Some cats panic when their food bowl is empty. Some cats panic when they don’t get the “right” kind of food in their bowl. Others, when they can merely see the bottom of their food bowl.

And the thought of a food shortage strikes terror into their adorable, little kitty hearts. They might immediately cry for more food, or come to wherever you might be—sleeping or awake—to demand more or fresh or different food.

But they have plenty of food left. What do they want now?

*Cats are creatures of habit, and once they realize they can request more food just by meowing (albeit, potentially loudly and constantly), they will learn that they can regularly request more, fresher—and maybe even better—food. To break the habit, you’ll need to train your cat that feedings only happen at certain times, and not whenever he decides that he needs more. You can try setting a timer—your cat can (no matter how futile it may seem) eventually learn that feedings happen when the timer goes off, and not before.

*Your cat might just be requesting fresher food. Of course, we know that dry food rarely goes bad when sitting in the food bowl for a day or two. Try shaking the bowl down to redistribute the kibble—that might be all you need to entice your cat to finish his meal. This method also works if your cat stops eating once he can see the bottom of the food bowl. (One cat owner solved this problem by taping a photo of his cat’s kibble onto the bottom of the food bowl so his cat could never see an empty bottom. Reportedly, it worked.)

*Some cats are social eaters, and might just be crying at their food bowl for company. If your cat only eats when a person is standing nearby, your cat might be a social eater. You can try turning a radio or television on during feeding times, but the only solution might be having a person nearby for meal time.

*Cats are instinctively not grazers, and in the wild would never have food available to them 24/7. Try to stop free feeding, maybe trying the timer method to feed your cat at set times throughout the day. Many cat’s ideal feeding patterns would be a small meal every five to six hours, though many cats do well feeding before and after a typical eight hour workday. Automatic feeders are also an option if your cat does well being fed at set intervals during which you can’t be home.

*Cat whiskers are very sensitive, and not all cats can tolerate reaching further into their bowl once they’ve eaten what they can off the top. Once their whiskers start brushing the bowl, they essentially have an empty food bowl since their sensitive whiskers can’t tolerate reaching further into the food bowl for more. There are some food bowls on the market designed to avoid just this issue, or you can try using a plate for your pet’s kibble.

Of course, cats are just as unique as people, and none of these reasons might apply. He might just be inviting your over to his food bowl and saying, “hey—look at this! Want some?”

By Rachel Leisemann Immel