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An Owner’s Guide To Feeding Picky And Fussy Cats

4 min read

Why is my cat not eating? Why is my cat picky with food? These are the questions cat owners ask themselves when their favorite felines turn their nose up at their meal. Learn how to combat this odd behavior below!

If you find that your cat is being especially fussy with food, there are certain things you can try to get them to eat. It’s important for your cat to have a regular eating schedule to prevent serious complications like hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver) which is a result of not eating. Contact a vet for advice if the following tips don’t improve your cat’s appetite.


Why is your fussy cat not eating?

There are factors that can exacerbate a cat’s poor eating habits. Anorexia can also be a symptom of illness or disease, so you should seek veterinary advice if your cat has not eaten for more than 24-48 hours.

Lack of routine

Establishing a routine is the first step. Only feed your cat during specific hours of the day to help establish a routine around mealtime. Don’t change your cat’s feeding schedule and diet as this can be counterintuitive.

Too many treats

If you overindulge a fussy cat that is not eating much with too many treats, they’ll soon learn that they can get a tasty reward for refusing their own food.

Other factors that create a fussy eating cat

Sometimes fussiness can be caused by factors other than food. Maybe your cat just prefers to have its meal served a certain way! Try some of the following tips to tempt a picky pet into eating:

•    Some cat fussy with food don’t like it when people watch them eat, so give your pet some peace and quiet at dinner time. Other cats love company and may only eat when being gently stroked or hand fed.

•    Some cats won’t eat out of a dirty bowl. Make sure your cat's bowl is cleaned after each use to encourage them to eat and to prevent growth of bacteria on the dish.

•    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), it turns stale.

•    Be wary of serving wet food that’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 reaches room temperature.

•    If your cat is an outdoor pet, there are plenty of opportunities for an unscheduled snack the other side of the cat flap. Some cat-loving neighbors may also enjoy feeding your cat. By the time dinner time arrives, your pet just might not be hungry.

•    A cat’s loss of appetite can be related to hot weather. If it’s too hot outside, your cat might not be in the mood for a heavy meal.

•    If you have a multi-cat household, make sure there are enough food bowls for each cat to have their own so they don’t feel there is competition to eat. Even the friendliest of felines can feel stressed about sharing a food bowl with other cats.

What to do if your cat’s fussiness continues

If nothing seems to work and your cat is not eating, you could consider changing their food. Stick with their previous preference for wet or dry food and introduce them to the new formula over a period of 7-10 days by gradually adding more of the new food to each meal. Sudden changes in diet can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes a simple change in recipe is all it will take to appeal to their taste buds.

If your cat is struggling to eat, it may have dental problems. If you think your cat’s gums look red or swollen you should book an appointment with the vet.


If your cat doesn't eat at all for 24 hours or more

If your fussy feline refuses all food for more than 24 hours, or is eating significantly less than usual, consult your vet. A cat not eating is a relatively non-specific symptom and can be an indication of a range of illnesses and diseases. Cats gain essential amino acids from their diet, and a lack of these can lead to severe health issues even within a couple of days.

How to give medicine to a fussy cat

If you think that you will struggle to medicate your pet with tablets, speak to your vet about whether there are alternative treatments. You can also ask them to show you how to administer pills safely and effectively.

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.