affection eating tips

louisstools

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I'm looking for tips to help break my cat's need for me to be near her and petting her and cheering her on when she eats. The only catch is it needs to work with free feedings. If there's one thing I learned from the past six months and all the diets we tried she does not like scheduled meals b/c she really only wants to eat a small amount of food each time. So the bowl needs to be down 24x7.

I'll keep a very small backstory - for more details see my mega thread. 10 year old 12.16lb girl cat, recently clean bill of health, for 9.5 years ate a free range diet of rx kibble. That changed 8 months ago when her brother got cancer and died. Spend this year trying a variety of food types and feeding schedules that didn't work b/c of health reasons or she revolted. I think we tried 5 combinations that failed. Finally the cat decided on June 1 she wanted to go back to the old diet of just rx kibble. That cleared up all her health issues and she's been doing really good and she's no longer "fighting" me with food.

Except she's free feeding and wants 11-16 feedings a day. Which would be fine if she wasn't an "affection eater" and wanted me next to her. This is not sustainable for me because I'm chained to her. She has always been needy and clingy and always wanted you to be with her when she ate but in the "way before times" she would eat just fine on her own. But for all of the diet changes -- we've had 5 or 6 this year -- I was next to her while she ate cheering her on and I think she's gotten used to it.

Right now, we're in a routine where I have to walk her to her bowl and stand next to her and "fluff" the bowl for her to eat. Sometimes she'll come get me to take her to her food bowl for a feeding. When we're on the couch watching tv she'll meow at me to go with her to the food bowl. However sometimes she'll get me to walk over to the bowl but won't eat and seemingly just wants to be petted (even though I pet her ALL day lol). I will add that she does eat some of her food over night and she has eaten her food when I'm gone and once last week I saw her go to the bowl and eat w/o me but I was in the same room as the bowl. So as far as I can tell she will eat on her own if she's hungry.

Yesterday, I started an experiment where I'll get her "started" on eating (coax/pet her to get her eating) and then walk away but maybe remain in the room with her. Sometimes she'll keep eating and other times she stops and then I'll just "restart" her and repeat. If she's particularly hungry I can leave the room -- breaking visuals -- for a minute and on one occasion she kept eating after she realized I wasn't there. I'm still cheering her on to help relax her even when I'm not next to her.

I'd like to break her of this habit and am just looking for some tips. Thanks in advance.
 

ArtNJ

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What happens if you leave the kibble down and just don't cooperate with the ritual? Even if she is large framed, 12 pounds doesnt sound like she is underweight. I'd measure out a cup of dry, give it 24 hours, and remeasure. If she really doesn't eat anything, then going cold turkey might not work / be too dangerous. But 24 hours is not going to hurt a cat at a healthy weight. And if she eats some, you can extend the experiment a bit and see if it improves.

May sound harsh, but participating in the ritual is just reinforcing it.

Many many times I've found that a cat that won't eat what is provided when I'm awake, will realize thats all that is coming when I'm asleep, and eat it then. So thats why I think measuring will help give you confidence that you can just stop participating in the ritual.
 
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louisstools

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What happens if you leave the kibble down and just don't cooperate with the ritual? Even if she is large framed, 12 pounds doesnt sound like she is underweight. I'd measure out a cup of dry, give it 24 hours, and remeasure. If she really doesn't eat anything, then going cold turkey might not work / be too dangerous. But 24 hours is not going to hurt a cat at a healthy weight. And if she eats some, you can extend the experiment a bit and see if it improves.

May sound harsh, but participating in the ritual is just reinforcing it.

Many many times I've found that a cat that won't eat what is provided when I'm awake, will realize thats all that is coming when I'm asleep, and eat it then. So thats why I think measuring will help give you confidence that you can just stop participating in the ritual.
You raise a good question, I do not know what would happen if we went cold turkey. I suppose she would eat when hungry. She readily eats this food right now, has a decade of eating it without me, as recently as a month ago would eat kibble just fine-ish free range (when she was eating half wet and half kibble), and eats a bit every night without me (the amount varies but seems to be around 0.3oz with the current ritual). This is something I was considering attempting this long weekend.
 

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I would just stop following her. Unless a cat says “I want you to come sit with me” you may just be thinking that’s what she wants. I have a VERY vocal cat. If I followed her ever time she meowed, I’d be skinny haha. She just likes to be heard 🤷🏻‍♀️
 
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louisstools

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Thinking out loud, what about three or so (more if needed?) bowls?
That is something I could try. In my office I have a cat corner for her with a heated bed and water fountain. I could add a bowl of food and see how she likes it.

I've also come to the realization that how she eats in the AM is different than the PM. In the AM she'll eat the bulk of her offering within an hour or so all the while wanting to play with me and just being excited I'm awake. Sometimes it seems like she has trouble focusing on eating in the AM b/c she's so happy to see me. In the PM she'll eat a bit initially when I offer it but then really just wants to graze the rest of the evening while she sleeps next to me and periodically go grab a snack.

I've been working on not petting her while she eats and stepping back. When she's hungry, after I "get her going" she'll eat on her own and realize I'm gone and usually continue for a bit. It seems when she eventually stops she's perhaps had her fill. If I "restart her" she may eat a bit more but not usually more than a 2-3 bites. Maybe hunger is motivating her to eat on her own when she knows I'm not right next to her?

She's done pretty good this AM and I was thinking about this PM doing a "cold turkey" attempt to see how she'll react to me just not being with her but around. As long as she makes one trip on her own to eat I'd say that is a major success. Depending on how that goes tomorrow may be cold turkey or more getting her going and walking back.
 

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Cold turkey went well in our home. I also moved Magnus's food off the ground and on to the deep freeze. Now I just set him there when I put the food up and walk away. He's not food focused so I was worried it wouldn't work.

Sometimes he still waits for us to be in the room to eat. We do bring his food upstairs at night so that he's near us. Occasionally he may still want us in the room after a stressful experience so we will do that.
 
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louisstools

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Cold turkey went well in our home. I also moved Magnus's food off the ground and on to the deep freeze. Now I just set him there when I put the food up and walk away. He's not food focused so I was worried it wouldn't work.

Sometimes he still waits for us to be in the room to eat. We do bring his food upstairs at night so that he's near us. Occasionally he may still want us in the room after a stressful experience so we will do that.
Pardon my ignorance, what does "food focused" mean? I haven't heard that before.

Edit: Also if you wouldn't mind, could you share some details on how you went about the cold turkey and how it went with Magnus?
 

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Pardon my ignorance, what does "food focused" mean? I haven't heard that before.
Like a scale on how much they like food and are motivated by it 🙂.
On one end is cats who only eat when hungry and will turn up even favourite treats if not hungry. On the other end is cats who love food to the point of it being difficult or impossible to keep them from it and they'll do almost anything for food.
 
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louisstools

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Like a scale on how much they like food and are motivated by it 🙂.
On one end is cats who only eat when hungry and will turn up even favourite treats if not hungry. On the other end is cats who love food to the point of it being difficult or impossible to keep them from it and they'll do almost anything for food.
Thanks! I edited my post just about when you were replying so you might not have seen my follow up question. :oops:
Would you mind sharing a few details on how you did the cold turkey process with Magnus and how things went? For example, how long did it take for him to figure it out?
 

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Thanks! I edited my post just about when you were replying so you might not have seen my follow up question. :oops:
Would you mind sharing a few details on how you did the cold turkey process with Magnus and how things went? For example, how long did it take for him to figure it out?
So kind of two things. We first assessed if he was on enough of a schedule and decided what times to feed him..like your cat he needs smaller meals more frequently.

Then we decided on the 'where'. He eats on the deep freeze during the day and on the bathroom counter at night. Our height was easier because he feels safer and the others have less opportunity to bother him.

Then we would put the bowl down and then we pick him up and set him in front of the bowl. At first I would offer a variety to entice him. Just a teaspoon of two or three flavours. I never give him more than a pingpong ball size amount, as it can overwhelm him and he'll walk away without eating.

Then when he'd bug us for food we would take him over to it and walk away again. If he left, maybe we would take him back and stay a second then go to the doorway of the room. He eats a bit more and we leave.

We do still tend to feed him in the same room as us, and he gets his co-eating fix with a Churu tube treat before bed.

Maybe two or three weeks to fix this? But still it periodically happens. He was eating bits here and there during the process so I didnt worry too much. We also had an over the counter multivitamin for cats for him to take with his Churu during this time.
 
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louisstools

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Thanks for your story A Alldara . Such a cat thing to eat on the deep freezer and then the counter lol.

For my Missy, she gets a helping/scoop in the AM and then in the PM, both are kibble. The bowl stays down all day so she can come and go as she pleases. There's no other cats or animals here to bother her, she just wants me there.

Most of the time when the cat is hungry and I'm walking into the kitchen (where the bowl is) she'll follow me. Today I've been focusing on getting her started and then walking away to the point of breaking visual contact and then restarting her when she stops. It's been hit or miss, sometimes she'll eat a bit before stopping and other times she stops immediately.

So far on one occasion today she walked right past me when I was in an adjacent room and went to her bowl and ate a bit all on her own! On another occasion she walked to her bowl all on her own but didn't eat. Maybe she did a drink, not sure. On the whole she's on par with what she normally eats so I'd say this is progress.
 

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Thanks for your story A Alldara . Such a cat thing to eat on the deep freezer and then the counter lol.

For my Missy, she gets a helping/scoop in the AM and then in the PM, both are kibble. The bowl stays down all day so she can come and go as she pleases. There's no other cats or animals here to bother her, she just wants me there.

Most of the time when the cat is hungry and I'm walking into the kitchen (where the bowl is) she'll follow me. Today I've been focusing on getting her started and then walking away to the point of breaking visual contact and then restarting her when she stops. It's been hit or miss, sometimes she'll eat a bit before stopping and other times she stops immediately.

So far on one occasion today she walked right past me when I was in an adjacent room and went to her bowl and ate a bit all on her own! On another occasion she walked to her bowl all on her own but didn't eat. Maybe she did a drink, not sure. On the whole she's on par with what she normally eats so I'd say this is progress.
That is EXCELLENT! yes that's definitely working for you. You could consider not restarting her if you're comfortable with that. But really, this is about your stress level too so that is a consideration.

Sometimes when Magnus stops as I'm walking away I tell him to go ahead and eat. It can work. He gives me the stink eye though 🤣
 
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But really, this is about your stress level too so that is a consideration.
That's why I'm doing this. It's not sustainable for me to feed her 15 times a day at her whim. I can do a couple (2-4) but seeing as she's always resisted larger meals she needs to learn to eat without me.

Tomorrow I have some appointments so hopefully that gives her opportunity to eat on her own while I'm away.
 

rockitorknockit

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Just replying to the original post to say it sounds so much like what I have to do with my Oscar that it's seriously like I wrote it myself. I even call it "fluffing".

My situation is a bit different because Oscar has been sick and getting him to eat enough to keep his weight up has been a battle. So I'm literally following him around with the dish and constantly convincing him to eat. He has a new thing he does now where he forced me to follow him onto the balcony because he prefers to eat out there.

It does get stressful during the work week. I honestly have no idea what I'd be doing if I didn't have the luxury of working from home every day. I can step away from a meeting to try and get him to eat here, and while it is stressful to have to do this 100 times a day, I can and it often works. Maybe he'd be eating more on his own if I was at work, but I'm pretty certain he would just... not be eating.

I wish you luck with your journey to giving your kitty a little more independence on this front. I don't see that happening for my Oscar, but it was almost funny to read your post!
 
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louisstools

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I wish you luck with your journey to giving your kitty a little more independence on this front. I don't see that happening for my Oscar, but it was almost funny to read your post!
Thanks. My life has pretty much been nothing but trying to get my cat to eat for seven months. Literally nothing but that. Can't have anyone over. Can't leave for very long. For six months each feeding took 15 minutes and required a lot of coaxing and stress and the stress would start coming on an hour before the meal. We "only" did 4 feedings a day. We also had a month battling uti and constipation that had me carrying her to the litter box 4 or so times a day to encourage her.

Her switching to kibble took a lot of the stress away bc she eats it better and it resolved the uti and constipation. But it interrupts things more. None of this has been sustainable and it's been a battle to get where we are.

Hopefully she keeps adapting well. Speaking honestly, it's not like she has a choice because I can't keep this up. I'm optimistic because she's such a good little cat.
 

rockitorknockit

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Thanks. My life has pretty much been nothing but trying to get my cat to eat for seven months. Literally nothing but that. Can't have anyone over. Can't leave for very long. For six months each feeding took 15 minutes and required a lot of coaxing and stress and the stress would start coming on an hour before the meal. We "only" did 4 feedings a day. We also had a month battling uti and constipation that had me carrying her to the litter box 4 or so times a day to encourage her.

Her switching to kibble took a lot of the stress away bc she eats it better and it resolved the uti and constipation. But it interrupts things more. None of this has been sustainable and it's been a battle to get where we are.

Hopefully she keeps adapting well. Speaking honestly, it's not like she has a choice because I can't keep this up. I'm optimistic because she's such a good little cat.
I somehow feel comforted by this. It's nice to know I'm not the only kitty owner that's a slave to her cat's every digestive process. Sometimes I feel like I am going insane, or I am being insane. Sometimes it is difficult for me to know what is something I am causing vs what is something I am reacting to. But I have seen my efforts make a positive difference, so that doesn't count for nothing. It sounds like you have as well! And it sounds like you and I are both blessed with brave little creatures.
 
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louisstools

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Sometimes I feel like I am going insane, or I am being insane. Sometimes it is difficult for me to know what is something I am causing vs what is something I am reacting to.
Yeah, I feel ya. Before this seven months ordeal started, I spent 4 months giving my other cat end of life care because of his cancer. So it's been nearly a year in this mode.

A month ago I was at the point I was considering euthanasia because there is no quality of life for me nor was I enjoying her because of the constant crippling stress. I literally couldn't even watch TV because of the stress.

It was an absolute miracle when she just took to the all kibble switch. I had tried that twice before and it didn't work, she revolted.

At some point my life has to be more than what feels like force feeding an animal and chasing after their outputs. In fact, the only reason I'm able to function right now is because I've come to terms with my care giving limits and I just don't have much left in the tank.

But she's done so well I'm very optimistic she'll figure things out and we'll have a nice long life together. But it's not like she really has a choice either.
 

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Just replying to the original post to say it sounds so much like what I have to do with my Oscar that it's seriously like I wrote it myself. I even call it "fluffing".

My situation is a bit different because Oscar has been sick and getting him to eat enough to keep his weight up has been a battle. So I'm literally following him around with the dish and constantly convincing him to eat. He has a new thing he does now where he forced me to follow him onto the balcony because he prefers to eat out there.

It does get stressful during the work week. I honestly have no idea what I'd be doing if I didn't have the luxury of working from home every day. I can step away from a meeting to try and get him to eat here, and while it is stressful to have to do this 100 times a day, I can and it often works. Maybe he'd be eating more on his own if I was at work, but I'm pretty certain he would just... not be eating.

I wish you luck with your journey to giving your kitty a little more independence on this front. I don't see that happening for my Oscar, but it was almost funny to read your post!
Is Oscar on a specific diet for medical reasons or could he be switched to a higher calorie food such as a kitten diet?
With all Magnus's issues the boys stayed on kitten kibble until recently and Magnus is over 2, Nobel is 16 and he was eating the same. He supposed to be eating the Purina urinary but they all end up grazing each other's a bit.
 
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louisstools

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Mod Note:
We have merged two threads that were very similar so that all the information is in one place.
This and following posts are from a thread previously titled cat constantly has head on swivel/easily distracted while eating

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cat is female and 9.5 years old and has a recent clean bill of health from the vet.
cat lived in a multi-cat household for 9 years until her buddy cat passed back in December.
cat is a hard-core grazer and wants 10-15 meals a day; she did not do well with scheduled meal times in the historical or recent past so that's out of the question.

I'm currently trying to de-attach myself from my cat needing me around in order for her to eat because it's too much for me. She'll eat on her own if she's STARVING or if I'm sleeping or out of the house but certainly she does not prefer to eat without me there. I've a whole thread on that but that's not this post.

I've noticed that when my cat eats she is constantly looking around and behind her when she eats. Even if I'm standing next to her and petting her and touching her she will do this. She'll take a bite or two, stop, look around, and then sometimes resume eating and sometimes not (may need me to pet her to "restart" her). In general she seems easily distracted while eating and ANY sound is cause for her to stop eating and often times she won't resume until I "restart" her.

I think she had this behavior when her buddy cat was alive but frankly I don't remember, meals were "dump food in bowl and go" for me and the cats kinda did that they did. I recall my current cat pushing the other cat away from his bowl frequently but I don't remember him doing that to her.

Her food bowl is in the same place it always has been: in the kitchen, near a wall and her water source. I've tried moving her kibble bowl but she wants it there; when she was eating wet she did not want to eat there but she no longer wants to eat wet and I don't want her to eat it either (too hard on me).

She's always been an anxious cat so perhaps this is just her anxiety showing? I'm not sure if this is a "problem" but it's something I've noticed as I'm trying to change her eating routine and I feel the routine would be easier for us (my focus is its easier for me) if she could just eat her food without being so distracted.
 
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