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Constantly meowing for food.

Species: Cat
Breed: Mix
Age: 5-8 years
Two years ago, we adopted a stray cat that was living in the bushes outside our condo. We took him to the vet at the time for a checkup and he was all clear. When he lived outside, I believe most of his food came from friendly people in the neighborhood offering him treats or cat food.

Since we adopted him, he has developed what appears to be an anxiety around food. Throughout the day he will follow us around and meow at us until we feed him. Then he is quiet for a little while before repeating the cycle. When we are actually feeding him, he will follow you from the food container to the bowl and meow loudly the entire time.

Late in the day, when everyone is settled in the living room, he is calm and will even fall asleep. The anxiety appears to be focused on us as we move around the house.

Is there anything that can be done to calm him down? We have tried ignoring him. Is this an anxiety that can be treated with drugs? We aren\'t above that at this point.

FYI - we have one other cat and both are fixed. Thanks!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hmmm....this is an interesting question. I can't say that I have ever seen a cat have anxiety because of food. However, I'm wondering if this is really anxiety? It sounds to me like the cat is actually training you to just feed him all the time.

The meowing when you are bringing food to the container really doesn't sound like an anxiety behavior. Rather, this is probably an excitement about the food that is coming!

It's tough to know how to advise you here. I think there are a few possible ways that you can go.

First of all, it is important to make sure this isn't a medical issue. I've seen cats do this if they have a dental problem. What happens is that the cat is hungry and asks for food, and then when food is given, he can only eat a little bit before the dental issue causes him pain. So, he stops eating, but then a few minutes later he is hungry again so he asks for food again. So, for this reason it would be good to have your vet check him out.

If his weight is on the low side, it's possible he has some sort of metabolic issue that is causing him to always be hungry.

If it does seem to be a behavioral issue there are a few things that can be done. The first would be to completely ignore him and tough it out for several weeks. So, you would give him food in the morning and then NO ONE is allowed to give him food till mid day and then again, completely ignore him until supper time. The first few days that you do this he will likely drive you bonkers with meowing, but if this is a behavioral issue then within a week he should start to get the message.

You could also talk to your vet about a behavior modifying drug such as Reconcile to help in this transition time.

I hope that helps!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.