How can you resist that cute face? Dogs and cats have incredible internal clocks, with alarms set for mealtime. As breakfast or dinner approaches, you may find yourself walking around the house with a furry shadow; one that paws or meows until you start scooping the food.
While all that attention can make us feel like heroes for feeding our pets, it can also become a source of frustration.
A Tale of Two Kitties
My wife and I have two cats. About a year ago the cats started meowing at our bedroom door every morning. At first it was right before we got up, then it got earlier...and earlier...until they were meowing at four in the morning.
Even worse, by getting up and feeding the cats, we were unintentionally reinforcing this meowing behavior. In their minds, they had learned the following trick:
We meow ---> humans wake up ---> we eat!
That was not our intention. Fortunately, with this understanding, we made a change of routine that not only solved the problem, but simplified our lives and ensured that our cats were eating the right portions.
Don’t Free-feed, Auto-feed!
We needed to distance ourselves from mealtime. As long as we were feeding the cats by hand, they would look to us for food and meow until they got it.
To dissociate ourselves from the food, we purchased an automatic pet feeder off Amazon.com. It was about $30.
Auto-feeders are also available at many pet stores. Below are some photos of the first one we chose. It’s easily programmable to rotate as many times a day as you would like.
We bought another type of automatic feeder a few days later so that we wouldn’t have to fill the segments as often.
The cats meowed at the bedroom door for another week or two, then figured out that we weren’t going to be feeding them. Pretty soon they had stopped meowing at our door completely and started sitting quietly by the feeders as meal time approached.
Auto-feeding is a better alternative to free-feeding (always having food available) because portions are controlled. My cats can’t binge all day long and get fat.
So Many Auto-Feeders
Head to your local pet store or check out Amazon.com to see numerous auto-feeder options. We went with a couple of simple models, but higher tech versions are also available. This one works with your smartphone and lets you see your pet through a webcam while he or she eats.
Consider the Auto Option
My wife and I have found auto-feeding to be an excellent way to discourage begging while ensuring portion control. If we go away for a day or two, we just make sure the auto-feeders are ready to roll. Even better, we don’t have to pay for a house sitter or for boarding. It’s win-win!
Penny Lane approves!