Is My Cat a Picky Eater?
Cats have made a name for themselves in turning their nose up at many things. Whether it’s games, a stroke, other animals or – as we discuss in this article – food, cats are great for walking away from some of the best things in life. Of course, repeatedly turning down food can lead to lasting consequences and a range of health conditions, so learning what makes your finicky cat tick can make a huge difference.
Luckily, there are certainly ways in which you can make all of these more appealing to your feline friend. If you’re not sure whether or not your cat is a fussy eater, then read on to discover how to encourage to get a cat to eat.
Is My Cat a Picker Eater?
Before deciding whether your cat is a picky eater, it can worth checking a few things, first. Cats are known for being very sensitive to their surroundings, so by altering this, you can sometimes find that your cat may magically decide that their food is delicious, after all.
To start, placing their food away from any strong smells, which can occur near the trash, for example, is one of the easiest and quickest solutions. Similarly, cats will not eat food that is placed too close to their litter tray. This is because, in the wild, cats are hyper-aware that their bodily waste can attract predators (this is also why they cover up poop and pee after using the litter tray), so their instinct is to move away from this area as soon as possible.
However, if the food is placed in a fairly quiet place, without heavy foot traffic and not near their litter or any strong smells, it could be that your cat is simply a picky eater. This is particularly the case if you’ve tried a few different foods, but found that none have made any difference to the level of interest your cat is showing toward their dinner.
When to See A Vet If Your Cat Isn’t Eating
As a loss of appetite is a key symptom to many different health problems, it’s important to consider whether there is anything else causing your cat to struggle with eating. Generally speaking, if your cat has previously been absolutely fine with their food, but have suddenly turned their nose up, this could be a sign that there is a health concern with your cat.
A fussy kitten can be much harder to understand, as you may not have a great deal of experience with their eating habits. For this reason, if you notice any of the following symptoms alongside a loss of appetite, it’s always worth a phone call with your local vet:
- Weight loss
- Vocalizing (including purring for seemingly no reason)
- Trouble defecating or urinating
- Hair loss
- Frequent scratching or licking
- Changes in behavior
These are symptoms of some of the most common illnesses which cats are likely to contract, which may cause them to go off their food – and they can range from feline urinary tract disorders through to infections of the eye or anywhere in their body. For this reason, contacting your vet is the best option – and no vet will ever think that you’re wasting their time if you’re worried.
If there are no other symptoms and you’re still finding yourself frustrated and Googling “my cat is a picky eater” or can’t understand why your cat won’t eat wet food, for example, then there’s a high chance that you simply have a finicky cat.
Why is My Cat a Picky Eater?
There are a huge range of reasons as to why your cat may be a fussy eater, especially given that the level of fussiness can differ drastically from cat to cat. Some cats simply won’t eat wet food and will turn their nose up at food from a can or pouch, while other cats won’t eat kibble. Even within these, there are cats that don’t like certain brands or flavors, too.
From what we understand, the main reason why a cat might turn down certain foods is due to their instincts. Cats have a very specific criteria as to what goes into their mouths – fish might get a big thumbs-up, for example, while tablets and medication most certainly does not. So, we know that they are definitely aware of differences in tastes and aren’t simply going to eat something, just because it’s on their plate.
While there isn’t a huge amount of research that has gone into figuring out why your cat is a fussy eater, there are some interesting studies out there that can help us to decipher what a cat prefers. For example, one study has shown that cats will almost always use their sense of smell to decipher what is edible and what is not. In this study, the cats almost always went for the food with the stronger odor, without even giving the non-odorous food a look over.
We also know that cats are carnivores and therefore will only eat meats unless their fruit and veg can be masked well enough to be confused for meat. They also have an amazing ability to self-regulate what goes into their body. So, while a human will simply go for taste over nutrition, a cat will nearly always choose a diet that is roughly 50% protein, 36% fat and 12% carbohydrates.
Despite all this, another study was able to discover that cats will often turn their nose up at food if they feel it has become monotonous and therefore boring to them. In these cases, cats will often eat less and less over time, until they decide against that particular flavor completely.
What to Feed a Picky Cat
Knowing all of the above is actually hugely helpful in figuring out what to feed a picky cat. For example, if your cat won’t eat their food, it’s likely due to the following reasons:
- They are bored with having the same food, every mealtime
- There is not enough nutritive value for your cat to be interested in their food
- There is not enough meat within the food
- The smell is not appealing enough to whet your cats’ appetite.
So, if you have a fussy kitten or adult cat with no health problems, the likelihood is that one of these – or a combination of these – is the culprit. Thus, we know that cats will almost always eat food that:
- Is varied
- Has the right nutritive value that they are seeking out
- Has plenty of meat within the ingredients
- Smells appealing and intrigues your cat
In other words, getting a cat food that has high-quality ingredients, and whose main ingredients are meat-based products from suitable sources such as chicken or salmon, will help immeasurably. A great way to check this is by looking at the guaranteed analysis used on the packaging – and remember that you’re looking for roughly 50% protein, 36% fat and 12% carbohydrates.
It can also be worth considering a mixed diet of both wet and dry food, as these can compliment each other well. Not only will your cat, therefore, have better access to a wide range of nutrition, but you’ll also be able to keep their interest for longer while giving them a good level of hydration. Of course, there should always be a fresh supply of water nearby too, to help with the latter.
Finally, if you do choose to change the food, you’re currently giving your cat, do so slowly – over a period of between one and two weeks, ideally. This will help to reduce the risk of any stomach upsets created by changing over their food – as well as potentially putting them off eating, and making the problem worse in the long run.
How to Get Cat to Eat
As well as choosing the right food for picky cats, there is a range of different tips and tricks you can use to encourage your cat to eat. Again, if none of these changes or tricks work, then it might be worth giving your vet a call to make sure there are no underlying health issues, such as a damaged tooth or respiratory illnesses.
- Give your cat some space while they eat, as some cats won’t eat with an audience.
- Clean out your cat’s bowl between meals, as the leftovers can leave an unpleasant smell which puts your cat off their dinner.
- Warm up the food for a few seconds. Cold food often loses its odor, and warming it up to room temperature can bring this back.
- If you have an outdoor cat, make sure your neighbors aren’t giving your feline friend some additional snacks while they’re out and about!
- Create a schedule, if this is possible. By doing this, your cat will learn their new routine and often come to you to ask for food around this time.