Saturday, July 07, 2007

Make him stop . . .

Please, make him stop!

Many of you are familiar with Bilbo's fetish. He's been doing it since we got him 5 years ago. He insists that he be pet while eating. He cries until we give in. Recently, he's taken to waking us up in the morning. Crying at the foot of the bed. Walking across our pillows. Sticking his whiskers in our faces. He tries to herd me to the kitchen. We do the hokey-pokey. If I take a step towards the kitchen, he does. If I stop, he does. He'll arrive a mere inches from his bowl and then wait and wait.  He'll eventually eat without it, if we're able to withstand his demands. But that takes nerves of steel, and we nearly always blink first.

I've asked veterinarians about it. His French vet believes that Bilbo is an alpha male. Like a Lion King, he wants us to watch submissively as he eats his croquettes to reinforce his status in the pack. Apparently, you can get a medical degree in France via National Geophraphic telecourses. His San Francisco vet had no explanation. My theory is Pavlovian. I think it's because the first year of his life he was at the SPCA. Since the time spent with each animal is limited, I imagine that the caregivers try to do the best they can and feed and pet the animals during the same visit. He now associates eating with being petted. Or he's a pervert. Anyway, I'd love to hear your theories and especially suggestions on how to make him stop.

What we see:

What we hear:


*The first photo is the real Bilbo, the second is a crazy cat that Fred found on the internet.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

But it's all part of Bilbo's charm; it is something unique to Bilbo,a bit quirky perhaps but affectionate nonetheless. Then again, maybe if you and Fred paid a bit more attention to Bilbo he would not have to resort to such tactics. I mean come on, it's not like you've invented songs for him...
I have one you can add to the Bilbo play list "You've got to show me love" by Robin S.

joy suzanne said...

Oh my god, that's the stangest thing ever! I laughed out loud while reading. So funny!

DestinationMetz said...

hehe how funny! I agree with you that its probably Pavlovian. Our dog has been trained to eat on command of a certain word (for what reason, I have no idea why my dad did this) and will wait until we say it before eating.

GLD said...

I have nothing constructive for you, except to let you know that Tessa arrived 14 years ago. A "gift" from one of our daughters. She would scould until you pet her whicle she eats. Guess what, she still does, nothing has changed and she is the boss. So I think things will not get better only funnier.

mlle smith said...

Yayyyy, you're back and blogging! This story was hilarious...I haven't a CLUE as to why he prefers simultaneous pampering and provisions.

All i know is he's really one cute, fluffy cat. :0)

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

Oh dear. Our cat Howler, also black, also wants to be petted while he's eating, but he's kind enough to wait until someone is stirring before he starts yelling for attention. Actually he's gotten much better. He was a year old stray cat when we got him and the only time we could pet him was when he was eating. Then he learned to love the petting. Gradually we were able to pet him away from the food dish, but he still howled like crazy to be petted while eating. In the last six months I've been weaning him away from that. I hate it when he yells at me. I tell him to "come with me" and he begrudginly follows me over to a chair and lets me pet him there. And he's stopped yelling so much for attention. You just have to grit your teeth adn not give in. Pet him where and when you're willing to. That's easy for me to say, since Howler never became so annoying, uh sweet, as Bilbo and joined us in bed. Good luck.

Leah said...

I think the last comment about just not giving in is totally right. My kitty has the extemely adorable and not at all annoying habit of scratching at the door to go out usually around the wee hours of the morn. She also will cry if she doesn't get her way right away. I give in more often than I should because I like sleep, but when I don't give in, she eventually will hop back up on the bed and sleep calmly until I wake up which is usually muuuuch later. Of course, this advice is easier said than done, but it is possible!
~Leah

IslandGirl4Ever2 said...

Hi Amy...
After reading your story and your comments.. I will give you my opinion.. but you may not agree... I would say simply to stop doing it.. hehe.. well, like an enabler.. as you continue to give in to his howls.. you are playing into this sort of negative reinforcement... I have working with school kids as a teacher in general and special ed... for over 14 years... if you reinforce his negative behavoir of howling and climbing on the bed when you are asleep and meet his needs by petting him.. then you have reinforced his behaviour.. so he knows that when he does this he will be rewarded by your petting him... I suggest that you create another behaviour.. such as putting out the dish of food and telling him that you have some things to do and that you cannot pet him while he is eating and go away.. Let him howl as he wants and when his howls are NOT met with petting... he will eventually give it up... or tear up your sofa while you are gone!! I don't really know the answer but if it is a behaviour you want to change, you should work on maybe a compromise... or something.. Let me know... I have really been successful in changing negative/unwanted behaviours in spec. ed students with very LOW cognitive skills and NO VERBAL skills.. I think that your cat is pretty smart!! PS.. Thanks for visiting my blog and complementing my photos... Leesa

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess since his granmere is not there, he has moved on. At Christmas, he would just push his dish around in the middle of the night to let me know he would be waiting for me to fill the dish and pet him., Mom

Anonymous said...

your cat is probably part maine coon and coons have this behavior characteristic. my cat is too like yours and only eats while beening petted. Wikipidia maine coons and you'll find out.

Anonymous said...

I think it might be the alpha male cat thing. I have 3 cats and the alpha male Milo( a 1 yr old Maine Coon )does the exact same thing. Also, he wasn't a rescue cat. I bought him at a pet store as a kitten. I thought I was the only one dealing with a crazy cat that wants to be petted while eating. LOL.

Anonymous said...

My cat does the same thing and hes never been to the SPCA.
he does eats fast while being petted and does eat on his own if nobody's around, but it's pretty rare.

Anonymous said...

I have a 1.5 year old "stray" we took in at 3 weeks old who also insists on being petted while she eats. We don't have the problem with the bed because she and her "twin" sister stay in their own rooms at night (whenever unsupervised in the house).
What strikes me here are two things. 1) the alpha-male theory cannot be correct, as mine is a female.
2) how similar Kassie and Bilbo look.
while Kassie's sister Niko is a short hair-tabby, Kassie has the same long, fluffy hair as Bilbo; but with orage/white coloration.
I think there may be something to the comment about Maine Coon cats. My father-in-law breeds main-coons, and has commented on multiple occasions that Kassie must have some Maine Coon in her. MC's are also known to be extremely verbal. Perhaps this "fetish" (as we also call it) stems from some part of their breeding.
In the meantime, I have grown tired of the behavior, I rarely have time to sit with her while she eats, and I want to ensure she gets proper nutrition. I plan to condition myself not to respond to her pleas. Maybe that will help in the long term. Hope so.
Good Luck to you!

avec amy said...

Thank you for sharing your experience about your kitties! It is interesting that Kassie and Bilbo look similar and the information from your father-in-law. Combined with the other comment above, I think you're right, it likely is linked to the breed. I wish you good luck as well. It's funny, Bilbo is such a cute cat and I always wondered why he was at the SPCA so long. I'm curious now if someone adopted him and brought him back because of his annoying fetish. Thanks again!

Jose said...

I have 2 Persians. Chokalit kitty is happy to do whatever everyone else is doing. MeeRa kitty is an OCD kitty.
He has ROUTINES WHICH MUST BE OBEYED. He has THINGS WHICH MUST BE DONE. HE has a SCHEDULE WHICH MUST BE KEPT.
There is no "ignoring him". He is a 7 lb cat who can, and will, produce more decibels than a fire engine. He has no snooze button and his batteries never run down.
If you yell, he yells louder. He WILL outlast you.

You WILL get up, every day, at 7am.
You WILL immediately follow him to his dish and brush him while he eats.
You WILL pet him until he is finished - or he will come find you, sit down, stare at you, give you the evil eye and if you insist on being dim, he will begin screaming at you until you follow him back to his dish and pet him.

You WILL let him in, out, in, out, approximately every 15-20 minutes.
Each time he comes in - you WILL follow him to his dish and brush him until he walks away to be let back out.

10am to 4 pm is napping time. He MUST have his small fan turned on and put on the floor so that he can sleep BEHIND it. (I have no idea what that's about.)

4 pm to 10 pm is in, brush me, out, in, brush me, repeat many times.

10 pm is TIME TO COME IN FOR THE NIGHT.

You WILL go out side, bring Chokalit kitty in, close the door and brush them both while they eat, until MeeRa decides it is time for bed.

Neither is a shelter cat. They aren't related. They're from different sides of the USA and I've only had each once since they were 9 months and 7 months. MeeRa is now 9yrs and Chokalit is now 5 yrs.

Amy75 said...

Hi Jose! Your story is hilarious. I'm literally LOL. Your MeeRa sounds hilarious. Yes the fan part is the most random. If you ever find out the secret to his behavior please come back and let me know. I'm picturing peace and quite at your house while he naps - everyone "fearing" 4 pm when his nap is over :) Thanks for sharing your experience. Nice to know I'm not alone and that there is a kitty out there even more bizarre than mine!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god! My cat does the same thing. He is 7 now and it drives me mad!!!!! Sometimes he lets out a howl from down the hallway that sounds like he is being murdered lol. He once fell asleep in his bisciuts while I was patting him too lol.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god! My cat does the same thing. He is 7 now and it drives me mad!!!!! Sometimes he lets out a howl from down the hallway that sounds like he is being murdered lol. He once fell asleep in his bisciuts while I was patting him too lol.

Anonymous said...

My cat loves to be petted while he eats. If I'm not there to pet him, he'll come get my attention and try to lead me to his bowl to pet him while he eats. He wasn't always like it. I started petting him while he ate, and I guess he took a liking to it.

The same thing happened with me and my Mom's cat. He never used to care, but then I started petting him while he ate, and then it became normal to him. He would come and sit and meow at me until I went with him.

It is pretty cute, but it can get annoying, too.

Amy75 said...

Thanks for the recent comments. I love hearing that I'm not alone! Yes, cute and annoying :) The following asleep in the biscuits story cracks me up.

Jackson C. Hunt said...

So I know I'm a few years late in commenting and all, but I figured what the heck. My most recent feline addition is a little tuxedo named "Tweak." Trust me, the name is well deserved.

Tweak was pulled from a storm drain by my wife's secretary when he was 5-6 weeks old. He was flea bitten, half starved, and wormed to the hilt. The secretary was allergic, and with our local animal shelters running at max capacity (we're actively involved in rescue and with the Humane Society) we decided to take him in.

We already had two grown boys in the house, Dobie (4) and Crash (2). Crash unfortunately earned his name as he was plucked out of the middle of the road right after being hit when he was about six weeks old. Dobie was our first acquisition when he showed up starving on our doorstep and invited himself in.

Anyway, integrating a kitten into an existing cat home is difficult and best if done over time. So, while Tweak was on the mend he was living in our master bathroom and segregated from the other cats. I first began to realize that Tweak was going to be unique when at bedtime each night after closing the bathroom door, he would begin to howl and cry his little lungs out.

After a little while I cracked and went in to give him some attention. Unfortunately, this set a precedent and thus required me to spend at least 30 minutes every night for the next two weeks rocking him to sleep!

Tweak has continued to be an eccentric little rascal now that he is six months old and quite healthy and "ferocious." He has since developed the same behavior as your Bilbo though and is quite insistent that he be petted and loved while he enjoys his Science Diet Kitten food!

Obviously he didn't have the opportunity to develop the behavior as a Pavlovian response before he came to live with us. So, I'd have to throw that theory out the window at least in Tweak's circumstance. I also wouldn't say he's an alpha male as he resides with two grown boys (all three of them are neutered as well) and they put him in his place when needed.

Anyway, I hope your Bilbo is still well and enjoying his daily dinner bonding time!

Cheers!

Amy75 said...

Hi Jackson, Thanks for sharing your story. Even if it's a few years late, it's still very relevant as Bilbo is still up to his old tricks. This morning when woke up, I made the mistake of using the restroom before heading directly to the kitchen to give him his morning fetish. I saw a little black paw slide through the crack in the door and yank it open. Seriously no privacy! And if I shut the door completely he'll scratch at it so to preserve the door, I have to leave it cracked. It sounds like you and your wife are wonderful animal people. I love that you've saved and care for little kitties in need. I wish I had more space, I'd definitely be the crazy cat lady. Maybe someday my husband and I will retire on a farm. If you figure out a way to break Tweaker of the habit, please come back and let me know. Thanks! Amy