Cat Food
We all have favorite foods, but felines are notoriously fussy when it comes to what they will or won’t dine on.

And they’ll often decide not to like something — at the precise moment when you were convinced that you’d finally found the one food they loved.

What’s the deal with these finicky kitties?

Why Are Some Cats So Particular About Food?

According to veterinary nutritionist Dr. Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, DACVN, of the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis, there are a few possible reasons for choosy kitties, including the way they were fed as kittens, bad associations with certain foods or cats just being cats.

“Cats that have been fed a variety of foods are more likely to try something new when offered,” Dr. Larsen says. Conversely, a cat repeatedly fed the same food will develop a preference for that food, which can be difficult to change.

And, sometimes, your kitty just may not be as hungry as you thought.

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.

She points out, however, that some cats can lose their appetites when they don’t feel well, so it’s important to get your picky eater checked by a veterinarian. “Because the signs of illness in cats can be subtle,” Dr. Larsen says, “it can be difficult to determine which occurred first — reduced appetite and finickiness or illness.”

Are There Foods That My Cat Is More Likely To Enjoy?

Unlike a lot of species, felines don’t go for sugar or salt, but according to Dr. Larsen, they do like the flavor of protein and amino acids. “Many cats will also prefer foods with higher moisture content, unless they have been fixed on dry food,” Dr. Larsen says.

In the wild, some cats have natural preferences, so it can be normal for cats — just like people — to have favorite flavors and textures. “One study showed that the wild cats in a region in Spain eat primarily rabbits when available,” Dr. Larsen says, “yet they can successfully switch to rodents if rabbits are lacking.”

What Can I Do to Help Coax My Cat to Eat?

Once you’ve discussed an ideal diet for your kitty with your veterinarian, warming the food, as well as offering it when the cat is hungry, can help. Praising and petting your feline at mealtime may also increase your kitty’s responsiveness — along with seeing other cats in the household relishing the offering.

If a cat has gotten ill after eating a specific food in the past, she may associate that flavor with feeling sick. Dr. Larsen says that this is common in cats with kidney disease and that the reaction is a normal protective mechanism they share with people to help avoid the consumption of poisonous foods. “Food aversions can be abolished if the cat eats the food and does not feel sick again, but getting them to accept the food again can be a challenge,” Dr. Larsen says.

Dr. Larsen points out that it may be easier to nip the problem in the bud early on, rather than trying to turn an older, finicky cat into a feline with an expansive palate. (Just remember that food changes should be made gradually, over the course of a few days, to prevent upsetting your kitty’s digestive tract.) Exposing your young cat or kitten to a variety of flavors and types of food, in consultation with your vet, could prevent the picky eater problem in the first place.

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