Picky, Picky, Picky

Getting Your Finicky Cat to Eat

Cats know what they like and dont care what anyone else thinks. That is part of what we love about them. But what happens when their ideas about good food dont mesh with ours? When a cat isnt interested in meals, the first thing he needs is a veterinary visit to check for any medical or dental problems. Once he has received a clean bill of health, its time to examine the dinner details.

In otherwise healthy cats, says Tony Buffington, DVM, professor of veterinary clinical services at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, I dont think this finicky-ness is a huge problem and the potential causes are many.

Freshness matters
Close dry food bags tightly to maintain freshness and use before the expiration date. Store bags in a cool, dry place or better yet, transfer dry food to a storage container with an airtight lid. Cover and refrigerate canned food after opening. Having designated pet-food can lids will ensure you always have one when you need it. Use up the remaining food within the week or throw it away.

Moist food spoils quickly; uneaten food should be discarded after about a half-hour. If served in the same dish as kibble, leftover moist food might be enough to discourage your cat from eating entirely. Even leftover kibble crumbs should be discarded daily and replaced with fresh kibble. And remember to wash the dishes!

Presentation is everything
Buffington says offering dry and canned foods in separate, adjacent dishes allows cats to express their preferences. Experiment with different dishes; ceramic, plastic, metal, or other materials will lend their own odor to the food and could be causing a problem. If you use a combination dish with two sections, try two separate dishes instead.

Location is also important. Many people like to keep the feeding area in the laundry or furnace room and sometimes this is the problem. If the cat has to eat during the noisy spin cycle, he may decide not to eat at all. If the dishes are near the door, the cat could be startled during a meal. Is the feeding area right next to a noisy air duct or too close to the litter box? Look at the dining area from your cats perspective.

Lunchroom bullies
Some cats are reluctant to eat because they are afraid of being ambushed. Other cats dislike sharing dishes or simply want peace and privacy during meals. Using separate dishes, even separate rooms may solve the problem. An older cat may need more time to eat and may not be able to compete with youngsters.

On the other hand, some cats have buddies they expect to eat with. If such cats are separated, during boarding for instance, they may refuse to eat until reunited.

Feeding the hunter
Feline feeding behavior also includes predatory activities, says Buffington, who is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. He suggests simulating the hunt by hiding small amounts of food around the house, or putting dry food into a container from which the cat has to extract individual pieces.

Perhaps try tossing a piece of dry food across a hard floor for your cat to chase. Just remember, Buffington cautions, that this food should replace some of the daily diet rather than supplement it. If you dont take some out of her bowl to use during play, she could gain weight!