Common Cat Problems Solved: Stealing Food
Question: My cat does not seem to understand that he / she is not allowed to eat human food. They will often steal food off the kitchen counter or our dinner plates if we happen to turn our backs for one second. They are extremely sneaky and make life very unpleasant, as we have to constantly be on our guard. How do we teach them that they cannot eat human food?
Answer: The problem here is that the cat does not understand why they are not allowed human food, and no amount of cat training will actually rectify the issue. As an animal, who cannot understand reasoning, the idea that they cannot eat the incredibly tasty food they see before them is a cause of confusion. They want it, it looks nice, it’s right there… why not eat it?
As you cannot explain the hygiene and behavioural problems with a cat, the situation has to be dealt with differently. When your cat does eat food off a kitchen counter or a dinner plate, your reaction should be swift. Say “no” in a firm and powerful voice, then remove the cat from the room for the rest of the meal. If possible, keep the cat out of the room when food is around.
In terms of prevention, this is a difficult thing to achieve – as mentioned, you cannot override that instinct for wanting to eat what a cat conceives to be nice food. Always ensure your cat is well fed, so they are less likely to want to steal food – ideally, feed your cat a half hour before humans are going to eat. This, combined with clamping down on bad behaviour, should see a reduction in food theft.