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Can cats get addicted to human food?

Can cats get addicted to human food?

Posted by Armarkat on 28th Feb 2024

Addiction is not just a human issue. Vet Help Direct reports that “Evidence of substance abuse is seen in wild animals, domesticated species, and lab animals.” Our own pets can come to rely on food or other ingestible items in order to temporarily improve their mood (the dopamine release) or feel a sense of being high (like catnip). Food addictions can either start quickly or build up over time with continued bad habits.

I’ve begun to wonder if pet parents' attitudes towards food are affecting what and how their pets eat. My overindulgence in salty snacks is doing absolutely no favors for my high sodium issue. While humans have their favorite foods, cats can also have their favorites if they are given–or steal–human food. Individual cats are intrigued by some smells more than others, which leads to a curiosity about how those foods taste. Catitude Daily writes that some general craving patterns seen in cats include a love of tuna fish, green olives, and bread products. Also, some cats are more interested in human food than others. Virgil wants to sniff whatever snacks he can reach and tries to lap up tea from my mug, while Luc-Luc’s primary concern is the “t word”: treat.

Offering our pets human food reinforces the idea that human food is intended for pets to eat and can cause a cat to feel they are entitled to sample that food whenever it is available. Obesity is a major concern regarding cats who believe they own the food in your household. According to Vet Help Direct, “The danger of us as owners, caving and enabling those behaviours is that it is likely your cat will become overweight.” Obese cats are more likely to get diabetes, metabolic disorders, heart disease, and other conditions.

However, cats can show signs of food obsession even without their humans giving in to the pleading of their cute kitty eyes. According to Animal Wised, “If the cat is not eating their regular feed, but is obsessed with the food you eat, it could be their food is inappropriate. A cat's diet needs to be adapted to their individual needs. This includes their age, health status and individual preference.” We can also help our cat stay away from the dangers of human food by keeping food farther away and praising our cats when they behave appropriately.

What may look like innocent cravings can also be a sign of unseen medical complications. Madison Animal Care Hospital cautions that “Parasite infestations, diabetes, and thyroid conditions can all cause an animal to act like they are ravenous all the time.” Animal Wised adds that food addictions can also harm a feline mentally, as they can be a sign of anxiety.

Ultimately, just as I am the sole person in charge of my own health, I am responsible for what my pets eat. As cat parents, we provide the food and environment that a cat may eat from, whether they snack with our consent or not. A kitty cannot ‘keep their paw out of the chip bag’ without proper training and precautions. Just as it is my duty to control my salty food temptations and see my doctor on a regular basis to monitor my sodium levels, I need to watch for signs of illness in my cats and make regular vet check-ups for them.

Ensuring my pets practice a healthy lifestyle is also a motivating experience for me to value my own health. I want to provide the best life possible for my pets, but that also means that I need to keep my body as healthy as possible so that I can continue to take care of them to the best of my ability.

Quote of the day: “I can be singing about cat food and I’ll make you think that I mean it.” -Sammy Hagar


“Can cats become addicts?”, Vet Help Direct

“Is your cat obsessed with food?”, Madison Animal Care Hospital

“My Cat Is Obsessed With Food”, Animal Wised

“Why do cats love bread so much?”, Catitude Daily