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Getting a fussy cat to eat

How do you get a cat to eat something it doesn’t want to eat? Come to that, how do you get a cat to do anything it doesn’t want to do?

One of the things we love about our cats is their independent cattitude. They come to us if they want to. They lie down in precisely the spot where they want to lie down. They will allow you to tickle them behind their ear – but only when they feel like it.

Cats know what they like to eat

It’s the same with food. You simply can’t tempt a cat to eat something it doesn’t want to eat it. If you’ve messed up your online shop and they’ve delivered ‘Surf and Turf’ when your kitty prefers the ‘Salmon Entrée’, that’s it. You’ll either have to throw it out or eat it yourself. No amount of sweet talk will entice your cat to give it a try.

Struggling with pills and supplements

Cat next to bowl of food

And as for trying to give your cat a pill or a supplement? Well, that can be traumatic for everyone involved. Half the time, after you’ve spent five minutes massaging your cat’s throat to ‘help the pill go down’, you find the tablet spat out on the kitchen floor.

Here we look into the tricky business of getting a finicky feline to eat. Are all cats fussy eaters? What encourages a cat to eat? And how can you get a cat to try something new?

If in doubt, check it out

If your cat is seriously off their food, do take them to the vet for a check-up. Their teeth might be causing them pain, making it difficult to eat, or they could have some underlying problem. That will help you to rule out any physical complaint that might be stopping your cat from eating.

Are all cats fussy eaters?

How about the idea that all cats are picky about what they eat? Is that really true?

Well, cats certainly have their likes and dislikes. For one thing, unlike other mammals, cats can’t taste sweet things. They lack the receptor for sweetness. That goes for all the animals in the cat family, whether it’s a domestic cat, a tiger or a lion. So you won’t find your cat trying to sneak over your shoulder to get a lick of your ice cream.

However, cats do like meat. They are ‘obligate carnivores’, which means they have to eat animal flesh to survive. They don’t mind whether that comes in the form of chicken, lamb, beef or a mouse. They’re also partial to fish such as tuna or salmon, which have the added benefit of giving your cat the essential Omega 3 fatty acids that help to keep their skin and coat healthy.

3 reasons why your cat won’t eat
Cat next to empty bowl

If you’re sure that your cat isn’t sick, and you’re feeding it regular protein-based food, rather than candyfloss or Walnut Whips, there may be other reasons why your kitty is off their food. Here are three reasons why your cat might have lost their appetite.

1. Whisker fatigue

“Bella’s not eating. She has whisker fatigue.” You can picture the scene, can’t you? The cat has frankly had enough. Even her whiskers are tired. She just can’t face another sachet of whatever it is you’ve dragged out from the back of the cupboard.

There is some debate about whether whisker fatigue is a real thing. The theory is that, as cats have highly sensitive whiskers, they find it jarring when their whiskers repeatedly hit the sides of their food bowl. The answer is to have shallower bowls that allow more room for their whiskers.

2. You’ve changed their routine

Cats do love a routine. They like to eat at the same time, in the same place and from the same bowl. It’s fair enough, really. Humans often have their favourite mug or bowl, or their favourite table in a restaurant. Cats can be disturbed by a change to their routine or their surroundings, and that might put them off their food.

3. They’re holding out for treats

It’s wonderful when your cat runs up to you when you shake their favourite pack of treats. But if they’ve got too used to receiving a tasty treat whenever they wind in a figure of eight between your legs, they might be less keen on eating their regular food.

How to tempt your cat to eat

So how can you encourage a fussy feline to eat? Here are a few tricks you could try.

Heat up their food

When you keep wet cat food in the fridge, it can lose the aroma that tempts your cat to eat. By heating up the food, you can help release the scent that is so mouth-watering for your feline friend. Do this by gently warming the food through in the microwave, making sure that it’s warm and not scalding hot.

Try small amounts

If your cat is turning their nose up at their regular cat food, try offering them a small amount of a different variety. If they don’t want to try the New Zealand grass-fed beef, perhaps the sardine and tuna Seaside Duo will tempt them instead.

Cat eating food

Give them some space
Your cat might like to eat in peace and quiet. So make sure they have a calm place where they can eat. And if you have more than one cat, give them separate spaces to eat so there’s no risk of them feeling competitive or stressed at feeding time.

Change the shape of their kibble
Possibly our favourite ever cat food study is ‘Kibble Shape and its Effect on Feline Palatability’ by Kristopher Figge. This research evaluated common kibble shapes like the cross, triangle, flat disc and cylinder, and concluded that cats prefer flat disc-shaped kibble. So, if you’ve only ever given your kitty triangular kibble, perhaps now’s the time to swap it for discs.

Disguise a supplement
If you’re trying to get your cat to eat a supplement, try disguising it in their favourite food, whether that’s a tin of tuna or some freshly-cooked chicken.

Choose a supplement that tastes of seafood
Cats tend to love the taste of YuMOVE Joint Care for Cats, thanks to the extract of Green Lipped Mussel. It also helps that you can split the capsule and spread the tasty supplement over your cat’s food.

How do you get your finicky feline to eat?

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