Your pet wants your food

NICK BARNETT
Last updated 08:00 09/05/2012

Cats and dogs are incredibly food-driven - I've never met one that wasn't. And this means that the price of owning a cat or a dog is eternal vigilance. It means protecting your own food from their drive to steal it.

  Millie is laser-focused on that smoked salmon.
Millie 1
  The eggs are briefly considered, rejected.
Millie 2
  She bides her time.
Millie 3
  Millie calculates the consequences...
Millie 4
  It's not worth it. That person with the camera is sure to dob her in.
Millie 6

They don't see it as stealing, of course. For them, food unguarded is food in the wild, and therefore fair game for any creature that can reach it. In pursuit of an unguarded dinner plate, they'll show patience, persistence, experiment, daring, athleticism and flair. If we humans could all show such character in our lives, we'd all be super-achievers.

Cats are a menace for their skill and their sheer guiltless persistence. They can bring a roast chicken down from the table simply by claw-swiping the tablecloth.

Dogs - well, you can train them, but it takes a feat of canine self-control to pass up the opportunity of a mouthful of someone's meal. My dog Connor instantly obeys the command "Connor leave it" when he's heading for the cat's dish or any other source of grub that's not his bowl; when caught nosing around the top of the dining table, he dismounts pronto without needing to be told. So he seems to know that the food is not intended for him. But if no human is watching, he'll wander around and eat whatever is within reach. He knows it's wrong, but he'll do it anyway if he can get away with it. In a human this would be sociopathic, but in a dog it's just typical.

My other dog, Phoebe, can't spring on to the full-height table as Connor can, but she has another specialty: sideways tongue. If a plate or bowl has been left on the low coffee table, she'll hoist herself up and then, as though halfway through a high-jump, flops herself as far on to the table as possible, turning her head and sending her tongue out of the side of her mouth to lick the crockery clean.

I'm sure you have your own story of an especially daring or shocking case of food theft by a pet. But I wonder how many of us would admit to how many times we've continued to eat something even though our pet has taken a bite or touched it with a tongue? It's a subject I find it hard to discuss, here in this public forum and under my real name... But you, you can be anonymously frank.

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Thanks to Sandra for her pictures of Millie

86 comments
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Harv   #1   08:34 am May 09 2012

Worst one I had was my youngest dog jumping on the dining room chair on to the table, from there on to the bench and he helped himself to a fresh loaf of homemade wholemeal bread (at least it was semi-healthy!). For dessert he thought my full bottle of antibiotics would be yummy. We came home and had to take the two dogs to the vet and a visit to the dentist for me to get more antibiotics! *Sigh*

RedRulesAll   #2   08:35 am May 09 2012

So it's not just me feeling like the worst 'cat mummy' in the world! Recent SPCA arrival takes every chance she can get to go for my food. The cooling lasagne on the stove had part of its cheesey top removed and Kitty was 'snapped' just getting into the inner goodness, looking very guilty with mince around her wee mouth! She has also taken a swipe at a dish sitting in the oven with door part-way open, hooking it and pulling it forward. And taken two unattended bread bags to their deaths ... doesn't really seem to eat the bread. Just gives the bags a good savaging! She also begs for food from my dinner plate, which I'm strict on not giving her. Think she is getting better but gosh, what a trickster! Might be a throwback, though, as she was apparently taken from the house of a cat hoarder ... Lucky she's so cute!

sarahf   #3   08:45 am May 09 2012

After years of having cats chew through the rubbish bags, I discovered one way to repel them. Dishwashing liquid! If you're chucking out something meaty or 'yummy', squirt some dishwash liquid on it before putting it in the bin. Or if the bag isn't too 'rubbishy' just squirt a bit in before tying up the bag. Cats are absolutely disgusted by the smell

beaglemum   #4   08:49 am May 09 2012

We have a beagle at home, he can get into anything and is very food driven. He will try and steal food off you as your eating or just sit and whine at food on the table. He knows that our food is off limits but that doesnt stop him trying. You hear horror stories of beagles getting into the fridge or cupboard and eating everything in there. They think they have a never ending stomach.

Raevyn   #5   08:56 am May 09 2012

Had a lab/retriever/heeler mix once. She was able to reach food on the counter just by standing on her hind legs and putting her front paws on the counter.

One year we had purchased a new fridge, and stored the old one in an unused room until we could borrow a truck to haul it away. My mom had made candy (not chocolate, thankfully) for Youth Group. The dog took the candy off the counter, unwrapped each and ate it, then hid the evidence under the old fridge. When my dad got home, the poor dog decided she couldn't lie about it and put herself in time-out.

Erin   #6   08:57 am May 09 2012

When I was a poor student the flat cat stole a lamb chop from right off my plate as I turned to talk to someone. Guess who went hungry that night and no it wasn't the cat!

Olivia   #7   09:00 am May 09 2012

Love this! Our cat, Bella, will try to swipe any food from a plate that's on any lap. She'll sit up like and paw your food down from the plate onto the floor if you aren't looking. Even shoving her off doesn't really help. Although I think my dad encourages it when he eventually gives her something off the plate.

She also eats broccoli and potato - so she gets her vegetables.

HB   #8   09:04 am May 09 2012

We have 2 dogs, and 2 flatmates... who aren't dog owners but would like to be... Recently they made a homemade pizza, but before they could eat it they had to pop out to pick up a friend. They left the pizza on the table unguarded, with the chairs pulled out from the table enough to create a nice little step up for the dogs... When they returned the pizza base was all that was left. What was worse was that I got a lecture when I returned home later about how disappointed they were that the dogs were so badly behaved... Ermmm Stupid much??

erin   #9   09:05 am May 09 2012

we made a batch of red velvet cupcakes recently and had left them on the bench after icing them with cream cheese frosting while heading to the shops for candles. thought we'd shut boost outside of the kitchen but the sneaky cat found a way in and licked all the icing clean off a cupcake and spent the night puking it all back up on our doormat. urgh.

Kylie   #10   09:06 am May 09 2012

Our jack russell is interesting. When were aren't home him and his partner in crime get into whatever they can. We've come home once to see he got into the freezer. He ate his way through half a pack of mince, a lamb shank and had started on a pack of rissoles.

If we are home however and he manages to get his jaws on something, he'll bring it to us and put it down as if to a) reprimand us for leaving food around while b) asking for permission to eat it.


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