventing behavioral problems associated with boredom.
Does your cat have other symptoms?
You may notice that your cat refusing to eat is not the only issue they are having to deal with. If you notice that their lack of appetite is accompanied by lethargy, vomiting and/or diarrhea, you should consult a veterinarian. Some disease your cat may pick up can alter your cat's appetite and affect its digestive tract, causing the lack of desire to eat. Additionally, the accumulation of hairballs can stop a cat from eating all of a sudden. In either case, it is likely you will need a vet's diagnosis to establish adequate treatment.
It is also important to pay attention to the quality of the food we feed our cats. If you offer a low quality food to your cat, it is possible they will refuse to eat it. You may need to invest in a more high end premium line of cat food. You could even experiment by provide a raw food diet (also known as the BARF diet), but you should read our article on raw food for cats to ensure you have made the right considerations. As long as the food for your cat provides the right amount of nutrients, it should work to strengthen their immune system and sustain their overall health.
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