Everything You Need To Know About Cats Feeding Behavior
In addition to the taste of the food, cats are strongly influenced by its smell, temperature and texture.
Pet food manufacturers have spent decades developing nutritionally complete and palatable foods, but many cats have their favourites and can be quick to refuse anything unusual.
As with all species, food preferences and habits are learned early in life. Kittens learn how to eat and what to eat from their parents (and owners) and frequently adapt to eating the same food, i.e. wet or dry.
The more experiences a young cat has in terms of texture and taste the better.
Stick to a routine
Cats are incredibly good at manipulating their owners! Fussy eaters can be easily created when owners give them too much choice if they do not immediately finish off their food. Cats learn quickly that specific behaviour leads to their owner switching them to a different food or human leftovers.
It’s very important to stick to a routine.
Don’t offer a large menu of alternatives and be patient. Science proves that cats will not suffer and will eat when they get really hungry. When your cat does eat his food, you should lavish him with praise.
What puts him off?
If your routine is not working and your cat continues to be fussy, we suggest you consider these points:
1. Is his food the right temperature?
Cats prefer food that is at room temperature or warm so that it has an aroma. Ideally you should not feed wet food straight from the fridge.
2. Is the weather affecting your cat appetite or food?
When it’s hot, cats tend not to eat very much.
3. Is your cat feeling crowded at mealtimes?
Try feeding away from the family (especially during your mealtimes) and other pets, including other cats. Also avoid positioning the bowl near the cat flap, litter tray and water bowls.
4. Is your cat being put off by old food still in his bowl?
Wash your cat’s bowl thoroughly after each meal. Old food smells horrid and can contain bacteria.
5. Does your cat like his bowl?
Cat prefer a low, wide bowl so they can look around while eating. It should be wide enough so that their whiskers do not brush against the sides.
Plastic bowls can absorb odours and are best replaced regularly. Ceramic and metal bowls are useful alternatives.
Also, make sure your cat has his own bowl – cats don’t like to share!
6. Does your cat need to ‘hunt’ for food?
Try placing dry food in unusual places such as cardboard rolls – or you can buy some great activity feeders for dry food.
7. Is your cat ‘filling up’ elsewhere?
Your cat may be hunting or you might even find a neighbour is feeding him. Solutions are to adjust your cat’s play and feeding times and have a chat with your neighbours if you suspect this is happening.
8. Is your cat thirsty?
Make sure clean, fresh water is always available and that your cat has a choice of bowls.
Speak to your vet
If you’ve made appropriate changes and your cat is still not eating it’s possible there are medical reasons for his loss of appetite.
Have a look at your cat’s teeth. If the gums are red and breath is unpleasant he might have gum disease, which can make eating uncomfortable. Other medical reasons can include digestive disorders, renal disease, parasites or hairballs.
Generally, if your cat has refused to eat for 24 hours or longer – or has unintentionally lost weight – you should consult your vet.
In with the new
If there is a medical reason for your cat’s refusal to eat his usual food, you may be prescribed something new. It is easier if the format remains the same – either wet or dry. Encourage him to eat by introducing the new food slowly over a period of at least seven to ten days by mixing with the original food.
The key is not to rush.
Monitor your cat’s weight on an ongoing basis. Habits change frequently and it’s good to keep an eye on his body condition by using the cat size-o-meter online.
If you need any more detailed advice about fussy eating, consult your vet.