Third cat is very food obsessed and food aggressive

Jerr

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We got her when she was about 6 weeks old, just over a year ago. She was a rescue and had an injury of unknown origin on her head. We don't know how long she had been surviving outside and she had been alone. Despite that, she seemed like a normal, playful and loving kitten. She didn't seem to eat overly fast at that time. We kept her isolated from our other two cats for about a month and slowly acclimated them. After they were acclimated we did mealtime with everyone eating together and all was good for a while.

I don't remember the exact details but we noticed she started becoming more and more aggressive when eating. She would often growl when eating and act fearful around us and the other cats. She also growled a lot when playing with a toy, especially if one of the other cats showed interest in it. For the most part we chalked it up to it just being how she expresses herself - she's also FAR more vocal than the other cats (always chirping/mrrping and mewing).

We tried to create a safe space for her to eat on the other side of the room in an enclosure. For the better part of a year we let her eat in solitude (based on online advice) in the hopes she would realize there was no need to be aggressive. But she still eats as quickly as she possibly can. She would finish her meal in 30 seconds and often vomit it back up. We had to give her a slow feeder. This solved the vomiting but she still eats as frantically as possible. And if we're near her when she's eating she growls and gets fearful sometimes even pawing her food out of the bowl and bringing it further away to eat. She has similar behavior if we give the cats treats (made worse, I'm sure, by the other 2 cats sitting near her). Any time we're eating ANYTHING she props herself up and mews and looks at you with intense eyes just BEGGING for a morsel as though she hasn't eaten in days. She cannot POSSIBLY still be hungry.

Even though she's full grown now she's still very small, about 6 lbs. The other two (male) cats are much larger though neither ever pose any threat to her. She tries to dominate the house. She will swat at the other cats if they try to smell her. They do play occasionally but it's mostly just chasing eachother around the house (which sometimes leads to fighting and goes too far).

I see I'm typing a lot so I'll try to wrap this up. Aside from her food issues she's a really sweet kitten. She often comes up to me asking for pets or to be held or to play. But when she's eating it's like a switch is flipped and she goes full feral. I'm sure that's not enjoyable for her. She definitely gets enough food (we have her checked regularly). I'd be tempted to just give her extra food for a while to show her "See? There's no shortage of food! You don't have to worry!" but .. firstly, I don't think she'd get the message and secondly, I think she'd just yak it all up and then get even MORE frantic.

Anyway, looking for things to try to help ease the situation. I don't want her to feel like she needs to be this fearful and frantic when eating.
 

susanm9006

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She is very small and perhaps she has a fast metabolism and requires more food than she is currently getting or needs. Can you try adding an additional meal of high quality wet food for her? You would need to feed her in a separate room away from the other cats but it’s worth a try.
 
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Jerr

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She is very small and perhaps she has a fast metabolism and requires more food than she is currently getting or needs. Can you try adding an additional meal of high quality wet food for her? You would need to feed her in a separate room away from the other cats but it’s worth a try.
Hmm, the vet said her weight is good though. On top of that she has bilateral hip dysplasia so ensuring she doesn't get overweight is more critical (less stress on her hips). I can try simply feeding her a bit more during her morning/night meals but I feel like I gotta be careful with her portions.
 

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Hi and welcome to TCS! More or less repeating the information above, as I was getting ready to post when I noticed the above response. Maybe try feeding her in an entirely separate room? Somewhere she can't see the other cats and they can't see her. You may have to find a way to keep the other cats from that area if you think they would venture there to seek out her food or go there just out of curiosity. Are the cats fed on a schedule? Maybe give her an extra meal, if possible, just to see what happens. Perhaps, she is the kind of cat that needs food left out most/all of the time, and it could even be that doing so might eventually reduce her eating stress.

You could try playing cat music and/or using calming diffusers in her eating area to see if that might help reduce her franticness. These type of things works on some cats and not others, so it possibly could be a temporary experiment. You might also elevate her bowls in case her hips bother her leaning over so far.

I don't know what would have changed if she didn't used to be this aggressive before. If the other cats bother her more when eating, or maybe have started 'sneaking' her food, that could cause an elevation in her about her food possessiveness.

Does she spend any time with the other cats in a calm fashion at all? I was just curious as it sounds like she might not really want 'buddies' and would prefer to be away from them as much as possible. If the only form of 'play' ends up with chasing and fighting, then it kind of doesn't sound like play at all. Does she ever instigate play with them, or do they aways start any interaction? Is she is always the one who 'fights' first?

I am sure other members will come along soon with even more thoughts!!
 

susanm9006

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Hmm, the vet said her weight is good though. On top of that she has bilateral hip dysplasia so ensuring she doesn't get overweight is more critical (less stress on her hips). I can try simply feeding her a bit more during her morning/night meals but I feel like I gotta be careful with her portions.
It’s worth a short trial, I think, to find out whether more or different food resolves the issue. I don’t think any weight gain would be excessive in a week or two and if it does help her food issues you can have a talk with your vet about the situation and weight.
 
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Jerr

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You might also elevate her bowls in case her hips bother her leaning over so far.
Fortunately even though the vet said her hips were "a mess", she doesn't seem to be bothered much by it. We give her joint supplements daily so hopefully that's helping.

Does she spend any time with the other cats in a calm fashion at all?
Kind of? She gets curious as to what they're doing but she's not very good at just being "next" to them. It always feels like she needs to preemptively defend herself in case they decide to attack. But the boys are usually just chilling and she goes and bops them out of nowhere,

Does she ever instigate play with them, or do they aways start any interaction? Is she is always the one who 'fights' first?
Again .. kind of. I think she WANTS to play with them but she's REALLY BAD at it. If there is a fight to be had, 7 times out of 10 she's the instigator.

I don’t think any weight gain would be excessive in a week or two and if it does help her food issues you can have a talk with your vet about the situation and weight.
I've spent the last hour or so looking up feeding charts to see how far off I might be with feeding her. I'm starting to feel like I may be severely under-feeding her .. so many of these charts indicate she should be getting 6-7oz of wet food per day. Right now she gets .. probably less than 3oz. But it's also supplemented with a few handfuls of dry food throughout the day, couldn't give a great estimate.

We're gonna try increasing her wet food for a while and see how it goes as well as ensuring she has an isolated environment for eating. Boy, I feel awful at the thought that we've been dismissing her as "food obsessed" when instead she is just legitimately hungry.. but the vet said her weight was good! Anyway, thanks for the responses. I'll try to remember to post back here in a few weeks with an update.
 

Furballsmom

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Hi, just to mention, there are a lot of veterinarians who are extremely concerned about the obesity issue in cats lately. Your vet may have that more at the top of his mind rather than truly looking at the cat in front of him.
 

DeesCats

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Jerr Jerr , I would look at the calories she's getting per day rather than the amount of food since different brands/flavors have different calorie counts.
 
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Jerr

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Did the vet suggest anything for pain? If she is in pain it would affect her general mood, quick to defensiveness in play and survival situations lke eating.
No, they said to watch her for signs of discomfort or difficulty moving. Occasionally you can see a hitch in her step but for the most part she's running and jumping and bouncing all over the place. I think (and hope) the joint supplements we give her are doing the trick.

It's been a couple weeks of increased food for her meals, no real change in her behavior. Whenever we're eating her pupils get huge and you can see her mouth moving, her movements get jerky as she frantically watches to see if we'll give her anything as though she hasn't eaten in days. She still inhales all her food as quickly as possible then charges over to the other cats' bowls to try to get some of theirs. She still growls while eating even when she's completely isolated (though not the entire time). I'll keep at it .. hopefully some changes happen eventually ..
 

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No, they said to watch her for signs of discomfort or difficulty moving. Occasionally you can see a hitch in her step but for the most part she's running and jumping and bouncing all over the place. I think (and hope) the joint supplements we give her are doing the trick.

It's been a couple weeks of increased food for her meals, no real change in her behavior. Whenever we're eating her pupils get huge and you can see her mouth moving, her movements get jerky as she frantically watches to see if we'll give her anything as though she hasn't eaten in days. She still inhales all her food as quickly as possible then charges over to the other cats' bowls to try to get some of theirs. She still growls while eating even when she's completely isolated (though not the entire time). I'll keep at it .. hopefully some changes happen eventually ..
16 years ago, I adopted three sibling kittens; two boys and one girl. At the time, they were all the same size. But after about a year, the boys were 50% bigger and the girl, Xena, was still the same size as when adopted. They all ate the same food and were in good health. The difference just came down to genes and maybe gender.

Xena quickly discovered that she could not win a fight (by "fight", I mostly mean something that seemed to be play from the boys' perspective, but was unpleasant or even scary for Xena, being smaller) if it was on fair terms. So she learned to jump up on things -- chairs, stools, etc -- so she gained a height advantage and could swat her brothers in the head if they were too aggressive. She learned to be like the general of an outnumbered army, always seeking a tactical advantage from the terrain.

If you have not already done this, I would be sure to supply lots of places where your kitten can take refuge or gain height over your other cats, so she has places where she feels secure.
 
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Jerr

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If you have not already done this, I would be sure to supply lots of places where your kitten can take refuge or gain height over your other cats, so she has places where she feels secure.
Hmm, I'll consider this. Unfortunately with her hip dysplasia she is not very vertical. She can jump up about 2/3 as high as she should be able to.. which is nice for keeping her off counters but also means she has less places to go. Maybe somewhere only she can fit .. we'll see.
 
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