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What to Feed a Picky Cat and How to Keep Them Eating

As a pet parent, you want what’s best for your cat — and that means making sure they get the nutrients they need. But it’s no secret that cats can be fussy, especially when it comes to eating. One day they’ll devour every morsel of food, and the next day they won’t touch it. If you’re wondering why, you’re not alone. Let's look at what you can do to help ensure your cat gets the nutrition they need.

Safety First: When to Call the Vet if Your Cat Stops Eating

Paying attention to how much (and what) your cat is eating is part of being a good pet parent. If you notice a change in your cat’s interest in food, it’s generally a good idea to talk to your vet. It can be a symptom of more serious health concerns, a sign your cat's appetite is changing as they get older or something as simple as a shift in their interest or environment. They’ll be able to carefully assess your pet’s health and determine if your cat’s picky eating may be a sign of a bigger health concern, or just a simple matter of taste.

If your cat has refused food for 24 hours, it's time to call the vet.

Avoiding food or eating significantly less than usual can be cause for concern, and your vet is in the best position to assess your cat’s overall wellness and what to do next. Your vet may recommend taking some of the home-care steps below to help get your cat interested in eating again.

Skip the scraps and other human foods.

It’s tempting to treat your cat with tasty table scraps from your own dinner. But when pet owners feed their cats human food like fish, chicken or other meat, it will likely raise their expectations and make them lose interest in their own food. By avoiding feeding your cat any human food, you’ll also avoid any risk of giving your cat a food that’s safe for you but dangerous for them.

Stick to serving cat food with high-quality ingredients, but don’t be afraid to change up the flavor, texture or even serving dish to keep your cat interested in eating. Just make changes small and gradual!

Mix wet and dry food for an enticing meal.

Consider feeding your cat a mix of dry and wet food to keep them coming back for more. Mixed feeding, or mixing together wet and dry food in your cat’s meal, can be a be a tasty way of tempting your cat back to their food bowl. Sometimes the combination alone is enough to get your cat interested in eating. Just be sure that the mixed meal has a healthy amount of total calories for your cat, or you’ll risk over-feeding them and contributing to cat weight-management issues.

Tone down the treats.

Cats that get picky around food may still have an appetite for treats, but it’s important not to over-treat your pet. Feeding more than recommended may let them fill up on treats, or worse, you might inadvertently teach them that avoiding meals earns them a tasty reward.

Keep track of how many treats you (and other members of your household) are giving your cat and be sure not to increase the quantity while they are avoiding meals. At your vet’s recommendation, you may want to try reducing treating until they start eating regularly again.

What Can I feed a Picky Cat?

When a cat turns their nose up at the bowl, what can you feed them to get them interested in eating again? You may not need to make a dramatic change — small shifts in what you feed your cat can do the trick.

Switch to a new food … gradually.

Your cat may be a picky eater because they've grown tired of their current food. Or maybe you recently tried giving them a new food and they’re not digging it. Try serving your cat the new food along with the old food. Once they’ve started eating the new food, put out less and less of the old food a little at a time.

Switching between dry cat food and wet cat food recipes might be tricky, but so long as you make the change gradually (and make sure to dispose of wet or moistened dry food after 20 minutes), that change might get your cat interested in the food bowl again. If you want to stick to wet food for your cat, there’s still textural variety to explore by offering Nutro Cuts in Gravy or Nutro Paté to see what suits their taste.

How Do You Get a Picky Cat to Eat ... and Keep Them Eating Regularly?

The way you feed your cat can be the difference between an empty food bowl and one that gets ignored! It may surprise you how a few intentional changes in the way you feed your cat may spark their interest in their food.

Where you feed your cat matters.

You might want to look at the location of their food and water dishes. If they’re near the litter box, that could be the reason. Cats are clean creatures, and they have a strong desire to keep their eating and elimination areas separate. They don’t like their food and water dishes near each other, either.

Create a place for your cat to eat and drink far from the sight and smell of the litter box.

Create a calm, quiet feeding station for your cat.

Cats don’t like eating in crowded areas in front of people or other cats. They like to dine in the comfort of their own quiet space. If you have multiple cats, be sure to give each one their own feeding station. If you have kids or dogs, you may want to put your cat’s food in an elevated area.

Build a stress-free, relaxing mealtime routine that will help keep your cat calm and chowing down.

Try warming up wet food for your picky cat.

While dramatic diet changes can cause digestive issues, changing how you serve your cat their food can make a difference. If your cat favors wet food, try warming it up a little in the microwave. A warm meal can be much more tantalizing than the same dish served at room-temperature — even if it’s the exact same food!

Just don’t let their food get too hot. Microwaves heat food unevenly, and pets can’t test the temperature of their food before eating. That’s why it’s so important that you check that any heated meal is warm, not hot, to the touch. And always be sure to dispose of any uneaten wet food after 20 minutes.

Should I Be Worried About My Picky Eater?

You know your cat best — if you’ve got a feeling something might be wrong, it’s always a good idea to call or visit the vet.

If these solutions don’t work and you simply can’t coax your cat into eating, get in touch with your vet to rule out underlying health issues. Your cat needs to eat regular meals in order to meet their nutritional needs. Between the three of you (you, your vet, and the kitty in question), you’re sure to come up with a tasty solution!

Explore Nutro’s cat recipes easily by using the filters to find the perfect food for your finicky feline.

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