We have been living a casual lifestyle, leaving food on countertops and tables without thought. But now that Inkie is part of the family, we are locked into battle mode. Our kitten is convinced that all food is his, and he is fiercely determined to hijack every morsel.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise because we’re used to taking in new cats with food issues. Cats living on the streets tend to be starved. Swooner was practically see-through when he moved in, he was so thin, and Tic Tac was skin and bones.
When they moved in, they inhaled their food and then promptly stole from Target. They also turned over the bin and haunted the kitchen counter tops.
With Swoon and Tic Tac, we adopted standard protocol: to make our pets food secure, we simply let them eat whenever they asked. They were both starved so they had shrunken tummies that could only eat a tablespoon or two at a time, so we’d hand over a titbit and then pet them to distract them.
It worked well. Both cats went wild over food for about a year, but then the message sank in. the first time they didn’t wipe their bowls clean, we cheered with relief.
But we didn’t expect it this time round because Inkie has been pampered since the day he was born. His mummy was a street kitty but when she had her litter on New Year’s Day, a rescuer picked them all up and took them in. As Inkie grew up loved and in a house of plenty, it never occurred to us that he might steal.
The first few days, Inkie was angelic. He played nicely, explored the whole house and made friends with Tic Tac and Target. He was a model kitten but it was an act: Inkie has the heart of a robber baron.
It began with my lunch. I was eating some leftovers when Inkie appeared. He sniffed the air, and then sat on his hind paws and telescoped up to check out my plate.
Now, when it comes to cats, I have the tensile strength of a Kit Kat – one meow and I’m broken – but there’s one thing I won’t do, and that is feeding a cat at the table.
Tic Tac knows it because she did her level best to break me. She used all her prettiness and kitten meows, and direct attacks, but it got her nowhere.
Luckily for her, Tom paws over his food on demand, so whenever we eat, Tic Tac and Target sit with him. They shoot me reproachful glances as they munch on their begged treats but I am stone.
Inkie thought he could do better. So there he was, little yellow beady eyes on my plate. I repelled his paw, but the little cat was determined. He started stalking me, hiding quietly under tables and chairs, waiting for an opportunity. And as he is a cat, a clever, patient predator on velvet paws, I soon found myself outclassed.
When I dropped the market bags on the kitchen counter and went off to wash, I was convinced it there was no way he could jump that high. I came back to find him crowing with delight as he ripped through the shopping.
Prepping for a stir-fry and hiding it on the top of the oven didn’t work either. Inkie jumped on the kitchen counter, traversed the cold stove, scaled the oven and made merry with our dinner.
Even the croissant I turned my back on as I went off to make myself a coffee was abducted and savaged at both ends.
But the crown of the experience was finding Inkie opening the bin with one cunning hind paw on the pedal while fishing inside it with his front paws for chicken bones.
While Inkie is the instigator, Tic Tac is right with him, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt but up to her pretty blue eyes in mischief. I haven’t caught her stealing, but she has a passion for croissants and I would not be surprised if she had pastry flakes on her whiskers. =
What can you do? We laugh. It’s been a miserable year, with endless lockdowns and troubles all over the world, so we look for light and laughter.
Inkie isn’t hungry and he doesn’t have food issues; he’s just a happy little cat, surging with energy, bright as a button, and determined to make the best out of life.
Every day brings the opportunity for more mischief. Yesterday, he was bouncing along on the roof with Tic Tac, chasing lizards and leaves, and playing peekaboo with the neighbour.
This morning, he was in my laundry pile, building a fort out of my dirty T-shirts and dragging my knickers all over the floor.
He’s also climbed the curtains, thrown all the books from the top shelf in my office, and overset several coffee cups while playing race and chase with Tic Tac.
So Inkie is living it up, Tic Tac is delighted to have a partner in crime, and our senior cat Target is relieved because the two kittens being busy means he gets to spend time relaxing with me.
It’s a glorious rough and tumble and we love it.
Begging is a habit and you’re either happy with it or you’re not. To a cat, there are no in-betweens. Therefore, the main thing is consistency.
If you don’t mind pawing over your food, you need to know that you will have to share every single meal. That means you need to pay extra attention to your pet’s weight. Also, you need to be up on exactly what human food will hurt your pet.
For cats, toxic food includes alcohol, chocolate, tea, coffee, energy drinks, grapes, raisins, onions, shallots, garlic and, as many cats are lactose intolerant, possibly cheese and milk too. Most importantly, an artificial sweetener, Xylitol, should be avoided. This sweetener is in jams, peanut butter, kaya, curry paste and all kinds of things, so do be careful.
If you’re like me and you don’t share at the table, be consistent. Don’t shout, smack, use water sprays or any other cruel method of punishment because it only makes your pet afraid of you.
When your pet begs, pet them and hand over no food. That’s it. If you do this consistently for a week or two, your pet learns that begging is not useful. Then he or she will stop.
However, if you give in once, you are teaching your pet that begging persistently is the way to go. If you are inconsistent about handing food over, you are creating a problem for you and your pet. So don’t give in ever!