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Cats - is overeating due to early food deprivation?

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Cats - is overeating due to early food deprivation?

In another thread, someone asked why food isnt just left out for cats so that they can feed themselves.

The reply was that the cat will just eat all the food (and quite possibly barf as a result).

From what I've been told, cats who experience a shortage/deprivation of food in their past results in them becoming obsessed with food. They either want to make sure there's lots of it available, or will eat as much as it available to the point they'll throw it up. They are said to be susceptible to becoming overweight too.

We have two bred cats (breeder said never to make food an issue and they'll be fine) that have never been deprived of food (it's always available, except for some overnights where they finish it all), and they're rather slender for their breed. Ours will just graze on their healthy high protein cat food, but just love junky (high carb) cat food that we use for treats. I once tipped over the jar that was kept in and it spilled all over the floor. They were so stunned they didn't even try to eat any.

Some friends who have a rescue (the shelter didn't know here history but she rapidly gained 5 lbs - to a healthy wright - under their care) have a cat that will not stop eating, and begging for food. They bought a timed feeder and the cat will just sit there and watch the feeder.

Of the cats we've petsat, the cats that have had care (single, loving/caring set of owners) since being adopted as kittens can have their dry food out and they won't eat it all, just grazing when they're peckish. Well, maybe not one who, in addition to her wet food dry food and treats, would go out regularly to kill and eat something (rats, rabbits, voles, mice, birds, small snakes). One cat who was rescued from a collector (crazy cat man, apparently) would meow incessantly if food wasn't in her bowl (not that she'd usually eat all of it she just wanted to be sure if was always available).

What's your experience with this?
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Every cat is an individual in how focused on food they will be... Sometimes you can attribute it to whatever in their past and other times that has no bearing whatsoever.

Free feeding has a higher chance of leading to a pet being overweight, especially if it is an indoor only cat. Cats can hyper focus on food when they don't have other things enriching their lives. Most indoor cats (and cats in general) are a little over weight and people don't see it for what it is since... Well, most cats are overweight so we don't know what a regular sized cat should look like.

If you have a scheduled meal time the cats may not have oppurtuninty to get a little chunky in the first place, and you can properly monitor if you pet is not eating its usual amount. Eating more or less would be cause for a trip to the vet to rule out potential health issues.

The least food obsessed of my current three cats used to be aggressive with food. He was semi-feral. I'm talking rip you to pieces aggressive in defence of the place his food would be put for meals even when food wasn't currently there. When food was there he would eat like the wild animal he was, he was so focused on the food it was the only time I could try to touch him (with a lot of protection covering my hands!!). When I began placing his food in a different location in the room to break him of his aggression this caused such distress to his routine that he viciously attacked my legs. After a few months of steady feeding this food aggression lessened and he became tame overall. After a year it was non-existent; often he does not finish his meals. He is also the sweetest cat I've ever owned. A lovely 180 if I ever saw one.

My oldest lived cat (over 20 most likely) was semi-feral to start with, indoor/outdoor her whole life and spent most of her time exploring the yard. She was offered wet food at dinner time which she ate and she also had kibble available at all times... which she never ate. She weighed 6 pounds her entire life. Her life of scrounging for food before being tamed had no lingering food obsession whatsoever and she had other things to occupy her time outdoors.
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I have two cats, a bonded pair. One(P) of them scarfs down food while the other(M) casually eats a bit, looks around (for approval?), Continues to eat, takes a walk, and then eats again. Usually P comes over and eats the rest of M's food.


I have to feed them in small portions so they both eat the same amount.

Meanwhile, if we talk about snacks (Greenies, wet snack tubes, liver bites), M goes absolutely feral while P would like some snacks but is okay without.


Who knows, cats are weird.
Last edited by coriolis on Dec 29th, 2019 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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They overeat because they overfed, stop overfeeding the cat.
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mucat wrote: They overeat because they overfed, stop overfeeding the cat.
That wasn't the topic... The topic was cats being preoccupied with food and what the root cause is... Some cats when you leave out food they remain trim and others overeat and become obese if given the oppurtuninty.

It's easy to say not to overfeed the cat, but when you have a cat obsessed with food (I have one that is and we've had her since she was a few months old) they find things to get into... Just a few weeks back she was so desperate for food she took vegetables off our dinner plates. Relieved Face A few years back we were home a few hours late to feed the cat and she ripped into the loaf of bread on the counter.
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Karala wrote: That wasn't the topic... The topic was cats being preoccupied with food and what the root cause is... Some cats when you leave out food they remain trim and others overeat and become obese if given the oppurtuninty.

It's easy to say not to overfeed the cat, but when you have a cat obsessed with food (I have one that is and we've had her since she was a few months old) they find things to get into... Just a few weeks back she was so desperate for food she took vegetables off our dinner plates. Relieved Face A few years back we were home a few hours late to feed the cat and she ripped into the loaf of bread on the counter.
I had a few of them and they turned overweight (I overfed them). I just portion the food. They might start chew opening bags of dry food, you will have to hide that. Sure, they might steal food from time to time but that's not the reason they become overweight.

Q: "what the root cause is..."
A: owner overfed the cat.
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Karala wrote: That wasn't the topic... The topic was cats being preoccupied with food and what the root cause is... Some cats when you leave out food they remain trim and others overeat and become obese if given the oppurtuninty.
Exactly. From what little I know about individual cats, it would seem the ones with food obsessive behavioural issues have experienced food shortages in their early life. There was one cat we house sat that would eat all his food, barf, and eat his barf otherwise the dogs would get it. He was fed only once a day. If we could find a drone pilot with a drone that could lift 25 lbs with a grapple hook, we would have rescued him.
mucat wrote: I had a few of them and they turned overweight (I overfed them). I just portion the food. They might start chew opening bags of dry food, you will have to hide that. Sure, they might steal food from time to time but that's not the reason they become overweight.

Q: "what the root cause is..."
A: owner overfed the cat.
True for cats that do have these behavioural issues. Ours have lived a charmed life so we can leave lots of dry food and a good amount of wet, their favourite form), and it won't be all eaten (well, maybe once every 2 months). I wished they'd eat all the wet food as we don't like wasting food (and we don't have a dog to feed it to). They are of a breed where a belly fat pad is a desirable show characteristic. One is so lean he's never had one and the other had one has a kitten but he grew out of it. We have a chart showing how to discern if a cat is over/under/right weight and ours are in the right to slightly under weight category.
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From my own experience, if the cat is meowing for food and you are sure the cat has enough food, you should not give the cat more.
The cat will get used to it. Also, for senior cats, they really do not need to eat too much. My cats eat about 1/4 can twice a day...per cat.
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mucat wrote: From my own experience, if the cat is meowing for food and you are sure the cat has enough food, you should not give the cat more.
The cat will get used to it. Also, for senior cats, they really do not need to eat too much. My cats eat about 1/4 can twice a day...per cat.
One of ours meows for food, when he has ample wet and dry food available, because he wants what we're eating (usually meat) or he hits me up for cat snacks (usually the junky high carb stuff which is a treat for them). He'll also meow because his wet bowl is empty when there is ample dry. Fortunately they have lots of room to run around to burn the excess intake off.
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Karala, We have a dog version of your very food obsessed cat (actually while we no longer have a cat we did have one who lived to be 20 and she was hungry for all of the 20 years - and weighed 10 lbs. throughout her life).

I am sure you know all about the EAT on some of the vet food - yikes. I would really hate to have to feed such a food to our dog - an appetite stimulant is the last thing he needs.
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thriftshopper wrote: One of ours meows for food, when he has ample wet and dry food available, because he wants what we're eating (usually meat) or he hits me up for cat snacks (usually the junky high carb stuff which is a treat for them). He'll also meow because his wet bowl is empty when there is ample dry. Fortunately they have lots of room to run around to burn the excess intake off.
You will have to try to ignore the cat when he/she is asking for table food. Also, you can try to only give enough food for each meal and/or take away the bowl after they eat. After a few times, the cat will learn. I know it is tough to resist with their cute face and sound :) One of my cat would jump beside me and pull my hand (with food ) toward him with his paw/claw, so damn cute.
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As said, the "good" food is still there. He's not overweight, but just wants treats. if we left a bowl of the stuff (low-grade cat food doing duty as cat treats) out, he probably won't eat it. He likes the smell of grilled/roasted meats, and just wants a morsel to taste (he won't eat more). Our joke is that he remembers the breeder going away with his dad (a champion show cat) and the breeder's husband letting out the big cats to hunt for sheep, cows, pigs, whatever, and dragging it home and all the cats having a big feast.
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