Is your cat a fussy eater?

Do you have a picky cat? Discover the reasons why some cats are choosy and how you can encourage a fussy cat to eat.

Has your cat become choosier about what they eat? Are they always scrounging for extra treats? Clinical animal nutritionist Marjorie Chandler shows you how to cope with a cat who is a picky eater and shares tips on how best to feed a fussy cat.

What is the cause of fussy eating in cats?

To understand why some cats become fussy about their food, it’s important to consider how cats have evolved to eat. In the wild, cats normally eat several small meals a day, but this feeding schedule doesn’t suit many modern owners.

If your cat only eats a small amount of food at a time, don’t assume they dislike it. Instead, just offer a small amount of the same food later. Don’t offer what you think might be more palatable food instead — your cat might eat this whether they’re hungry or not, simply because they find it tasty. If your cat has always been fussy, they have learned that waiting, or asking, for more appetising food can be rewarding.

On the other hand, if your cat suddenly becomes fussy, when they never have been before, this could point to an underlying medical problem. Tooth problems in cats increase as they age and are often the cause of a poor appetite. There are other disorders that could be to blame, so it’s important to note any unusual signs or behaviours and speak to your vet as soon as possible.

Why does my cat not like their food?

Some cats become fussy when offered a new food like a prescription diet for conditions such as kidney disease. Cats can take a long time to adjust to new types of food, so if you do change your cat’s diet, take it slowly. Add small amounts of the new food to your current brand and gradually increase the amount of ‘new’ while slowly decreasing the ‘old’. Never withhold food hoping your cat will eat the new diet out of hunger. This is especially important for cats with medical conditions.

Why does my cat scrounge food?

This can be learned behaviour. If your cat is overweight and has always begged, they may realise that treats come their way if they’re persistent. Speak to your vet or veterinary nutritionist about special foods to help them feel fuller for longer.

If your cat is thin, has lost weight recently and has started to beg for extra food, have them checked by the vet straight away. They could have hyperthyroidism or another medical condition.

Why does my cat eat too quickly and is it a problem?

Cats that eat too quickly, especially if they eat dry food, may throw up their meals again soon after. If you’ve noticed this, examine your cat’s environment; is your cat eating quickly to avoid competing with other pets? Creating separate feeding areas can solve this.

It’s possible your cat isn’t having as many small meals per day as they’d like and so wolfs down their food when it is available. Consider investing in a timed feeder to spread out their meals.

Why does my cat have an upset stomach?

There are many causes for an upset stomach in cats, including:

  • Eating too fast
  • Illnesses like gastrointestinal disorders
  • Food allergies
  • Intolerance to a specific ingredient
  • An infection picked up in the garden, or from uncleaned bowls

If you suspect your cat is allergic to something in their food, speak to your vet first about the cause. Don’t keep trying different foods to find one your cat will eat, as varying their feed too much could be a problem in itself.

If your cat has vomiting or diarrhoea that lasts longer than a day or two, contact your vet straight away; they’ll need to check for any possible underlying conditions. Make sure you always have plenty of fresh water available for your cat.

How do I encourage my fussy cat to eat?

If your cat is a fussy eater, here are some ways you can tempt their appetite.

  • Heat some canned food to just below body temperature, to release delicious smells
  • Add the liquid from canned tuna to food
  • Add a little canned cat food for fussy eaters to dry food and mix it in
  • Clean their plates after every meal
  • Add a couple of teaspoons of warm, low-sodium chicken broth to canned food
  • If you have bought a large bag of dry food, it may have gone stale. Buy in smaller quantities or invest in a good, airtight box

Caution: if your cat has any health conditions, check with your vet to see if there are any ingredients you should avoid.

Finally, aim to make mealtimes as stress-free as possible for your cat. Provide a quiet place to eat, away from small children and noisy appliances like the TV or the washing machine. Keep their food and water in separate areas, a good distance away from the litter box.

What caused your cat to become a fussy eater? Share your tips on how you encourage your cat to follow a healthy diet, using #PethoodStories.

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