Cats have several odd eating habits. They seem to see their bowl as empty even when it’s half (or completely) full, they sometimes prefer to eat with their paws, and they are prone to insisting that you watch them while they eat.
Granted, humans like to have company at mealtimes too, but we don’t actually walk up to friends and family and demand they watch us while we nibble on a croissant.
Are cats just social eaters, or is there another reason they ask us to follow them to their food bowl? Do they just want us to pay them back in kind for all the times they follow us everywhere?
Why Does My Cat Want Me to Watch Her Eat?
Cats want you to watch them eat because it makes them feel safe and comfortable, knowing you are on the lookout for potential threats. As they are not able to be as observant, they rely on your senses to warn them of any imminent danger.
In the wild, cats are at their most vulnerable while eating, as they aren’t able to focus on their surroundings as much. While there is certainly no danger in your home, your cat is still mostly a ball of instinct, and can’t shake a habit that has been built into them millions of years ago.
Here is a rundown of all the possible reasons you cat wants you to watch while they eat:
They Want to Feel Safe
As mentioned, cats remember that they may be attacked at any moment while they are eating. After all, they are both predator and prey, and understand that if they would choose to attack a smaller animal while it’s distracted by a meal, so could a larger animal attack them.
When your cat asks you (more or less politely) if you can watch them while they eat, they are asking you to guard them. Your presence will make them feel safe, and they can relax and eat in peace, knowing you are there to alert them should they need to bolt.
They Have Formed a Habit
When your cat was still a kitten, you have likely spent a fair amount of time watching them eat. Maybe you were trying to make sure they are okay and can handle their meal, or perhaps you just wanted to revel in their cuteness.
This may have caused your cat to equate meal times with your presence, which is why they now want you to be there and watch them eat. They have simply formed a habit (one that may require you to get out of bed in the middle of the night).
They Want the Company
Cats can also be social eaters, much like humans. While we often consider them introverts and believe they don’t need as much company as dogs, cats actually like having you around. Meal times are no exception.
If your cat wants you to watch them eat, they could just be looking for some pleasant company. After all, we like to eat in groups too, and the meals we share are often tastier than the ones we have on our own: the same can be said of our feline companions.
They Have FOMO
Some cats love to be the center of attention, while others just want to know what is going on around them at all times. The mere thought of missing out on some family fun might be what’s driving them to ask you to spend time with them while they eat.
This is often the case in households with multiple pets. The cat might be worried that the other pet(s) are having fun with you while they are eating, which is why they will do their best to get you in the same room with them while they eat, eliminating the possibility of being left out.
They Want to be Pet
Your cat may just want you to pet them while they eat. In fact, some cats will refuse to eat unless you are there to provide the love at mealtime.
One of our cats was the definition of a picky eater, and would demand our undivided attention whenever he would want to eat. Someone would have to follow him to the bathroom and sit on the toilet (lid down of course) while he ate. If he stopped and looked at you, you were obliged to pet him. The entire ritual was usually accompanied by a story, provided by the human, for the supreme being’s pleasure. Talk about fine dining!
While cats are very protective of their food, they also understand that you are not going to eat it, so they will feel extra comforted in your presence.
They Are Ill
If your cat is refusing to eat alone, they may also be ill. You will be able to spot other signs something is wrong though, and don’t need to worry unless they are also vomiting, have diarrhea, or are showing any other symptoms.
In most cases, your cat will just want you to be there for them while they eat. If you notice any changes in their behavior though, or if they refuse to eat out of their bowl but will eat out of your hand, take them to the vet to make sure they are okay.
Why Does My Cat Want Me to Pet Her When She Eats?
Your cat wants you to pet them while they eat as it gives them a sense of security and love. Knowing you are there helps them relax and enjoy their meal more.
Cats like company, contrary to popular belief, and getting a bit of a cuddle while they are enjoying their meal will make it that much more enjoyable. They see this as a time to bond with you, and appreciate the affection you provide.
Why Do Cats Want You to Walk Them to Their Food?
Cats want you to walk them to their food either because they want you to watch them while they eat, or because they believe there is something wrong with the food. They may just be looking for reassurance that everything is okay in their bowl.
If your cat takes you to their bowl, starts to eat but immediately stops when you leave the room and fetches you back, they want you to watch them eat.
Your cat may also be uncertain if what has been given them is fresh and good to eat, which is why they want you to walk them to their food. All you most often have to do is stir the food a bit, and the cat will start to eat it.
Why Does My Cat Only Eat If I’m Watching?
Your cat is most likely looking for reassurance from you. They may be timid or suffer from separation anxiety, or they might just enjoy your company.
If your cat refuses to eat alone, you may also want to take them to the vet, just to be perfectly sure they are completely healthy.
Why Does My Cat Eat When I Eat?
Cats are social eaters, so if you are used to eating in the same room with them, they may think it polite to stop when you have stopped. They may also consider you eating a sign that the environment is safe.
Cats are great at picking up human behavior, so if your cat stops eating when you stop and follows you out of the room, they just want the company. Either they need you there to feel safe, or they prefer to share their mealtimes with their favorite humans.
What Should I Do If My Cat Refuses to Eat Alone?
If your cat is perfectly healthy but does not want to eat alone, there are a number of things you can do to help them out. After all, you won’t always be there when they are hungry, and you don’t want them waking you up in the middle of every night either.
Here is what you can try:
Make Them Feel Safe
Your cat may want you to watch them while they eat because they feel unsafe, and need you to stand guard over them.
In this case, try to eliminate everything your cat may see as a threat. Place their bowl in a quiet, unfrequented room, and always ensure they have a clear escape route. Try moving the bowl around until you find a spot they really like.
Elevate Their Bowl
Cats have a very limited view of their surroundings when eating from a bowl on the floor. If you raise it, i.e. by placing it on a stool or even buying an elevated bowl, they will have a much better sense of what is going on around them.
You can also try placing the bowl on a table or counter (or even a cat tree). Cats love to feel on top of things, and they will feel much safer on higher ground.
Add More Bowls
Give your cat several choices when it comes to meal location by placing several bowls in different spots. You don’t have to keep fresh food in them all the time, just give them a sense of bounty.
You can also place one in the room you spend most of your time in. Being near you will make them feel more relaxed, and encourage them to eat.
Remove Yourself Slowly
You can also start progressively removing yourself from your cat’s mealtimes. Follow them to their bowl and watch them eat, but leave before they are done. Observe how much they usually eat, and determine when the best time to leave will be.
Over time, start leaving earlier and earlier, until your cat is perfectly fine just having you walk them over to their bowl (or walking you over to said bowl) but continuing to eat even after you have left. This will help your cat build their confidence slowly but surely.
Wrapping It Up
If your cat wants you to watch them eat, consider it a sign of trust and affection. Granted, this habit of theirs might be supremely inconvenient for you, so try to find a middle ground where they feel safe and loved that does not require you to drop everything and walk them to their bowl every time they feel like a nibble.