Cats can make a demand in a meow even though they do not want anything

You may have met with this somewhat baffling feline behaviour. I'll describe what my cat does. In fact, he did it about an hour ago when I came in from buying a newspaper. My cat and I have set up a routine. When I come in the front door he expects me to give him some prawns - a treat. 

Cats can make a demand in a meow even though they do not want anything
Cats can make a demand in a meow even though they do not want anything. Image: MikeB

And over the years this has created habitual behaviour; a pattern of behaviour which includes a request by my cat in the form of a meow for prawns. The point is though that he will still meow and ask for prawns even though he does not want them.

I can put them in a bowl and he can go up to them and licked them but he won't eat because he is not hungry enough to eat them. His meows are simply part of the scenario that both my cat and myself have created. Part of that interaction is that he meows for food. It can be a 'hollow' meaningless meow for food when he is not hungry and has no desire to eat it.

This is an example of where habits and routines outstrip reality. The players, humans and cats, create a situation in which the players do certain things and it no longer matters that the objective of the routine is unviable. The routine is the objective not the goal. 

The end result is that I have to put the prawns back in the box and put the box back in the fridge. I will bring them out at another time when I think that his demands are genuine. Although of course it is almost impossible to make an accurate decision about that.

It is a classic case of informal positive reinforcement training. The instigating action is my arrival at home. My cat gets an urge to eat prawns as it has been positively reinforced in him to do that. He has been rewarded for asking for prawns. He gets them which reinforces further his behaviour.

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