Food Aggression

Kitten on the attack

Food aggression issues sometimes come from traumas suffered as kittens. Read one visitor's story and find out what advice our Cat Expert has to offer.

My Cat Has Food Aggression Issues

I have a five-year-old Tabby cat that I adopted when she was eight weeks old. I have two problems that I suspect are related.

First, she has never wanted for food, but she is very greedy for it. She eats everything she is given on the spot, very quickly, as if she didn't know when she would eat again. Because of this, I have to control her meals very carefully.

The second issue is more serious. My cat is simply the most aggressive cat I have ever met. She bites hard, puncturing the skin and drawing real blood. It has caused me and others to have to take rounds of antibiotics. She'll bite if I don't feed her when she's asking for food, and she's always asking for food. I can understand her motivation for biting in that situation. More distressing is that she'll bite for no discernible reason.

yellow kitten eating

She doesn't like to be petted, except for occasionally on her head. This doesn't mean she isn't also affectionate; she loves to cuddle, but always on her terms. I love all cats, but I have so many scars on my arms and legs I'm starting to feel like I am in an abusive relationship with my cat! What can I do?

~~ Madkitty

Expert Reply

Hello,

I think you are correct in assuming the two issues are related. Here's what I suspect.

She definitely has a food issue, and I believe it has its roots in her life before she came to you. I don't know the circumstances of her adoption, but I suspect that Kitty may have starved for a bit as a tiny kitten. This trauma would lead her to behave as if every meal could be her last.

As for the biting, I believe that might also stem from her early kittenhood. If there was a lack of food or milk, it would suggest the mother cat's absence. If mom wasn't around the way she should have been, then she also wasn't around to help properly socialize the kitten.

Cats are hunters at heart, and they bite during play in practice for future hunting. When a kitten plays with its mother and bites too hard, she gives it a correction. This usually means giving it a warning swipe with her claws, and a fearsome growl for added affect. The kitten has the opportunity to learn it has gone too far, and immediately backs off for the moment. In essence, it learns not to mess with mom.

Here's what I'm going to suggest. Let's add a bit more food to each meal, so your cat has more of an opportunity to feel full. I realize you may be worried about weight gain, and I'm not asking you to let her gorge, just give her more food so she feels more secure. You can keep an eye on the weight and cut back a little at a time if she's gaining too much.

As for the biting, you have to assume the role of a mother cat, even though your cat is five years old now. Keep a water bottle within reach, and when she begins to show signs of getting ready to nip, give her a firm "no". Then stop giving her any attention. If she pursues whichever issue is driving her at the moment and tries to bite you, give her a very loud "NO" and squirt her in the face once with the water bottle. This isn't harmful, but it should give her a good startling. It can be the equivalent of what mother cat would have done to correct the over aggression as a kitten.

You will need to make this behavioral correction for some time. It won't be an instant fix, but it should teach your cat to accord you the respect you deserve. You can also give her a squirt if she is menacing guests or other family members.

I hope you will find this advice helpful, and thank you for your questions.

~~ Kelly

Food Aggression