A Guide to Feeding Your Picky Cat (Works for Dogs Too!)
By Sarah Griffiths, DCH
Do you have a cat you find impossible to feed? Do they love something one minute and then won’t touch it the next? Do you find yourself throwing expensive food in the trash? UGH! How frustrating. We feel your pain and we’ve written this blog just for you and your seemingly ungrateful feline family member.
Why is my cat so picky?
There are a number of reasons cats can be fussy with their food. It’s important to know what they are so you can pinpoint how you might be able to get your cat eating more consistently. Cats are extremely sensitive to changes and can detect even very small ones. That’s why we have to be careful about how you introduce new things to your cat. Here are 5 reasons why you might be having problems:
- Cats Have An Insane Sense of Smell – Contrary to popular belief, a cat’s sense of smell is their primary sense followed by sight. Their sense of smell is somewhere around 14 times more accurate than our own. If something changes in their food source, you won’t be able to fool them. They will detect even tiny changes in their diet, especially if they are accustomed to eating only one type of food every day.
Tip: Make sure that all changes made to food or with supplementation are done slow and steady. And be patient! It could take weeks or months to fully incorporate a new diet or new food.
- Texture is a Thing – Cats are sensitive to changes in their environment. That’s why they have whiskers! Your cat will tell you if the texture of their food changes. If it’s not consistent, your cat may only eat food that fits their texture standards.
Tip: If your cat isn’t into trying a new texture, try wiping some of the new food on their paw in order to have them lick it and try it out.
- Temperature is Also a Thing – A lot of cats like their food served at room temperature (much like it would be if they made a kill). If it’s kept in the fridge overnight and served cold, they may be less than impressed.
Tip: Warm up the new food to room temperature or even warmer to bring out the smell of the food and encourage interest. Cats will more readily try something that is warm rather than something that is cold.
- Grazing Doesn’t Help Anyone – If your cat grazes, they simply do not have an appetite. If you had access to food all day, would you ever get hungry? It’s unlikely. It’s also not healthy for cats to free feed since their digestive tracts are designed to handle larger meals with longer intervals of rest in between feedings.
Tip: Start by stopping the grazing and creating 3-4 15-30 minute meal times per day. Slowly reduce the number of meals down to 2. You will see your cat’s appetite grow with breaks between meals.
- They Aren’t Feeling Well – If your cat has been a good eater in the past and has recently become picky, it’s a good idea to check in with the vet and get a health exam done to ensure everything is ok. Low appetite is a way your cat could be telling you they aren’t feeling quite right. Spitting out chunks of food can be also sign of dental disease so it’s important to make sure your cat’s teeth are healthy and happy.
Tip: Be observant and know what’s “normal” for your cat so when things aren’t right, you’ll be there to help them out.
Can Home-Life Affect my Cat’s Eating Behaviours?
The above issues can be compounded by your cat’s relationship with you and their environment, an environment that WE create for them. So…… here are the hard questions you may also want to ask yourself to really nail down why your fur friend is being so fussy. These might not be convenient questions but they are important ones. Don’t worry, there are solutions for all of them!
Is Your Cat an Only Child?
If you only have one pet, you’re more likely to dote on them. After all, they are your best bud! You may worry more about them more because you are focused on one pet. This isn’t a bad thing unless your kitty knows you will always DOTE!
The other part to this is animals who live in multi-pet households have competition for food. This greatly changes the urgency level of eating. If they live alone, there’s no threat the food will disappear and some animals will become less concerned with eating.
If you are owned by an only cat just be mindful of these points. There is such a thing as doting TOO MUCH. It can leave us being trained by our cat when we are too quick to give in if they won’t try something new.
Solution 1: The best option here is to just wait. Sometimes it takes cats a while to explore new foods. Don’t resort to feeding old food at the first sign of trouble. Be patient. You cat won’t die if they don’t eat every 2 hours.
Solution 2: Another option is to try adding raw goat’s milk, canned sardines packed in water, fermented cod liver oil or other natural foods that help to get the appetite going.
Why Free-Feeding is Not a Good Idea
If your cat is a free-feeder, it will drastically reduce their appetite. When food is always available and they constantly stave off hunger with snacks there is no need to explore new food. It’s also not a healthy option for cats because if you’re free-feeding, it’s most likely dry food which is not healthy for the kidneys, teeth or overall health of your cat. To learn more, click here.
Solution: Create set meal times! If needed, start with three or four 30 minute meal offerings and work your way down to 2. This will help to increase appetite and the will to try new things! It’s also much healthier for your cat.
Is your cat living solely indoors?
Indoor life is often a more sedentary one. When we sit around, our metabolism gets slow. This means our appetite might go down too. A lot of us keep our cats indoors to keep them safe from wild predators. However this does come at a price if they don’t have a way to exercise and work up an appetite.
Solution: If you can get your kitty moving again, this should increase appetite which will help with picky behaviour. Teach your cat to walk on a harness so you can take them outside to explore and run. Or if you can’t do that, get some toys and really get them going inside the house by playing with them. The more they move the hungrier they will be when it’s time to eat.
If you’re still having trouble after trying these solutions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org