If your cat refuses food, you may start to think that your cat is either a fussy eater or that they don’t like particular kinds of food.
However, it’s important to understand that food refusal is not natural behaviour for a healthy cat. What cat owners perceive as fussy feeding behaviour is more likely to be learnt behaviour – a response to how we as humans treat our cats.
Food refusal is a serious issue
If your cat has refused to eat anything for a period of 24 hours or longer, or if you have noticed that your cat is losing weight, we strongly advise that you take your cat to the vet immediately.
When cats don’t eat at all, they can develop serious liver problems. If your cat is choosing not to eat this could indicate a number of serious medical issues.
However, if your cat is simply what you might call fussy then don’t worry – in this article we’ll look at what you can do to fix this behaviour!
5 top tips for fussy felines
1. See if your cat is getting food elsewhere
If your cat is an outdoor cat, then they could be getting food from another source. If they’re receiving attention and different food elsewhere, this will be new and exciting to your cat – meaning coming home for the food they’re used to might not be as appealing.
Speak to your neighbours, or drop a leaflet through their door if you can’t speak to them. Kindly asking people not to feed your cat is one way to get better control over what your feline is eating.
2. Stick to a feeding routine – and understand the needs of ‘natural grazers’
The first step is to stick to food that you know your cat has eaten before.
Feed your cat twice daily at set times (you may need to feed more often if your cat is growing). If your cat doesn’t show interest, remove the food after 20 minutes. We call this the “20 minute rule”.
Many cats are ‘natural grazers’, meaning they will eat throughout the day. This isn’t a problem and isn’t what you’d call fussy feeding behaviour. The problem with ‘natural grazers’ is that they can overeat – if you keep refilling the food, they’ll keep going back to it. You need to be sure you’re only serving the recommended daily allowance per day.
If instead, your cat is only tempted to eat by a variety of foods – what you’d consider ‘fussy’ behaviour – then the 20 minute rule for a few days should help to break them out of this behaviour.
During this time, it’s vital that no one else is feeding your cat as this will undo your hard work.
If after 24 hours, your cat has eaten absolutely nothing then it’s time to get advice from your vet.
3. Avoid adding extras
Adding extras to your cat’s diet can put a fussy cat into a downward spiral.
Do these situations sound familiar?
- If your cat isn’t eating, you add gravy to the food. For a few days, the cat eats the gravy soaked food then goes off it again.
- After this, you add something else – chicken or tuna for example. Again, your cat eats this for a few days but then goes off it again.
If this sounds familiar, you need to stop this process. By adding these things to your cat’s diet, you are creating dietary imbalances. Alongside this, you’re making things more and more difficult for yourself in the future.
Take a firm stance. Try step 2 above, the “20 minute rule”, and see if this improves the situation.
4. Spacing out food and water bowls, as well as the litter tray
In nature a cat would not eat near where they go to the toilet and would never contaminate their water source with food.
Generally, the food bowls, water bowls and litter trays should be at least 1 metre away from each other. This should help to make eating more appealing to your cat.
5. The last resort – gently warming the food
The last resort is to try slightly increasing the temperature of the food. With wet food, you can warm it gently. With dry food, you can add a very small amount of tepid water. This can help to make the aroma more appealing to your cat.
Persevere and ask for help if you’re concerned
Remember that your cat doesn’t perceive what they are eating in the same way that you do.
It’s a misconception to think that your cat is bored of his or her food, or that he or she doesn’t like it. Cats have far fewer taste buds than you do – they eat out of necessity, rather than out of pleasure.
So persevere with the above steps and hopefully this will fix your fussy feline problems! If you do have any concerns, seek the advice of your vet – making sure your cat is eating properly is absolutely vital to his or her health.
Want to know more?
We hope this addressed your fussy feline concerns. If you do have another question about your cat’s diet, feline nutrition or any other questions about your cat then we’d like to help.