Cats are fascinating animals with captivating personalities and traits. Owners often find themselves searching for explanations of certain cat behavior for reassurance that it is normal.
Some of the quirkiest cat behavior revolves around their eating habits, and I don’t just mean how fickle they can be.
Some cats refuse to eat unless their owners are petting them; others will only eat once you have shaken the bowl or pointed to it. And some cats want their owners to watch while they eat. Why is this?
The most common reason why a cat wants you to watch while he eats is that he feels insecure for some reason. By watching, you allow your cat to feel a sense of security which allows him to eat without fear of being attacked or chased away.
On the other hand, it might be that your cat was always watched over at mealtimes when it was a kitten and so wants this to continue.
Cats consider eating to be a social event and an opportunity for affection. They do worry they will miss out on excitement elsewhere if they are left to eat alone.
Your cat might want you to watch it eat for one or more of the reasons presented in this article. These reasons are not necessarily mutually exclusive, nor are they always problematic.
While it can be frustrating to have to watch your cat eat, you can make minor adjustments that would mean you have time to do this for them. However, if their behavior becomes hazardous to their health, you will need to modify it.
Cats Feel Safe When You Watch Them Eat
If your cat were living out in the wild, one of the most vulnerable moments in their day would be as they were eating. They would be exposed, distracted, and the smell of food would likely attract other animals to their location.
However, your cat is not living in the wild. They may even come from a long line of house cats with no feral or stray in their ancestry. So why would this be a factor for them? It is possible that their ancestral instincts are still present.
It may also be the result of competition in the home. If you have another cat, they may want you to watch them eat so that the other cat is not able to interfere, attack them or take their meal. Your dog may also be viewed as a competitor.
Whether it’s centuries’ old instincts or behavior borne out of competition in their domestic home, your cat feels much safer when you watch them eat.
If you have another pet, it may be beneficial to set the time aside to watch them eat; that way, you can ensure that each pet is eating their own food and you don’t end up with one starved kitty and one overweight kitty or dog.
Cats Want You To Watch Them Eat Because You’ve Done This Before
When you first get your kitten, you usually sit and watch to make sure that it eats all of its food. Or you may need to assess how much food they are eating in one go so you can adjust the amount you should dish up.
When your cats get sick, you may sit with them while they eat to make sure they eat enough food to grow healthy again. Or you may have to make sure that they eat all of the medication you have hidden in or sprinkled over their food.
Your cat becomes accustomed to being watched while they eat, and they are not happy if this changes (most cats are not great at adapting to change).
Cats Feel It Is A Sign Of Affection When You Watch Them Eat
Some cats may like you to watch them as they eat because to them it’s a sign of your affection toward them.
Despite popular misconception, cats can be incredibly affectionate and attached to their humans. They may view mealtimes as ideal opportunities for spending time together and bonding.
If you walk away after putting their bowl of food down, they will come and call you back to watch them eat.
Sometimes it can be very inconvenient that your cat refuses to eat unless you watch them. You may be trying to leave the house, or you may have a whole list of other tasks to do.
If you notice your cat likes your company while they eat, you can take steps to make this less inconvenient.
You can move your cat’s meals to coincide with your own. So, you can enjoy some breakfast and dinner together. You can also make sure to set aside ten minutes at feeding time and purposefully use this time as a bonding opportunity.
Some Cats Are Afraid To Miss Out On Fun
A cat might want you to watch them eat because they are afraid of missing out on some fun action.
Some cats are too laid back to worry about what is happening around the house, while other cats are confirmed busybodies.
They believe that great excitement and adventure are going to happen while they sit eating their food. However, nothing exciting can happen without them if they can see you.
Cats who want you to watch them eat for this reason may be content to eat if you are still in the same room, even if you are not actively watching them.
If this is so, you can try feeding your cat in a room where you have other business. Talking to them and looking at them occasionally while you go about this business may be good enough for your cat.
When This Behavior Causes A Problem
If your cat does not eat unless you watch them, you can have frustrating moments, but this behavior only becomes a major issue if they also don’t eat when you are out.
If your cat is happy to eat alone when you are not in the house, there is no problem. Usually, cats who are afraid of missing out on fun activities and cats who like the social aspect of eating in company should be fine to eat while you are away.
However, if your cat feels frightened to eat without you watching them, especially if you have other pets that often try or succeed in stealing its food, they may not even eat when you are not home.
Some cats also become stressed and won’t eat when they are not watched. These cats are usually very attached to their owners, so the stress of the change in routine is compounded by the stress of being separated from their owners.
How To Modify This Behavior When It Becomes A Problem
You can try to feed your cat in a separate room, shut off from other pets (although being shut off from you may cause issues at first). You can try to put your cat’s food up on an elevated surface so that they feel safer than they would on the ground.
You could move your cat’s eating area into a main part of the house, and then you can move away from them without leaving the area and assure them that you haven’t left by talking to them while you do other activities.
You can try spending time playing with your cat before feeding them. This will give them attention, increase their hunger, and help them to feel secure before they eat. Then you can put their food down, sit with them a moment, and slowly move away.
You will need to be patient as you try to break this habit but remember your cat is not acting out of disobedience or obstinacy. In their minds, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this need to be watched.
All cats are different, so you may have to try out a few different techniques and get creative. If you are really struggling and the behavior is at the stage where it is unhealthy, speak to your veterinarian about it or contact a feline behavioral expert.
Cats have funny ideas about eating. These ideas can be the result of:
- instinct (they feel protected and safe while we watch them eat).
- habit (we used to watch them eat as kittens and cats don’t like change).
- affection (they believe food time is a great time for bonding).
- being a busybody (they don’t want us to do anything fun while they are busy eating).
While this behavior may not seem to be a problem at first, it can because a serious issue if you even go away. Some cats will eat without their owners watching them if their owners are not in the house.
Others will not eat at all. This means that the owner can never be away from their cat for any length of time. You can take steps to try and manage or stop the behavior entirely, but you will need to be patient and creative.
If you are unable to modify the behavior by yourself, you may need to contact a professional for assistance.