need help with cat training

About two months ago, my boyfriend and I rescued a street cat that lived a few minutes away from our apartment. We took him to the vet to get checked out and everything was fine. He's now a four month old, unneutered, male.

I have helped to raise and care for 5 family cats in my lifetime, so I am not unfamiliar with cats. However, this kitten is the first I have ever literally rescued (the rest being adopted from the pound/shelter) and he is proving..resilient to training.

My main problem is that he eats EVERYTHING. I have never had a cat that eats mashed potatoes, corn, ice cream, etc but this cat literally eats any human food available. He'll even eat tin foil if there's even a smidgen of food left on it. This means that he jumps all over my counters and tables and is so annoying whenever food is out.

I've tried the water bottle, but I think being a street cat made him not care about getting a little wet. I really don't know what else to do. Will he grow out of it? Will neutering help? I plan on having him neutered, but my vet wants to wait till he is 6 months.

Anyway, the food issue also causes problems with my dog that I adopted from ARK back in May. My dog lived on the streets for awhile before being taken into a foster home, so he's always been a bit crazy about food as well. My boyfriend and I trained him and he is usually pretty good about it (unless we drop something on the ground...haha) but him and my cat fight SO MUCH over food. Not dog food or cat food, but human food. If the kitten is anywhere near human food, my dog gets incredibly angry and somewhat aggressive towards him. The dog usually just growls and barks and kind of knocks the kitten away with his paws, but the other day we had a huge fiasco that resulted in my kitten having to go to the hospital because my dog was a bit too rough.

All in all, it's really stressful and my boyfriend is talking of putting the cat up for adoption because he's getting really frustrated with it all. He's not a huge cat person anyway and agreed to rescue the animal for me, and I feel bad that I haven't been able to curtail his poor habits.

Forgot to mention, my little kitty is ALWAYS meowing. Not a cute meow either. A loud, annoying one. He's been to the vet three times, so I know nothing is wrong with him. Sometimes he does it for attention and will stop when I pick him up (bad of me, I know, but it gets soo annoying!) but other times he will meow and meow for 20 minutes straight. He's especially bad when we put him in his cage at night - which he still hasn't gotten used to after TWO MONTHS. I think the meowing makes my boyfriend angrier than the food problem.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them. I love the little guy and want to keep him, but I don't want my boyfriend to continue to be upset by him. I know neutering might help a bit (maybe with the meowing? and will mellow him out in general) but are there any other things I can do?

Thanks a ton.

Tags: training, meowing, street cats


marlajoy's picture

I'll say right at the outset that I am no expert but I have raised many cats over the years so I'll give you my two cents.

Regarding the food and eating, that is pretty common behavior with cats who were living out on the streets before and were always hungry and had to eat anything they could find. When you get them in a home, they are voracious eaters of ANYTHING around. They don't seem to realize that they don't have to be that way anymore. There are couple key things I do to stop this. First, I feed them really high quality food to make sure they get all the nutrients they need and deal with any deficiencies they may have. This means giving them a high quality, human grade, grain free, limited ingredient kibble and wet food and lots of raw meats and small bones (the sort of thing they would get if they were eating mice). These are the only foods I give them access to - NO table scraps, no food that you are eating, never. They need to know your food is off limits. And, if overeating is a problem, I would decide in the morning how much food you want them to have that day and then just portion it out to them a few times during the day. Also, NEVER leave any of your food out. Ever. If you don't allow your cat to be around your food, your dog won't have any issue. When you are preparing a meal, keep food in one area and if your cat jumps up, immediately put him down. You may have to do this multiple times. NEVER reward him by giving him anything you are making. It will just reinforce the behavior.

Regarding the meowing, is he getting enough stimulation at home? Does he have lots of toys to play with, places to scratch, places to climb, someone to play with him? I regularly bring in new 'toys' for my cats to play with to keep them stimulated. I'll give them boxes to play in, tubes to crawl through, lids off water bottles to bat around, I'll hang blankets on the wall for them to climb up. I'll keep these things around for a week or two then switch things up. I also have a cat tree for them to climb up and sleep in. Proper stimulation, companionship and a proper diet should go a long ways toward helping the meowing.

Also, why do you put your cat in a crate at night? Are there scratching issues? Most cats get extremely stressed in confined spaces for long periods of time and will certainly meow and be discontented.

papayapie's picture

Hi Marla,

Thanks for responding!

I think I'm feeding him pretty high quality food, though I suppose I could probably upgrade. I'll look into some different brands the next time I'm at the store. The sad thing is, I never give him human food. I never even knew that cats would be interested in human food (my other 5 cats never cared unless it was meat), but this little guy is a different story. If I'm cooking and turn away from him for one second he's jumping onto the counter and trying to get a bite of something. I usually can't even have him around me when I'm cooking because he is literally leaping onto the stove area every other second, regardless of how many times I put him back down. I think my big issue is because I've got a young cat in an apartment the size of a closet along with a dog and my bf (my apartment is really meant for just one person). The kitty has really limited room to play and I've got limited room to cook and put food away, as my fridge is super small, so there's always something for him to get into because I just literally don't have enough space to put all my things away.

He's got tons of toys and his dog brother. I pretty much play with him/give him attention from 5 pm to 10 pm every night. I usually buy him a new toy every week or so, and I also have a box/scratching post/play area for him to mess around. I want to buy a cat tree, but like I said, I've got no room. Thankfully, I'll be going back home in 2.5 months, so I'm hoping some of these issues will be fixed just by him being in a bigger area and being able to run around more.

I put him in a crate because of his tendency to get into things. Because he doesn't respond well to my water bottle training, he jumps up on the counters/my desk all the time during the night and knocks things over, gets into things, and breaks things. I get that he's a kitten and he's just playing, but if I keep him out of his cage at night I can't even fall asleep because he's either messing stuff up on my desk or trying to play with my dog and just making a ton of noise. I know cats don't like to be in confined spaces and I've never put any of my other cats into a cage before, but I just can't let him be free unless I'm there and awake to monitor him because there's just TOO MUCH stuff in my apartment that he gets into and messes up.

Ha, as I typed this response out I really got to thinking about how all the issues might just be because of my lack of space. It was cramped enough in my one bedroom apartment with me and my boyfriend. Then we adopted our dog, and now we've got our kitten...I'm not even sure there's enough room on the floor for me to lay down. I'll try to buy him some better food and maybe a new toy this weekend and attempt to somehow hide my belongings in my suitcases or something so maybe he doesn't have to stay in his cage at night.

Thanks again!

marlajoy's picture

I agree, space sounds like a huge issue! For a cat used to roaming the streets, even your whole apartment would feel like a confined space to him. Cats that feel confined are very yeowly (is that a word? i mean they meow a lot!) and will certainly get into trouble because they feel agitated and frustrated.

kmwg19's picture

I found some suggestions from a great cat trainer. I think and hope you find it very helpful.

marlajoy's picture

How are things? :)

megs's picture

Hey, just wanted to say that I had similar issues with my street kitten. I followed Marla's advice and it worked out really well for my little Bernie. She also had a cat friend who was older and calmer, but still willing to play. I think that helped, too.

Bernie was being fed some awful stuff (Purina kitten, and some "no brand" Korean stuff, and Royal Canin) before we could switch her over to dry Orijen and wet food (Evo and Whiskas Junior). It was expensive, but I've really noticed a change. She went from getting crappy Purina food and trying to steal food to Orijen/Evo/Whiskas Junior tuna and actually only eating when she's hungry.

Marla brought up a good point, too, about keeping human food away from the cats. I totally understand your predicament (I have it, too, almost verbatim). I have to remember to not reward or encourage her with it.

What do you think about kitten play dates? If he's up-to-date on his shots and gets neutered, there's probably someone nearby with a friendly up-to-date cat.