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Cats can be finicky about a lot of things. But when a kitty starts to get persnickety about her food, it’s time to pay attention.
Modern house cats evolved as opportunistic hunters, so their gastrointestinal tracts are designed to subsist on multiple, small meals every day to maintain a normal feline metabolism. This is why your veterinarian will recommend feeding your cat at least twice a day. In fact, it’s critical that felines eat at least a little bit more than once every 24 hours.
How do most cat owners comply? By filling a bowl to its brim with kibble every morning.
Ideally, that fat couch potato of a fuzz ball who lives in your house should be stalking, killing and consuming live prey several times a day to keep fit, healthy and metabolically on her toes. Instead, she spends her waking life sauntering over to the bowl and taking a bite every now and again to keep up her plump perfection.
So when she lapses into a habitual bad eating behavior, it’s sometimes hard to tell. I mean, what’s the difference between a full bowl and a sort-of-full bowl? And what if you have multiple cats? For all you know, one of them could be missing meals without your knowledge. Not good.
Here are some steps you can take when dealing with a picky kitty:
Keeping tabs on a cat’s eating habits is a highly recommended practice. Usually, this means feeding a set amount of food two or more times a day, based on your veterinarian's recommendations, so you’ll know if she’s failing to eat her allotted amount.
This method also happens to be the only known way of restricting a cat’s caloric intake. It also puts you ahead of the curve if your kitty should develop a disease like diabetes, when food intake needs to be monitored.
I often hear owners complain about how their cats refuse to touch wet food. Sometimes it’s dry diets that they apparently detest. Others bemoan the fact that their kitty will only consume brand X and nothing else.
None of this is a big deal — unless the cat develops a condition that necessitates a very specific kind of therapeutic diet or she suddenly decides that brand X is no longer so yummy, leaving an owner scrambling to their vet to find a recommendation for new food.
Here’s where an ounce of prevention goes a long way: Feeding a variety of diets from the first day that your cat arrives is something to discuss with your veterinarian. Although cats can theoretically subsist just fine on one nutritionally balanced diet for their entire lives, getting them accustomed to a veterinarian-advised regimen of formulas — wet, dry, moistened kibble, gravied, etc. — may help hedge against pickiness in the future.
Your veterinarian can advise on how to gradually make the switch — especially if you're changing to a different brand of food — to make sure that your cat doesn't experience tummy upset.
Unless they’re truly ill, almost all cats will eventually eat when they’re hungry. The rare cat, however, may starve herself sick. Since it’s hard to know which kitty will and which won’t — and the consequences can be devastating — I urge cat owners to employ common sense.
If your cat truly hasn’t eaten a bite all day, it’s time to go to the vet. This is especially true for overweight or obese cats, since they’re predisposed to fatty liver disease if they suddenly start to lose weight.
Pickiness is one thing. Pathology is another. Differentiating one from the other is crucial. When cats veer from their typical dietary behavior, and weight loss ensues, along with other symptoms, common sense dictates that a vet visit is in order.
Check out more opinion pieces on Vetstreet.
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