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My new kitten tries to eat my food. (And quite often succeeds, since I take my time to eat, usually while working)

She has her own food dispenser with lots of food in it that she eats regularly, but when I have food she wants it.

With a dog, I could just say "no" and spank it when it won't listen, but this kitten seems to ignore all rebukes, maintaining the singular focus to have the food, no matter how many times I push it away, put it on the ground, or pull the food away.

What can I do to teach my kitten that it's my food and not hers?

With dogs, I know a small spanking does the trick - not causing serious pain, but the offensive action seems to send the correct message to a dog. Cats on the other hand, don't seem to have the same mechanic.

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    Anecdotally: green curry. Erik didn't come near my plate for weeks. :-) – Monica Cellio Feb 4 '15 at 2:00
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    Define "your food". Is this food kept in a cabinet, or food actively on your plate, or food you leave out on a dining room table for serving purposes? – JoshDM Feb 4 '15 at 21:41
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You're right, cats really don't have the same ideas of discipline as dogs. Dogs are pack animals, and the leader's reaction means a lot to them, and cats are solitary predators, so your disapproval doesn't mean much to them. They might choose to cooperate if you consistently forbid them to do something, or they might not. Most cats I know chose to cooperate in the end, because things get old even for them. But it usually takes a lot of time and patience.

As for the food, aside from the answers in the question recommended by Ashley Nunn, the best way to keep your cat away from your food is not to leave your food unattended. Also, I used to use a simple trick with my first cats (didn't need it after the first 2, I don't know why) : make sure you have something on your plate that your cat won't eat for sure, like a pickle of a slice of lemon, and when your cat tries to get into your plate, give her that to sniff. After some time the cat associates your plate with yucky staff and doesn't bother with it anymore.

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Simplest answer I've found is to set a "no cats on food surfaces, whether there is food on them or not" rule. That's something cats can learn fairly easily, and it solves the problem by removing the opportunity for temptation.

If I'm eating elsewhere, they're allowed to expess interest, and if it would be bad for them or I don't fedl like sharing I just push them away gently with a firm "no."... which is a word they understand, more or less... sometimes combiined with "mine" or "not for kitty" which they probably don't understand.

One of mine wants to at least sample anything I'm eating, if allowed. Cat nibbling on the corner of a graham cracker is amusing, though I generally don't share.

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    Side comment: One of my cats just tried to lawyer her way around no-cats-on-table when she noticed someting left on the table that she had been allowed to lie on elsewhere. "Look, I'm only touching what I'm allowed to touch; is that good enough?" I hated having to tell her no; for a cat that's a pretty sophisticated bit of reasoning. – keshlam Feb 12 '16 at 21:44
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Cat's don't really care about pleasing their owners, but they can be trained. Like with any animal you have to find what motivates them, what discourages them and what the most effective way to apply these is. Most of the time I find that it's a matter of persistence.

A good example is my Jack Russell. She has a crate she sleeps in at night. I let her in early, but I have to take her out before bed. She's warm and know that it'll be cold out, so she pretends not to hear me, takes her time getting up, or even hangs back and tries to sneak back to bed. This frustrates me and makes me want to snap, but I look at it from her point of view and realize that every time she obeys, something negative happens (IE going out in the cold).

Along these lines there are several options. You can not have food in a reachable spot, but almost any spot is available to a cat. You could do like one poster suggested and try to trick her into thinking it's nasty, but she already knows it's been good before. Another option is to deter her from getting up there in the first place. Two good methods of doing this are getting one of those plastic car mats with the little plastic cleats to keep it from sliding on the carpet and turning it upside down on the counter. They don't hurt the cat, but it's uncomfortable on their feet. Along those same lines is using double sided sticky tape. Supposedly, it only takes a few times with either of these before they don't want to get on the surface. The mat works on couches, beds, or anything else and always works, where the tape may loose its stickiness.

The important thing in any training is to be consistent. You'll loose weeks or months of effort if you let the cat win once, because it bolsters the idea to keep trying in the face of not getting a treat, because you might get one every once in a while. You see people do this on purpose when weaning trained dogs off of treats. One way to be continually consistent is to get a device off of amazon that attaches to the top of a can of compressed air. It has a motion sensor on it and when it senses motion it sends out a jet of air, poofing the cat off the surface. It works whether you're paying attention or not, or even in the room. I also saw something like that is good from the Cat Daddy. He said that cats don't make the association the way dogs do and that if you punish a dog for trying to get your food, he understands that trying to get the food caused the correction. If you, for instance, spray a cat with a water bottle for getting on the counter, he doesn't think that getting on the counter caused the spray, he just thinks you're a butt hole. I hope this helps you.

  • I like the show. I think that cat behavior modification is in its infancy. I think that most people just think cat's are jerks and there's nothing to be done about it. He's changing peoples minds about it, so I expects the cats to rise up and take him out at anytime before the secret gets out. – Dalton Feb 5 '15 at 13:30
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    Nah, he'll talk them out of it ^_^ Seriously though, he might be the first one to get such publicity, but he's not the first one who's done some serious work with cats. In some countries a much more popular personality is Yuri Kuklachev ( kuklachev.ru/eng/yuri ), although his work is a bit different. – Kaworu Feb 6 '15 at 11:56
  • I'll have to look him up, I've never heard of him, though I did see a special on the animal planet about a guy and his daughter that do a 'Circus' act with their cats. He has platforms the get on and hoops they jump through. He also has a ringmaster uniform and the shoulder pads are little platforms the cats can sit on. – Dalton Feb 6 '15 at 20:20
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Redirect...show her to her own food when she attempts to eat yours. Same as for scratching on furniture, move her to her scratching post. This way they know you’re not saying “no food” or “no scratching” which are natural instincts and can be confusing to reprimand, just redirect her to what she is allowed to eat/scratch.

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Spray the cat preferably in the face with a spray bottle. They will stop coming near you when you're eating very quickly. That's also effective way to discipline the cat when they're doing other things that you rather not too. Just one small spray usually works. This is not abuse and is a effective way to discipline or redirect a cat. They might still try to test you. But mine is they even see me pick up the spray bottle moves away I don't even have to spray it anymore. Yes you're going to have to have at least three spray bottles so it's always Within Reach because you need to use it as quickly as the cat does that unwanted action as possible you can't go and hunt for it and then spray them five minutes later.

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