How to stop your cat from stealing food

Is your cat stealing food? Many cats do this. Is it because they are hungry? Not always. Stealing food from your cats point of view is similar to hunting. Mother Nature instilled this behavior in your cat so they could survive in the wild.

Kitten stealing from from the table
Cat keeps stealing your food?

It’s okay to not want to eat from the same plate as your cat. It’s not being selfish, really. You may be concerned about hygiene and the spreading of parasites.  You may be concerned about maintaining your cat’s healthy weight.   One key fact is that human foods are not always safe for cats. Your cat might not get all the nutrition they need either. In this article, you are going to learn how to stop your cat from stealing your food.

Do not reward your cat’s begging.

Do not let your cat get away with it. If your cat begs for human food, never give in. If you give your cat one bite, they will surely be after another. The reason is, you taught them that if they beg, they will be rewarded. This takes patience and consistency.  If you accidentally drop food on the floor, pick it up right away to make sure your cat does not get it.

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Keep the food out of reach.

Do not leave food containers open on the counter. Do not leave prepared meals alone on the table. Do not leave food anywhere your cat can get it. If your cat is smart enough to open your kitchen cabinets, invest in some baby-proof locks like these Invisible Baby Proofing Locks which are an Amazon Choice. If your cat is able to figure those out, you may need a deterrent like the sssCat below.

Invisible Baby Proofing Cabinet Latch Locks (10 Pack)
Invisible baby proofing locks

Use a cat deterrent.

If you have to leave the food out to cool, you can place a sssCat cat training aid next to it. It’s a battery powered, motion-activated cat deterrent that sprays air whenever your cat approaches. Alternatively, you can apply double-sided sticky tape on the table or counter near the food, which is cheaper but less convenient. Learn to prevent your cat from jumping on tables here.

Increase your cat’s activity.

Food is directly linked to your cat’s natural instinct to hunt. If your cat expends that energy through playing, they will have less energy for stealing food.  We found that the most effective method involved playing with our cat using an interactive toy.  We found this SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy worked really well with our cats.

Invisible Baby Proofing Cabinet Latch Locks (10 Pack)
Invisible baby proofing locks

Increase the number of your cat’s meals.

Maybe your cat simply can’t wait for his dinner. As much as we work with our clients, most people feed their cats twice a day. That is not enough to prevent a cat from stealing, because your cat indeed becomes hungry during the day—or night. Normally, at least three meals per day would be great, whereas a cat in the wild may eat up to ten times a day. How do you provide three meals if you are away during the day? Easy—serve the first meal before you leave, the second meal as you come home and the last meal before you go to sleep. This will help to stop your cat stealing, but not only that. See here for more benefits of scheduled feeding in cats.

Provide your cat’s meals through playing.

Grey cat playing with a red Catit treat ball
This grey cat “hunts” for his food. As they play with the Catit treat ball, kibble falls out

There are puzzle feeders, food dispenser balls and hide-and-seek games available. Place some of his food inside a treat-dispensing ball, such as the Catit Treat Ball. It stimulates your cat in to figuring out how to get their food.  It will keep your cat busy hunting their own food instead of stealing yours.

Catit Hagen Treat Ball
Let your cat hunt/work for their food.

Feed your cat when you eat.

If your cat is begging when you sit down to eat or is stealing your food at particular times (e.g., as you prepare meals), you can provide your cat’s meal at the same time.  It’ll keep your cat busy for a while and they’ll be less hungry to come begging or stealing food from your plate.

Check the amount of food you give to your cat.

Are you feeding your cat enough? The best way to know how much your cat must eat is to check the recommended feeding guidelines on the package. Remember those are “recommended” values.  The things to think about are your cat’s preferences, activity level and size. The real way to know if your cat receives enough food is to check your cat’s body condition. If your cat is too skinny, feed them more.  If they are at a good weight, then try feeding them smaller meals throughout the day that add up to the total amount you’ve been feeding them.

Visit your veterinarian.

In some cases, your cat’s stealing may be caused by a health disorder.  The most commons ones are diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Worms can also cause a cat to constantly want food. It’s important to know that you can get worms from your cat.  Eating off the same plate is a common way that the worms are transmitted.  In these cases, stealing food may not just be a behavior problem.  For you and your cats health and well being, visit your veterinarian if you suspect any of these conditions.

Remember that stealing food, or simply getting it, is part of their natural hunting behavior. Your cat does not even know that they are doing something bad.

Try these recommendations to stop your cat from stealing food.  If your cat has enough exercise, is mentally stimulated, and fed the right amount, they will be less likely to steal your food or participating in other unruly behaviors. Both you and your cat will be healthier and happier.

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