First things first… 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 from a healthy balanced diet to a different food or human leftovers.
So, it’s very important to stick to a routine. Don’t offer a large menu of alternatives and be patient. When your cat does eat its food, you should lavish it with praise.
If your routine is not working and your cat continues to be fussy, there may be something else affecting its appetite. We suggest you go through our check list below. How and where you serve food plus other external factors can have an impact on a cat’s willingness to eat.
- Is your food the right temperature? Cats prefer food that is room temperature or warm so that it has an aroma. Ideally you should not feed wet food straight from the fridge.
- Is the weather affecting your cat’s appetite or food? Sometimes it’s simply too hot and your cat doesn’t fancy a heavy meal.
- Is your cat feeling crowded at meal times? Try feeding away from the family – especially during your meal times - and other pets including cats. Also, avoid positioning the bowl near the cat flap, litter box and water bowl.
- Is your cat being put off by old food still in his bowl? Make sure you clean your cat’s bowl after each meal. Old food smells horrid and can contain bacteria.
- Does your cat like its bowl? Cats prefer low, wide bowls so that they can look around whilst eating – and so that their whiskers are not brushing against the sides. Plastic bowls can pick up odours and will need to be replaced regularly. Ceramic and metal ones can also be used. Make sure your cat has his own bowl – they don’t like sharing!
- Does your cat need to ‘hunt’ for food? Try feeding in unusual places such as cardboard rolls – or you can buy some great activity feeders.
- Is your cat filling up elsewhere? Cats may be snacking on birds or mice and you might even find a neighbour is feeding your cat. Solutions are to adjust your cat’s play and feeding times and have a chat with your neighbours.
- Is your cat thirsty? It’s always important to give your cat plenty of water so make sure clean, fresh water is always available.
If none of the above works, it is possible there are medical reasons for your cat’s loss of appetite. Generally, if your cat has refused to eat for 24 hours or longer – or has unintentionally lost weight - you should always consult your vet.
For more top tips on feeding cats, visit pfma.org.uk/cats. We have free downloadable weight management tools including our Cat Size-O-Meter.