What do you do when your cat refuses to eat a new kind of food or suddenly stops eating the food he once enjoyed? Even though felines are notoriously finicky when it comes to food, not knowing what’s going on can leave you feeling frustrated, confused and worried. Is he sick? Not hungry? Or is he just being… a cat?
From adding a little tuna juice to establishing a regular feeding schedule, we’ve put together our best tips on how to curb the pickiness — and get your finicky feline’s appetite back on track.
1. Make sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
It’s always a good idea to check in first with your vet if you are concerned about your kitty’s loss of appetite. Your veterinarian should be able to recommend an ideal diet specifically suited to your cat’s needs and rule out any underlying medical issues that may be related.
2. "Wet" your kitty's appetite.
Just like people, cats have preferences in taste and texture when it comes to food. According to veterinary nutritionist Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, DACVN, of the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis, many cats will prefer foods with higher moisture content, unless they have been fixed on dry food. If your kitty seems uninterested in dry food, try switching it up and offering moistened food instead.
3. Try warming the food.
For many kittens used to the warm comfort of their mother's milk, cold food can seem unfamiliar and ultimately turn them off. Warming your kitten's canned food can help ease the transition to solid food. This tip doesn't just pertain to kittens, though. Your older cat may prefer warmed food as well.
4. Add a little bit of tuna juice.
According to Dr. Larsen, many cats enjoy the flavor of proteins and amino acids. To entice your kitty to eat, try adding a little tuna juice to his fare. A little more flavor might be all he needs. Be sure to use tuna packed in water — not oil.
5. Offer it when you know your cat is hungry.
If your cat refuses to dine, it may be that he just isn't hungry. “The reputation for being finicky may be related to the fact that many cats, especially those who live indoors, have low energy requirements and don't need to eat much food to maintain their weight,” Dr. Larsen says. Sticking to a regular feeding schedule so that you are only offering food when you know your cat is hungry could solve the pickiness problem. Talk to your vet about the best feeding schedule for your cat.
6. Praising and petting your feline at mealtime may also increase your kitty's responsiveness.
Your feline friend probably loves to please you, so praising him when he eats will likely seem like a good incentive to him. Extra petting sessions are an especially great bonus.
7. Seeing other cats in the household relishing the offering can also help.
Try feeding all of the cats in your household at the same time (but keep in mind that they may need to be fed in different areas to keep any drama to a minimum — creating a stress-free eating environment is also important!). Seeing his feline siblings devouring a delicious meal might just be the only push your picky eater needs.