Cat meows for wet food in morning despite dry food being available

  • My kitty has been waking me up early every morning begging for wet food. He has dry food available but obviously prefers the wet. I've tried ignoring him, but he will meow for over an hour straight and I eventually must get up in the morning and feed him or I'll be late for work, so the lesson isn't learned and I'm afraid I'm just reinforcing his begging. I'm not sure how to best address this issue. Any ideas?

    Does he ever eat his dry food?

    Cats are always in charge, that's the lesson here. And you are gradually learning this lesson...

    when we were kids, our cats would bother us in the morning before we woke up (we fed the cats, not our parents). What worked for us to get through the period where we were retraining them to expect dinner at a different time was to keep a small, toy watergun beside the bed! If the cat meowed, they got a quick spray - and left us alone!

    How long has it been going on? After my cat was adopted, it took about 3 weeks for him to adjust to eat wet food in the evening and dry food whenever else, without us giving in and feeding him wet food in the morning.

    Is there a specific reason you don't just buy a cheap timer feeder?

    Wet food is better for cats, though teeth problems are always a concern no matter what. In the wild, normally cats get all their moisture from their prey.

    What's wrong with feeding him the food? Have you considered going to bed earlier and getting up earlier?

    Pharap must be one of the cats we suspected are infiltrating this site.

    @BasilBourque What could possibly give you that ide- ohh, shiny \* paw paw \*

    "I eventually must get up in the morning and feed him or I'll be late for work..." Why must you feed him in the morning, if he already has dry food available?

    @LarsH Good point! The real reason is because I'm adopting him from a household with four tenants (including myself) where he wasn't getting consistent care or feeding times. I think this has contributed to his anxiety and begging. Soon I'll be taking him to my own apartment where I can give him a more consistent schedule. Right now, if I don't feed him, someone else will to shut him up so any training I try to do at the moment is cancelled out.

    Ah, so there's part of your problem... Kind of like having relatives spoil your kids. :-)

  • Pharap

    Pharap Correct answer

    3 years ago

    Option 1:

    Give in, feed him, then go back to bed. He's happy because he gets food, you're happy because he's not meowing anymore. Learn to live with waking up a bit early and then going back for a lie-in.

    Option 2:

    Get a timed feeder as mentioned by @Valorum in the comments. An excellent investment.

    Cat feeders

    Option 3:

    Be determined. Get some earplugs. Ignore your cat when he meows. It will take determination but eventually he will learn that he doesn't get breakfast until later.

    You can reinforce this by providing special treats with the breakfast like a bit of raw chicken. Perhaps even alternate between getting up and feeding him but not giving him chicken and lying in bed for longer and giving him chicken with is breakfast.

    A guide provided by @dexgecko from the 'American Association of Feline Practicioners' (henceforth AAoFP) supports this option. From page 30:

    The easiest passive intervention is to absolutely ignore the undesirable behavior, as long as medical problems that might cause this behavior have been ruled out or treated. If the client’s response to the cat’s behavior has contributed to the problem, the behavior may fade if the response ceases. For example, if the cat meows to be fed at 3:00 AM and the client complies, the cat is inadvertently rewarded both with food and attention. This teaches the cat an undesirable behavior that may also contribute to obesity and decrease the quality of the relationship between pet and client. Clients must ignore the cat completely when it meows in the night, even if this means banning the cat from the bedroom until the habit is broken. A few initial rough nights may prevent a prolonged behavior concern.

    Said guide can be found here:


    Importantly, do not spray your cat with a water bottle.

    Squirt bottles cause cats stress and teaches them to not trust you.

    In spraying the cat in this situation you are punishing the cat for perfectly natural behaviour. Cats naturally wake up earlier than most modern humans do.

    Cats respond better to positive reinforcement than to punishments.

    Once again referring to the AAoFP's guide, this time from page 29:

    Animals—including cats—learn best by being rewarded. Punishment does not teach the desired behavior.

    Some references detailing the possible negative effects of the squirt bottle approach:


    Option4: (last resort)

    If you really must use a 'punishing' approach to solving this problem, consider using sound instead. There are lots of different sounds that cats do not like and it's easy to rig up a device that can play sounds remotely. You can either use a remote control (but be careful the cat doesn't see it), a motion sensor (but remember to turn it off when you get up so your cat isn't permenantly afraid of going in your bedroom) or perhaps a microphone with some AI software set up to detect your cat's meow (if you're technically inclined enough to be able to pull that off).

    Be very careful about what sound you choose. Certain sounds can actually be painful for the cat's sensitive ears, especially high-pitched sounds. A safe bet is the sound of a snake hissing or a plastic bag rustling (which sounds similar to a snake's hissing). Cats don't like hissing noises because they hate snakes and instinctively know that hissing noises are something snakes do to scare other animals.

    Make sure you get good quality sound that encompasses the full audio range though. Certain sound formats strip out the frequencies that humans can't hear, but cats depend on some of those frequencies. If those frequencies aren't there, it's more likely to confuse the cat than scare it away.

    From experience, some cats jump at the sound a toaster makes so that might be another suitable one.

    Also make sure that the sound only plays in the morning and not during the day so that your cat learns your room isn't safe only at certain times.

    An article about sounds that cats do not like:

    Adding onto your disapproval of punishment, this guide from the American Association of Feline Practitioners (written by actual researchers, not just bloggers) warns that punishment in general hurts the bond between you and your cat. At most, you would intervene in the undesirable behavior in a way that doesn't scare the cat, then "redirect the cat to an alternate behavior".

    @dexgecko Which section specifically? There's a lot of information in that PDF.

    @Pharap - Good question. Pages 29 and 30. "Passive interventions " directly covers OP's question: *For example, if the cat meows to be fed at 3:00 AM and the client complies, the cat is inadvertently rewarded both with food and attention. This teaches the cat an undesirable behavior that may also contribute to obesity and decrease the quality of the relationship between pet and client. Clients must ignore the cat completely when it meows in the night, even if this means banning the cat from the bedroom until the habit is broken.*

    @dexgecko Thank you. I have added both that passage and a quote from page 29 emphasising that punishment is not effective with cats, and have credited the resource as your suggestion.

    I'll avoid punishment for kitty. My current plan is to stop feeding him wet food in the morning entirely and reserve that only for his dinner. I'll likely invest in a timed feeder to give him dry food in the morning to dissociate me from morning feedings completely. In the meantime, I'll buckle down and endure his sunrise yowling until he gets the memo. Thanks for the help all!

    @cas If you're sticking with dry food, make sure he also has water available as cats can be prone to dehydration. Cat's bodies are ~80% water compared to 50-60% in humans. Also, cats like their food and water to be separate for various reasons and running water is often better than still water, especially if your cat is going to be left alone for most of the day (the water will go stagnant after a while), so something like a small fountain (e.g. 'Drinkwell') might be a good investment if you have the room and can afford to run it. Otherwise sounds like a suitable plan.

    "Punishment does not teach the desired behavior." I beg to differ. It most certainly did.

    @Headblender Then let's agree to disagree.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM

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