Is “Why does my cat want me to watch her eat” the question that keeps you awake at night? 

It’s easy to figure out, “Why does my cat try to eat my food,” but is not eating unless you’re close – that’s a mystery worth solving.  

So, keep reading to understand what your feline friend is thinking when she wants you to watch her eat her favorite food. 

10 Reasons Why Do Cats Like To Be Watched While They Eat?

“My cat only eats when I watch her.”

I remember when I said this sentence to my vet when one of my new cats insisted on eating her cat food with me in the room.

As it turns out, this behavior is more common than you can imagine, and it’s not always a reason to panic and take your cat to the vet. 

So, why do cats like to be watched while they eat? Unlike dogs, cats don’t mind company while eating, so this cat behavior shows that your kitty likes and trusts you.

But let’s talk in detail about this strange behavior. 

Why do cats scratch around food? Another strange behavior you should read about.

#1 I’m Seeking a Sense of Security

Cats are vulnerable when eating because they can’t keep an eye on their environment and react quickly to treats. This vulnerability can be the difference between life and death in the wild. 

Of course, domestic cats don’t have to be on guard all the time, worrying about a predator sneaking up while they eat from the food bowl. Still, cats have the natural instinct to stay alert at all times. 

cat staring at hos owner before eating but why does my cat want me to watch her eat?

Some cats want you to watch them eat because they feel safe in your presence. When you’re in the room, your cat can enjoy its meal, relying on you to keep watch for dangers and threats.

And why does my cat watch me eat? Your cat thinks you’re vulnerable and wants to return the favor by watching over you while you eat. 

Security is also the answer to the question, “Why do cats scratch around their food?” Your kitty is trying to hide its traces from predators! 

#2 I’m Afraid

Why does my cat need me to watch him eat?

Think about whether something hasn’t scared your cat while eating – sudden loud noises, another animal, unexpected guests, etc. 

When cats relate eating to a negative experience, they may become too afraid to eat without someone to keep them company.

And since you take care of your cat’s needs, it’s no wonder your cat has chosen you to keep them safe during meal time. 

#3 I’m Showing Trust

Many stray cats will run away or growl/hiss when you approach them while eating. They don’t want you to corner them in a vulnerable position.

So, if your kitty wants you close during meal time, your cat trusts that you won’t take the food away from them or try to grab them. 

It’s important not to break this trust and leave your kitty to eat its food in peace. Instead, talk to your cat in a soothing voice to reassure them.

#4 I’m Being Bullied

a cat holding a bowl and a fork

As specialists from PetMD explain, “Some shy kittens may be intimidated by other furry family members when it comes to mealtime.” (1)

In a multi-pet household, it’s easy for one pet to keep another away from the bowl of food. So, it makes sense that your cat wants you to watch her eat so that the other pets don’t dare bother her. 

#5 I Love You

Popular misconceptions will have you believe that cats are aloof and don’t attach to their pet parent. However, studies have proven that cats form a secure attachment to their human. (2)

Moreover, cats have bizarre ways of showing affection – licking your hair, biting your fingers, and marking you with their scent.

So, it’s not hard to believe that some felines like to express their feelings by insisting you watch them eat to attract your attention and make you spend more time with them. 

And it can be a sign that you are among your cat’s favorite humans since you’re allowed to near your kitty during dinner time. 

#6 It’s a Habit

Why does my cat want to watch him eat? It can be a habit formed during kittenhood.

When you raise orphaned kittens, you feed them every few hours or stay near them to ensure they eat their wet food. Many rescuers also feed newborn kittens in their arms and laps. 

So, kittens get used to having company during meal time and relate your presence with good things. When they grow up, they continue to expect someone to stay near them when they eat, as in this video.

#7 I’m a Social Animal

Like people, some cats don’t like to eat when they’re alone and prefer to have their favorite human around to keep them company. 

Some cat breeds are also more social and affectionate than others. So, your cat breed can explain why your cat wants you to watch her eat. 

Even some stray cats enjoy human attention while eating, as you can see from this video.

#8  I’m Afraid of Missing Something 

One of my cats always dashes after me if I leave the room after filling the bowls with cat food. She wants to make sure I’m not hiding a tasty treat in the other room.

Throughout the years, other cats I’ve had would behave in the same way because they’re curious about my actions. They don’t want to miss the fun.

I’ve also observed this food-related behavior in multi-cat houses. One cat leaves the food bowl and goes looking for the owner in case the human and the other cats are eating something more delicious. 

And why does my cat stare at me when I eat?

Again, the kitty is afraid of missing out on something. Even if they hate whatever food you’re eating, many felines will insist on having a bite and acting cute to get their way, as in this video.

#9 I Want to Be Petted

Some cats want you to watch them eat because they’re begging for an extra petting session. Lunch is more pleasant when their favorite person is paying them extra attention. 

In general, you shouldn’t bother your cat while it’s eating. Not all animals like it, and cats might react aggressively in such vulnerable moments.

However, if your cat doesn’t growl or show other signs of being uncomfortable, it’s no big deal to pet them while eating to build trust and strengthen your bond.  

#10 Illness

If my cat wants me to watch her eat out of a sudden, I will consider illness as one of the possible reasons. Cats can’t speak when they’re in pain, so they use unique ways to ask for help.

Maybe your cat has a toothache or something stuck in their throat, and insisting on you watching them eat is how they try to communicate the problem.

Talk to your vet about this new cat behavior, especially if your cat is vomiting. Even if your cat is acting normal, frequent vomiting isn’t normal. 

a vet petting a cat

And take your cat to the vet if your kitty doesn’t eat anything for more than 24 hours. No cat will willingly starve itself unless something is very wrong. 

Why Won’t My Cat Eat Unless I Watch Her?

It’s normal for some felines to like to be watched while they eat. However, have you ever dealt with a cat that doesn’t eat unless you’re in the room and watching? 

Since you can’t always be around, it’s natural to worry about what’s going on with your kitty. 

So, why won’t my cat eat unless I watch her? Usually, cats stop eating when you’re not in the room because they’re stressed or anxious. But let’s talk about this in detail.

#1 Stress

As I already mentioned, cats are vulnerable when eating because they can’t protect themselves from sudden attacks.

adult cat hiding under the bed

Cats who refuse to eat unless you’re watching them don’t feel safe enough to let their guard unless you’re in the room. 

It can be another cat/dog bullying them, a negative experience with some family members, or sudden routine changes.

#2 Separation Anxiety

Most people think that only dogs get separation anxiety. However, as vets explain, “Cats can develop separation anxiety syndrome, and they show many of the same signs that are seen in dogs.” (3)

One of the classic signs of separation anxiety in cats is hyper-attachment to the owner. So, some cats may refuse to eat unless you’re around to keep them company.

Moreover, many cats with separation anxiety are far too distressed to eat when you leave them alone. 

#3 It’s a Learnt Behavior 

Cats are quick learners and often use their knowledge to manipulate their owners. Your cat may not want to eat because she/he knows this behavior will get a reaction from you.

petting a cat

For example, you start paying more attention to your cat when you notice that your kitty is not eating unless you’re in the room. Your cat realizes that not eating gets your attention and keeps doing it.

And as this pet owner shares, “when we first brought him home, we sat with him every time we fed him, and he’s just a big baby about it since.” (4)

What To Do If My Cat Is Not Eating Without Being Watched?

Cats who eat better when their owners are around, or cats that don’t eat unless you pet them, are called “affection eaters.”

And while it’s cute that your cat gets comfort from your presence, it’s not always possible to stick around and make sure your cat eats its breakfast or dinner.

So, what can you do if your cat doesn’t eat without being watched? Here are five tips. 

#1 Reduce Stress

According to San Fransico SPCA, “Affection eaters are often reacting to a scary new environment and the loss of their previous home and/or human companions.” (5)

So, reducing your cat’s stress levels by keeping a predictable routine should help your kitty get used to the new environment.

And don’t forget to enrich your cat’s environment. Boredom isn’t good for your cat’s mental health and can lead to destructive behavior and escape attempts.

I discovered that it’s one of the main reasons my indoor cat is obsessed with going outside or constantly meowing at the door. 

#2 Manage Conflicts in Multi-Cat Household 

If you have multiple cats, ensure that each has a separate bowl and feed them in a different room to avoid food conflicts. 

Ensure the cats don’t feel trapped or vulnerable while eating and work on getting your cats to get along. 

#3 Move the Food Bowl 

cat eating smaller portion of dry food

Think about where you have placed your cat’s food bowls. Usually, owners put them in a remote location because of the smell of dry/wet cat food.

Moving the bowls to a high-traffic area, such as the kitchen or the living room, can appease your cat’s desire for company during mealtimes.

If your cat tries to bury its food after eating, consider a food mat to reduce the mess around the house. And check out this article on why do cats try to cover their food after eating

#4 Elevate the Bowl

Elevating your cat’s food bowl can give your cat a better view of its surroundings and make them feel less vulnerable. Or consider an elevated cat bowl. 

#5 Consult a Feline Behaviorist Specialist 

If you’re worried about your cat’s eating habits, you should consult a feline behaviorist specialist to find the root of the problem. 

Why Does My Cat Want Me to Watch Her Eat: FAQs

Conclusion

Why does my cat want me to watch her eat? Your kitty is a social eater and feels safer when you’re around to keep it company during dinner. 

However, if your cat suddenly changes its eating habits and doesn’t eat much even when you’re around to watch, you should talk to your vet.

cat staring at her owner while eating

What do you think about these 10 reasons why cats want you to watch them eat? Does your cat like to be watched? Share your experience in the comment section. 

Resources:

  • 1. Why Your Cat Won’t Eat and What to Do . www.petmd.com. . Available from: https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/cat-wont-eat-try-these-tricks
  • 2. Vitale KR, Behnke AC, Udell MAR. Attachment bonds between domestic cats and humans. Current Biology . 2019 ;29:R864–5. Available from: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)31086-3?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982219310863%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
  • 3. Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety? . www.petmd.com. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/behavioral/can-cats-have-separation-anxiety
  • 4. r/Pets – My Cat Won’t Eat Unless I’m There – Any Advice? . reddit. 2016 . Available from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Pets/comments/65mzfl/my_cat_wont_eat_unless_im_there_any_advice/
  • 5. Cat: Affection Eaters . Available from: https://www.sfspca.org/sites/default/files/documents/cat_affection-eaters.pdf
Grigorina S
Grigorina S

I’ve grown up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped me into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). I’ve got two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but I also feed my neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them.

I discovered that writing is my vocation early in my school years. Since then I’ve taken part in several literature contests – writing horror and fantasy short stories and novellas.
For the past three years, I’ve been an ELS teacher, pouring my heart into showing children and teenagers how important English is for their future and trying to educate them how to treat their pets with care.

Find her on Instagram. Read her latest articles..

Learn more about Grigorina here