Your Cat's Not Eating - How To Persuade A Picky Cat To Eat


Over the years, I've met my share of picky cats. There was my beloved Goldie who would eat food from just one supermarket and always knew if I shopped somewhere else. And then there was my elderly OC, who would only eat if I sat with her and moved her dish around in circles to make mealtime more interesting. My current cats refuse to eat from dishes washed with soap. Oh, and they don't like food from the pet supply chain stores either.

If your cat's not eating, rule out medical problems first. An upper respiratory or urinary tract infection, pancreatitis, gum disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease can all cause a cat to lose its appetite. Some medications, especially some antibiotics and thyroid medicine, can cause lack of appetite, too. But if your cat's just being finicky, here are some ways to get your fussy cat to eat.

The Nose Knows Whether Food Is Safe To Eat 

To appeal to a cat, food has to do more than pass the taste test. Cats also decide whether food is edible by its smell and texture. If a cat can’t smell its food, or if the food doesn’t smell just right, the cat won’t eat it. And cats may also refuse to eat food that doesn’t have the right texture, or feel right in their mouths. My Honey Cat and Katie love pate. Belle and Boccelli think it’s disgusting and will eat only chunky food, and the bigger the chunks the better, in gravy.

When cats are picky eaters, they’re not being difficult, just smart. Instinct tells them to be very careful about what they eat because if they eat something that’s spoiled or poisonous, they could get sick and won’t be able to hunt or defend themselves. While these may seem like non-issues for house cats, that wild instinct is never far from the surface, even in cats who live completely indoors.

Setting The Table - Think About The Way Cats Like To Eat

Only the “Fancy Feast cat” expects a linen tablecloth and crystal goblet. But while your cats may be less demanding, they’ll still appreciate a properly set table.

  • Your cats will prefer bowls that are fairly shallow and wide enough to let them eat without crumpling their whiskers. Give them glass or stainless steel bowls. Plastic can develop cracks that harbor bacteria and can cause painful chin acne.
  • If you have more than one cat, their dishes should be at least several inches apart. The further away from each other, the better! Like humans, cats like some elbow room when they eat.
  • Give every cat his or her own bowl for wet food. Outside, they wouldn't share a mouse. That wet food you serve is the equivalent of an indoor mouse, and the cats don't want to share.
  • Many cats are more comfortable eating from dishes that are slightly elevated.
  • As cats see it, there's no reason why everyone should have to eat in the kitchen. Especially in multicat families, let your cats decide where they're most comfortable eating and serve their food there. Sizzle, Myles and Soda like to eat in my office. Ginger recently turned a large closet into her "purrsonal" dining room.
  • Put your cats’ water bowls as far from their food as possible. Another room is best. Cats taste their water, and if there are crumbs of food in it they won’t want to drink it.

Serving Suggestions To Please The Picky Cat 

  • Serve your cats' food at room temperature. Most cats won't eat cold food (a freshly-caught mouse wouldn't be cold), and some won't eat food that's been refrigerated, no matter what temperature it is when served.
  • Feed a variety of foods, switching off between both flavors and brands. Cats get bored eating the same food every day, and they're more likely to develop a food sensitivity if they eat the same thing all the time. Another reason to vary flavors and brands: If the manufacturer of the only food your cat eats changes even one ingredient, the cat may not recognize it as food and will refuse to eat it. Introduce new foods very gradually to avoid stomach upset and confusing the cat.
  • If your cats eat dry food, throw out the old and give them fresh food every day. Dry food is sprayed with animal fat to make it smell appealing. After the smell has evaporated, cats won’t recognize it as food and won’t eat it.
  • It's best to wash your cats' dishes in the dishwasher or use very hot water but no soap. The soap can leave a residue that will discourage some cats from eating.

Nine Ways To Fix Food Your Cat Can't Resist

If your cat is a picky eater, warming his food will make it smellier and more appealing. Or try these smell and flavor enhancers to turn his ordinary cat food into food he can't resist.
  • Liquid from a can of tuna: Mix it into his food or pour some on top.
  • Catnip: Sprinkle it on the food or just give him a mound to play in before he eats. Catnip is a mild appetite stimulant.
  • Warm, unsalted chicken broth. Make sure the broth doesn't contain onions, which can be toxic to cats.
  • Warm bacon or chicken drippings. Or just crumble some warm bacon on top of the food.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: Sprinkle it on top of the food. Or add a tiny bit of salt. Most cats like salt, and a few grains won't harm them.
  • Treats: Put them on top of the food, or mix them in. He'll have to eat the food to find the treats.
  • Stella and Chewy's Freeze Dried Raw Chicken: Crumble a couple of cubes over your cat's wet food. Stella and Chewy's comes in other flavors, too.
  • Pure Bites: These are also freeze dried chicken to crumble on top of your cats food. Pure Bites for dogs and cats are exactly the same, except the bags for dogs are bigger.
  • FortiFLora: Sprinkle this probiotic on your cat's wet food to make it smell like dry. Vets sell it, or you can buy it online.
  • Deli chicken or turkey: Buy a kind that doesn't have any artificial flavors or preservatives.

Tip: Some cats like company when they eat. If your cat's not eating, try sitting on the floor with him. Moving his dish around will make the food seem like live prey and could encourage him to eat.

Important: Cats Need To Eat! Cats who don't eat for a prolonged period of time are at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis, a potentially fatal liver disease. If a health problem is keeping your cat from eating or from consuming enough calories, ask your veterinarian for an appetite stimulant or a feeding tube. And learn about assisted feeding.

 





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