Feline and finicky are nearly synonymous. The majority of cat owners have had some sort of issue with their beloved Fluffster turning his nose up at food at one time or another. Most cat experts will tell you that finicky eaters are made, not born. In an attempt to please them we can inadvertently create picky little food critics.
Let’s start with some interesting facts about cats and their diet. First of all cats suffer from neophobia. They don’t like change in their environment and they don’t like change in their food. Secondly, in comparison to dogs, cats have some unique dietary requirements. Cats have evolved from their strictly carnivorous beginnings when the consumption of meat proteins was their staple for survival. Today’s kitty lives a much different type of life and can thrive on a variety of diets. From a nutrient perspective, cats do not necessarily require an ultra-high protein diet, but they do have higher requirements for amino acids from dietary protein than dogs.
Cats are very sensitive to the shape, size, mouthfeel, and texture of the foods they eat, so start them early with a wide variety of recipes.
There are many reasons why cats can become picky eaters. Most can be rectified by adjusting the way we feed them. However, if at any time your cat stops eating, a visit to the vet is a good idea. Cats will stop eating if they are ill, and it does not take long for them to go into fatty liver failure which can be fatal, so err on the side of caution.
Many people find a food that their feline enjoys and then feed it to them day after day, sometimes for years. If the formula of the food changes, or if the cat needs to go on special diet, you may find yourself with a cat who refuses to eat. Vets and cat experts suggest that you vary your cat’s diet.
Stick with the same healthy food your cat likes but change up the flavour, texture, and shape of the food. Make sure you incorporate both dry and wet varieties.
Feeding wet food ensures hydration, as many cats do not recognize when they are thirsty, or drink enough at the water bowl. If you are making any major food changes they need to be done gradually in order to avoid stomach upset, or food rejection.
Cats need to have their food and water dish away from the litter box. They have a strong drive to keep their eating area away from the area where they eliminate. They are very clean creatures and if you place the two near each other cats may eat but refuse to use the litter, or use the litter but refuse to eat. Food and water dishes should also be placed apart. Cats are very particular about avoiding contamination, and food near a water source is a big “no no” in their world. Because of their obsession with cleanliness, their food and water dishes also need to be kept clean.
Unlike us, cats are not social eaters. They don’t enjoy group dining in crowded areas. Their food should be located in a quiet space, away from busy areas of the house. If you have a multi-cat home give each cat their own feeding station. In households with small children or dogs an elevated eating area is your best bet. Not only does it keep the others out of the cat’s food dish, but it also gives your cat a sense of security.
Do not try to hide medication in their food. Their keen sense of smell can detect any foreign substance that does not belong. The majority of medications are very bitter, and even if it gets past your cat’s nose, they will taste it. Eventually they will associate their food with a bad taste, even after you stop putting medication in it. Adding “treats” (fish, chicken or other meat) to food is another recipe for disaster. You will raise your cat’s flavour expectations, and when you try to feed the food on its own they may refuse it. As with dogs, it is best to keep food scraps away from your feline.
As I mentioned before, cats should be fed both dry and wet food. In the case of dry, feeding two to three small portions daily is preferable to free feeding. It keeps the food fresh and helps prevent obesity. Wet food is important to feed at room temperature. Refrigerated wet food loses its aroma and cats associate that with spoiled food. Warming the food can ensure acceptance, and left over portions should be covered to stop the food from drying out.
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