Dealing with a Cat That's a Picky Eater

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If your cat is a fussy eater, then don’t worry, because they have a reputation for being extremely finicky. In truth, this behaviour is generally learned and not bred into them.

You may think your cat wants or requires variety in their diet but in actual fact, they will happily eat the same food everyday provided it’s a nutritious meal.

Slowly, slowly

What may seem like finicky eating may just be your cat taking their time. Many cats are nibblers and prefer to have a mouthful of food now and again. Just because your cat doesn’t eat the whole bowl right away doesn’t mean they don’t like the food.

My cat's not eating enough

Your cat may be avoiding food because they’re getting extra treats somewhere else. If you treat your cat a lot or feed scraps from the table, you should stop. Your cat will complain for a while but eventually will understand that the only food they’re going to get is what’s in the bowl.

Try to make sure no one else giving treats – either in your household or in the neighbourhood. It only takes one person to change how your cat expects to get food.

If you tried giving your cat, when a kitten, several different foods to see which is preferred, you may have given the impression that you’ll always do this. If you’re now opening multiple packs of food to coax your cat into eating something every meal, then your cat has got you trained.

Here’s a very effective way to train your cat to eat only what you want:

  • Put out the food for just half an hour.
  • If not eaten, take it away.
  • Repeat until your cat eats the food provided.
  • After a day or two your cat may start howling for extra treats. Don’t give in. Your cat isn’t starving; they’re just using their charms to get what they want. You may have to put up with this for a couple weeks, but this approach should put a stop to fussy eating.

Switching to a new food

If you’re changing your cat’s food you should do it gradually. Start by mixing a little of the new food with the regular food, gradually increasing the amount until only the new food is fed.

When to call the vet

If your cat suddenly becomes very finicky after not previously displaying that kind of behaviour, or appears to be losing weight you should talk to your vet. Sometimes behaviour that appears fussy can be caused by an underlying medical reason like a dental problem, a digestive upset or hairballs.

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