Why Does My Cat Beg for Food?

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Cute cat begging for food.

When your cat hangs around the food bowl, meowing for food, it can pull at your heartstrings. However, it can also be a bit annoying, especially if you’ve already fed them!

Key Takeaways

Signs that a cat is hungry include vocalizing, following you around, rubbing against your legs, batting at you, and nibbling your fingers.

Cats beg for food for many reasons, including if they are on a diet, their food is being stolen by another cat, they are suffering from a medical condition or parasite infection, they are bored, or they just really like to eat by nature.

If your cat is suddenly begging for food when they didn't do this before, especially if the hunger is combined with weight loss, consult your veterinarian to rule out a medical cause.

Sometimes, it can feel like your cat is always hungry. So, how do you know if your cat is really hungry? Let’s find out the signs of hunger in cats and whether it’s normal cat behavior for them to beg for food.

How Do Cats Behave When They’re Hungry?

1. Meowing

Fluffy cat meowing.

Meowing insistently is one of the biggest signs of a hungry cat.

Cats are often very vocal when they’re hungry, letting you know in no uncertain terms that it’s feeding time (at least in their mind!). If you live with a hungry or greedy cat, you might wish you had earplugs!

Also Read: When A Cat’s Meow Sounds Strange (Hoarse Voice)

2. Following You

Cat following me everywhere.

Some cats follow you around in the hopes you might notice them and feed them.

If your cat is like your shadow, following you around the house wherever you go, they might be letting you know that they’re hungry. Don’t assume though, there are plenty of other reasons why your cat might be clingy, including boredom, loneliness, stress, and being unwell.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Follow Me Everywhere?

3. Rubbing, Headbutting, or Batting at You

Cat behavior and communication.

If meowing and following you around don’t get results, your cat might rub up against you in a stronger attempt to grab your attention.

If your cat is hungry, they’ll try anything to get your attention. That includes weaving in and out of your legs and rubbing against you, just to make sure you notice them! Remember, though, your cat might not be hungry, they might just want your attention or some love.

Loving headbutting, known as bunting, is an affectionate behavior in the cat world. If your cat is being extra loving and attention seeking though, it might be because they want you to feed them.

Another sign your cat is hungry is batting you with their paws as you walk past them in the kitchen. On the other hand, they might just be feeling playful!

Also Read: What Does It Mean When A Cat Rubs Against You?

4. Nibbling You

Cat attempting to steal food.

Hungry cats might nibble or nip at your fingers, especially if you’re handling food.

Gentle nibbles or more feisty nips could be a sign that they’re losing patience and want to be fed. Depending on your cat, though, this can be a sign of affection or just attention-seeking behavior.

Also Read: Why Is My Cat So Annoying? Cat Attention-Seeking Behavior Explained

Is It Normal for Cats To Beg for Food?

It can be normal for cats to beg for food. In fact, cats can beg for food whether they’re particularly hungry or not, just out of habit. However, before you dismiss or ignore your cat’s begging for food, learn about the reasons why they might be acting hungrier than normal since there are a few medical causes of begging for food.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Play With Their Prey?

Why Is My Cat Begging for Food?

1. They’re on a Diet

Cat eating from its food bowl.

Cats on a weight-loss program might still feel hungry after they’ve eaten their entire meal.

If you’re actively restricting your cat’s food intake so that they lose weight and become healthier, you can expect some loud protests. Over time, your cat should get used to their new food allowance, but if their ravenous behavior doesn’t improve, talk to your vet about gradually switching to a less calorie-dense diet that they can eat more of. That way, they’ll feel fuller for longer.

Also Read: How To Put A Cat On A Diet?

2. Their Food Is Being Stolen

Multi-cat food competition.

Feed multiple cats separately so they each get the appropriate amount of food.

If you have more than one cat or even more than one pet, consider whether your cat is getting their full portion or whether it’s being stolen.

Even neighborhood cats might take the opportunity to steal your cat’s food if you have a pet door. If you suspect your cat might not be getting their full allocation of food, try feeding them separately and see if they seem less hungry.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Steal My Other Cat’s Food?

3. They Have a Health Condition

Sick cat.

Certain medical issues can cause extreme hunger even if your cat is eating enough food.

Conditions that change the metabolism, like diabetes or hyperthyroidism, could make your cat seem very hungry even though they’re eating the normal amount of food. Similarly, certain cancers and gut and kidney diseases can also affect the body’s absorption and use of nutrients, or lead to protein loss in the urine or feces.

Most medical issues that cause begging for food will cause weight loss in addition to an increased appetite, so keep an eye on your cat and bring them in for a weight check if you’re concerned.

Also Read: The Best Homemade Cat Food Recipes For Kidney Disease

4. They Have Worms

Deworming cats.

Parasites that live in a cat’s intestines can cause intense hunger despite weight loss.

Intestinal parasites, often called worms, can cause weight loss and reduced absorption of nutrients. You might also notice your cat has an upset stomach with vomiting, blood in the stools, or diarrhea. Because they aren’t able to absorb their digested food so well, they can feel very hungry, which can lead to begging behaviors.

Also Read: The 9 Best Cat Foods For Diarrhea

5. They Don’t Like Their Food

cat refusing to eat out of a bowl

Notoriously picky eaters, cats will often try begging to get something tastier.

If your cat isn’t a fan of their cat food, they might leave it in the bowl and beg for something else. This would mean they’re genuinely hungry, but they’re holding out in the hope that you’ll offer something more appetizing, like human food. If the cat’s food bowl is normally full of dry food, try switching to wet food, or you could try changing the flavors of your cat’s diet.

Also Read: Why Is My Cat Not Eating? Loss Of Appetite In Cats

6. Their Food Is Causing Them Pain

why is my cat not eating featured image

Dental disease and other painful mouth issues might cause a cat not to eat despite being hungry.

Again, if your cat is leaving their food but also begging, it could be that their food is causing them pain. Dental disease, mouth ulcers, abscesses, and tumors can all cause mouth pain that can make eating uncomfortable.

If this is the case, you might also notice your cat dribbling saliva, bleeding, or pawing at their mouth. It’s common that cats with oral pain will eat their wet food but leave the dry cat food or kibble as it’s more painful to eat.

Also Read: Mouth Cancer In Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

7. They’re a Bit Greedy

Two cats sharing one food bowl.

Some cats simply love to eat and never seem to be fully satisfied.

Some cats are just a bit greedy! If your cat is begging for food, there could be nothing wrong aside from a great love of food. Of course, obesity is a serious health concern in cats and other pets, so if your cat is putting on weight speak to your veterinary clinic about weight loss diets and other support.

Also Read: Cat Obesity Chart: Find Out if Your Cat is Obese

8. They’re Bored

Bored cat.

Cats that are lacking physical and mental stimulation might turn to snacking for something to do.

Just like humans, cats who are bored or craving attention might resort to eating. Investing in some food puzzles, extra toys, and activity centers or cat trees could help combat boredom and beat the cravings.

Also Read: The 5 Best Interactive Cat Toys for Bored Cats

9. It’s a Habit

Giving treats to a cat.

Feeding your cat when they beg teaches them to do it more.

If every time your cat begs for food, you provide it, they’ll learn to expect it. By feeding them you’re rewarding them and reinforcing the begging habit, making it more likely they’ll do it again.

Spending time interacting with them in other ways, with playtime or a cuddle, should help change the habit so that they reserve their begging for when they’re really hungry. Some cat owners even get an automatic feeder so their cat doesn’t associate them with food.

In Summary

Cat eating food.

If your cat is suddenly begging for food when they didn’t do this before, investigate what might be causing the new behavior.

If you have a cat who begs for food, it can be a bit frustrating, as well as making you tempted to give in to those pleading eyes and feed them! It can be tricky when our heart is telling us to feed them or give them a treat, but our head knows that they don’t need anymore and weight gain could make them unhealthy.

Spotting the signs that your cat wants love, attention, or play rather than hunger should help to avoid unnecessary feeding. And don’t forget to get them checked out by a vet if their appetite has changed, just in case there’s a health problem.

Also Read: List of Foods Cats Can and Can not Eat

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my cat to stop begging for food?

Combating your cat’s begging isn’t easy. It will require commitment and strictness from you, and you might need to change your own behavior. Firstly, ensure that your cat doesn’t have a medical problem, especially if their eating behaviors or appetite has changed. Secondly, provide plenty of kitty entertainment to relieve boredom, and spend lots of time interacting with them so that they get your attention in other ways.

If none of this helps, you might need to choose a food that keeps them feeling full for longer. Lower calorie foods or foods that are proportionately higher in fiber or protein can help to prevent your cat from feeling so hungry.

Why does my cat act like it’s starving?

There are lots of reasons why your cat might act very hungry. Some are obvious like if you've put them on a diet or the cat next door is stealing their food. On the other hand, your cat might have worms or another medical problem, or it could just be that they’re greedy.

Should I ignore my cat begging for food?

It's important not to ignore your cat until you know there are no underlying health issues causing the behavior. A check-up at the vet will help to put your mind at ease, and the vets and vet technicians will be able to help with some advice if you need it.

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.

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  1. gingercat

    Around 2am daily my 3yr cat ginger is stepping on my face jumping around the bed meowing really loud. he eats fancy feast chicken gravy every morning. ginger has learned 4 paw tricks. i’ve been giving him greenies