You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Food aggression or obsession in cats can be a problem and may be linked to another unusual behavior

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo by buildscharacter

The behavioral issues of cats are not something that we who spend much of our time in the "animal world" talk a whole lot about, and for good reason: We don’t understand cats as well as we do dogs.

I’ve written about common problems, like introducing a new cat into the household and excessive grooming in felines, but a report that was recently published highlights a very interesting, yet distressing behavior in some cats.

In the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, a group of veterinary researchers detailed a bit of one young cat’s behavior tendencies, and some of you might be quietly witnessing these same behaviors.

The cat, reportedly an 8-month-old Siamese named Otto, exhibited “food-related aggressiveness” (taking food from other cat’s bowls, which, in my experience, isn’t that unusual) and “context-specific excessive appetite” (jumping on the table to get at their human’s plate during meals).

Otto was found to have a clean bill of physical health by clinicians save for hyperglycemia. I should note that there is a condition called acute stress hyperglycemia, and the study isn’t clear on whether or not the cat has high blood sugar chronically or if it in this case was induced by a stressor.

Begging from the table was another characteristic that Otto exhibited, which is something that we associate with dogs more commonly. (Our cat, Silver only begs during breakfast, when he thinks there might be some leftover milk sent his way!)

Otto may not alone in the way he behaves, and if your furry friend has been doing the same, take heart. There is a name for it and ideas to get on the path to curb the problem.

Dr. Paolo Mongillo with University of Padua, Italy, led the study with some colleagues and came up with a more definitive name for the problem — psychogenic abnormal feeding behavior.

He noted, “Unless the cat is really obnoxious, most owners probably won’t complain. If you feed them from the table, just once in a while, the cat will think it is like a slot machine — if they always ask, every so often they will get what they want.”

In situations like this, it’s always wise to have your pet checked out by the veterinarian to rule out any illnesses physical problems that might be contributing to your cat’s ill-behaved ways.

If a physical cause doesn’t seem to be behind it, then exploring other things that can be contributing is in order.

Mongillo said that such “eating disorders” in animals could be stress-related, just as they sometimes were in humans.

Curiously, Otto exhibited another odd behavior that, in some cats, is stress-related: pica.

Pica is characterized by the chewing or eating of non-food items, at times compulsively. A behavior more common in cats — especially purebreds like Siamese and Burmese — the theory is that pica stems from felines being weaned too early. Stress, feelings of anxiety and boredom can be other causes, as can illness and dietary deficiencies.

Read about that by clicking here.

Seeing that pica may be a companion behavior to psychogenic abnormal feeding behavior, it would be a good idea to eliminate stresses from the cat’s environment. Read more for tips on that by clicking here.

Mongillo says that not feeding from the table is essential.

To read more, click here to read an article on this topic on The Telegraph.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for and is owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

We have three cats who sit quietly and silently beg for what I'm eating and one who will walk up and take it off my plate (especially if it's bread at breakfast or I'm in the living room and she can get at me from the back of the chair or such place.) She's also very vocal when she goes for my food. She's not doing it because she's ill, just because she likes what I'm eating. I haven't read the entire report but I think what they discuss in the study is the heightened level of aggression seen in this particular cat and it's voraciousness and not just the usual annoying behaviors we see in our pets.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

Stress brings out the worst in all of us. Twice a day I set out plates of wet food for all the cats. Without fail one or two of them will play "musical chairs" and hop from plate to plate. No one seems to get upset, they just move to the next plate. I still keep an eye on 'em - don't want to see anyone get shoved away from the buffet.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

I don't need an alarm clock, I have a Hungry cat who wakes me up every morning to be fed! Is the cat Crazy? probably but I am on this earth to serve her she told me! Yes ,cats talk to me and I can talk to cats using the Iphone app.