Cats are finicky by nature and this can apply to feeding time as well. It’s important to keep your cat eating and excited for mealtime to ensure they’re getting the nutrition they need. We’re sharing 13 ways to help you make mealtime a better experience for your picky cat (and you)!
1. Consult your vet
If your cat seems to be consistently lacking an appetite or not eating much food, speak with your veterinarian first to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to food aversion. If your cat used to eat well but suddenly becomes picky with food, it could signal a new health issue such as oral pain or anxiety.
2. Establish a routine
A diligent feeding schedule can help by getting your cat used to a routine and specific times of day they can expect to be fed. If your own schedule makes it tough to create a regular feeding routine for your cat, try an automated feeder.
3. Decrease treats
It’s easy to give into their adorable face, but giving your cat a lot of treats throughout the day can hinder their appetite and decrease motivation to eat their main meals since they know treats will come. Limit treats to once or twice a day at specific times.
4. Try a topper
Make mealtime new and exciting with a topper! Marie’s Magical Dinner Dust is freeze-dried raw, nutritious, and easy to sprinkle over your cat’s bowl with a convenient pour spout. Catnip can act as an appetite stimulant for cats, so you can also try sprinkling a little catnip on or around your cat’s food to see if it gets them to eat.
5. Try a different recipe
Reviving your cat’s interest in food may be as simple as switching to another recipe or protein. Some cats prefer poultry-based recipes over fish-based ones, or vice versa. Stella & Chewy’s offers a variety of recipe options across our cat food lines that include chicken, beef, duck, turkey, fish, and even rabbit.
When trying new recipes, offer a small amount at first in case your cat doesn’t like it. You can try placing some of the new flavor alongside the familiar flavor to encourage your cat to try it.
Keep in mind that dry cat food is best used within six weeks of opening the bag. Any longer and the flavor and texture can become stale, so make sure to keep cat food fresh and appetizing!
6. Try a different food type
With so many types of cat food available, it’s worth testing out a new diet completely. Try frozen raw, freeze-dried raw, wet food, or dry cat food. Always be sure to transition slowly over 7-10 days. If you normally refrigerate leftover portions of wet cat food, try waiting for it to come up to room temperature before serving – chilled foods don’t have as much aroma, which makes them less appealing to cats.
7. Rotate foods
Boredom with eating the same thing every day can lead to picky eating habits. Switching up the types of foods and recipes you feed your cat can help keep mealtime new and exciting. As long as your cat doesn’t have any digestion issues from eating a varied diet, there is no issue in rotating through different food types and recipes on a weekly or daily basis.
8. Add liquid
Sometimes all it takes is adding a bit of moisture to your cat’s food to make it more tempting. Not only does this help keep your cat hydrated, but adding warm (never hot) water or pet-safe broth, like Broth Toppers, increases the smell of the food and can help entice picky eaters.
9. Try watching your cat eat
Some cats like or need an audience to encourage them to eat their food. Try sitting nearby so your cat knows you’re there and a part of their meal. Some cats even want to be petted or hand fed while eating!
On the other hand, some cats hate having an audience while eating and will wait until they have peace and quiet. Be aware of your cat’s body language at mealtime and do your best to provide their preferred environment.
10. Give praise for finishing a meal
You love your cat and it never hurts to show excitement when they do something good like eating all of their food! Give compliments and extra attention to reinforce the behavior you want to see more of.
11. Remove uneaten food
If the food has been sitting out and untouched for more than a two hours, pick it up and throw it away. This is both for food safety purposes and to encourage your cat to eat when the food is served.
12. Try different serving dishes
Cultivating regular eating habits may be as simple as switching from a plate to a bowl or vice versa. Test out meals in various plates, saucers, bowls of all different (safe) materials, like ceramic, metal or glass. Make sure your cat’s food dish is clean and dry every time you feed them. Dirty dishes can harbor bacteria, and any lingering smell can discourage your cat from eating. If you’ve been using a food bowl with high sides, try a wide shallow dish to accommodate your cat’s sensitive whiskers.
13. Switch up feeding locations
Place your cat’s food dish in a new area of the home or on a different level (like on a countertop). Make sure the food bowl is never too close to the litter box. Households with multiple cats need to avoid food competition or aggression, so make sure each cat has its own food bowl with enough space to eat at its own pace. If your cat has arthritis, try raising the food dish off the floor a little to make it easier to reach.
Why is my cat a fussy eater?
There are many potential reasons why your cat is so choosy around food. For one thing, cats are carnivores which means they’re instinctually driven to eat foods high in protein. Because cats evolved to hunt and eat prey, they have keen senses to help them track down fresh food and avoid spoiled food. Texture, smell and temperature can all affect a cat’s decision to eat and you might have to systematically try some options until you find what your cat prefers.
Other potential reasons for picky eating behavior include:
Eating like a bird
Your cat might just be a nibbler and prefer to eat a little bit at a time. You should measure and monitor food intake to determine how much food your cat actually eats in a day.
Eating like a person
If you feed table scraps or treats regularly, it’s natural your cat would eat less food from their bowl. Make sure others in your household aren’t feeding the cat extra snacks too. If your cat won’t eat the food you serve in their food dish, don’t give them a treat or table scraps “to make sure they’re eating something.” This is effectively rewarding your cat because they ignored their regular food, and they will keep doing it.
Too many choices
Your cat might have come to expect to be fed in a fussy way. If you offer a lot of different options at mealtime and let your cat pick and choose what they prefer each time, they’ve got you trained and will continue to behave this way. Or your cat might be overwhelmed by all the choices!
If you switched to a new food without transitioning gradually enough it could make your cat turn away from the new food. Refer to our guide on how to transition to a new cat food.
If your cat has access to the outdoors they might be getting snacks from neighbors or finding other opportunities to eat outside the home.
Just like people, cats have individual personalities that can affect their eating habits. Some cats will overeat if given the opportunity, and some will only eat when they feel like it. As a loving cat parent, it’s up to you to figure out your cat’s quirks and make sure they’re getting proper nutrition.
What to Feed Picky Cats
As cat parents ourselves, we understand how challenging it can be to feed a picky eater. That’s why we’ve created a wide range of cat foods and toppers with something to please every cat palate! Explore our cat foods for picky eaters or learn more about choosing the right food for your cat.
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