Feeding Fussy Cats
If you find that your feline is being especially fussy, or that your cat won’t eat at all, there are certain things you can try to get them gobbling up their dinner.
Don’t teach fussy eating cats bad habits
Although some cats can seem fussier than others, an overly-discerning taste is a bad habit, not something that they’re born with!
Establishing a routine is the first step to nipping fussy eating cat behaviour in the bud. Although cats are natural grazers, they can adapt to several small meals during the day to suit your routine. Whether you choose to let them graze or have a feeding plan – stick to it. Chopping and changing how, when and what you feed your cat can confuse them, and cause them to turn down their dinner.
If you think your cat is a fussy eater and notice that they’re being very picky, be patient. If you act in panic and try to tempt them to eat with your own tit bits or cat treats, they’ll soon learn that they can get a tasty reward for refusing their own food! When their tummy rumbles, they should soon be tempted to tuck into their meal.
Other factors that create a fussy eating cat
Sometimes fussiness can be caused by factors other than food – so it could be that your cat just prefers to have their meal served a certain way, rather than dislikes their dinner! Try some of the following tips to tempt a picky pet into eating:
- Cats usually don’t enjoy an audience when they eat, so give your pet some peace and quiet at dinner time.
- We wouldn’t serve our dinner on an unclean plate, and cats won’t eat out of a dirty bowl either. Make sure your cat's bow is cleaned after each use to encourage them to eat, and protect them from bacteria.
- If your cat normally enjoys dry food but has suddenly become a fussy eater, you may need to replace your supply. As dry food absorbs moisture (especially in warm weather), your stocks may have turned stale.
- If your cat has started to turn their nose up at their usual wet food, it could be because it’s too cold. Wet food can lose its tasty aroma when kept in the fridge, and your cat won’t eat what they can’t smell. Try warming chilled wet food in the microwave for a few seconds so that it just reaches room temperature, and it should hopefully tempt your cat to tuck in.
- If your fussy eating cat is an outdoor pet, remember that there are plenty of opportunities for an unscheduled snack the other side of the cat flap – if they’re quick enough to catch something! By the time dinner time arrives, your pet just might not be hungry.
- Like us, a cat’s appetite can be affected by hot weather. Where we may choose to opt for a light salad on a summer day, your pet may also not fancy a heavy meal when it’s hot outside.
Most of the time, fussy eating cats should give in and eat up when they get really hungry. When your cat does eventually eat, try to contain your relief! You should offer lots of praise and affection, but wait until their empty bowl has been removed so that you don’t distract them.
What to do if your cat’s fussiness to eat continues
If your cat's fussiness to eat continues, you could consider changing their food. Stick with their previous preference of wet or dry food, and introduce them to the new formula over a period of 7-10 days by gradually adding more and more of the new food to what they used to have. Sometimes a simple change of recipe is all it will take to appeal to their taste buds.
If a change of recipe doesn’t appeal to their taste buds, check your cat’s teeth. Dental problems such as a damaged tooth, sore gums or an abscess can make eating difficult or painful, so can explain why your pet is acting pickier. If your cat's gums are red or swollen, or the breath is unpleasant, ask your vet for a dental checkup.
If your cat doesn't eat at all for 24 hours or more
If your fussy eating cat is not eating and refuses all food for 24 hours or more, consult your vet. Refusal to eat can be a sign of a more serious complaint.
Hopefully your pet will just be going through a fussy phase, but it’s always better to be safe and speak to your vet just in case.
How to give medicine to a fussy cat
It can be tricky to give medicine to any cat, so it’s even tougher for a fussy eater!
Some methods such as a “pill popper” gently push a tablet directly into your cat’s mouth for them to eat. However if you think that you will struggle to medicate your pet with tablets, speak to your vet about alternative treatments - it may be possible that your vet can give your cat an injection instead.
Try to avoid hiding tablets or medicine in the food of a cat who is already fussy, as this may put them off food even more.