Follow by Email

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How do you train your human to buy the right cat food?

Dear George,

I was brought up on Gourmet cat food, one of the more expensive and delicious kinds. That's what I eat. That's what I like. But I am currently stuck here in cat rescue being fed an inferior food. There's plenty of it, which is good. And it is perfectly nutritious. But I don't feel it is up the standard I am used to. So I worry about my next home. How am I going to make it clear to my new humans, that they have got to get out to the supermarket, ignore the tins, ignore the inferior envelopes on special offer, and buy this particular brand. Have you faced the same dilemma. Can other cats help with training tips?


Dear Florence,

This is the classic dilemma facing all us cats. We can't buy our own cat food. We have to accept what humans buy for us. This is a serious difficulty and yet, if you were a human looking at the huge variety of cat food available on the supermarket shelves, it would be obvious that cats rule in this area. We don't eat just anything - unless we are starving strays. We train our humans to get what we want. All training tips are welcome in the comments area.
The principles of all human training are to ignore bad behaviour and reward good. This is reward training practised by all good trainers. Punishment has a part in the cat-human relationship but only because we enjoy it not because it is superior to reward training. For most training, rewards, not punishments, are most effective. And, if you think about this, this is a tricky area. We have to train a human to leave the house, go to the supermarket, ignore the special offers, pass by the cheaper brands, buy the right expensive brand and pay for it. Yet we do it. What an amazing feline feat.
If the principles of reward training are followed through you must reward your human for buying the right food. Move to the food dish smartly, eat ravenously (at least the first bit), purr loudly while eating (yes it is possible) and, if you can handle it, knead as well as purring while eating. Most humans recognise purring and kneading as signs of pussycat happiness (well, they are almost right). That is the reward bit of the food training ritual.
The second bit is to ignore bad behaviour. Here you go to the food bowl, sniff disdainfully, look up imploringly at your human and move away. Just don't eat it. Not the tiniest scrap. Do this several times during the day. If you have trained your human to respond to you by leading it to the bowl, do this several times a day. The message is clear. You need food. But this is not the food you can eat.
A further training mode variation on this is to go up to the bowl, sniff disdainfully giving the human your best imploring look, Then treat the food as if it is litter. Paw it as if hiding a lump of you know what. If the bowl is a plastic one, tip the food out of the bowl and hide it under the bowl. Clear message. I think this food is s..t!
What if I am really hungry, you ask. Be firm. Don't eat it. Don't weaken. Training a human requires true consistency and persistence. Leave a minimum of 6 hours  before eating any of it - preferably 12 hours. They won't hold out, I assure you. They never do.
 If you are really really hungry lick up the gravy and leave the solid bits. All of them. But it will take much longer to train your human if you weaken.



  1. MeWoW.

    Nice blog you have George. We will have to implement these food tips on our human. He tends to stray from our favorite every now and again. Thanks for your advice.

    Bear and Shadow

  2. I have my humans trained very well, thank you very much! They even cook me human food from time to time. They buy chicken (human chicken) on sale and cook it, debone it and I'm set for several days. They also had some fish (cat fish, no less) they didn't like, so they cooked that for me as well and I had a feast for several days. They do buy me high grade food, but I do get bored with the stuff in the can (tins). I just act picky and they always cave in. They don't call me King of Tidewater for nothing, you know.

  3. Wickey WuudlerMay 25, 2008

    Great tips George!

    I'd also recommend the following:-

    If the food is simply not up to standard and you notice your human spending money excessively on themselves, refuse to even approach the inferior food, find some beloved ornaments/books etc and knock them to the floor with vigour.

    If you are presented with "prescription" food, sniff it, then keel over on your side, miaowing plaintively, whilst sucking in your tummy to mimic extreme malnutrition. Lay there until quality food of your choice is finally presented to you. If neither of these work, finding a tiny piece of dried dirt on the floor and licking at it desperately will also drive home the point. :D

  4. George, you are awesome.

    If you will allow,


    or maybe


    from the Twin Cities of Minnesota, USA

  5. Good advice George
    I advocate setting up a food tax - whenever the humans have some (it may be that you only find one to train like this, its worth it though!) introduce the idea that you should get a share, about 10% would be great. Obviously it doesn't work both ways though!

  6. Personally Gourmet Perle is the only cat food I ever condescend to eat. I much prefer (in order of preference):

    - Iceland frozen white fish fillets en papiotte (baked in foil with olive oil and sea salt just for me)
    - roast lamb
    - good sausages eg tesco finest with onion gravy
    - prawns
    - the nice fatty bit from the edge of a sirloin steak

    Anything else is simply unacceptable. I would hold out...



Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online