Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Feeding the Finicky Cat

September 04, 2015 / (1) comments

Why is it that some cats will eat a particular food one day and then turn their nose up at it the next?


Sometimes these cats are sick, even if symptoms aren’t readily apparent. Cats are good at blaming the last food they ate as the cause of their discomfort (not a bad thing if you’re hunting in the wild) and will therefore reject what they ate with relish just yesterday if they don’t feel well. The first thing to do when faced with a finicky cat is to schedule an exam with your veterinarian.


But if your cat has been given a clean bill of health, how can you go about finding something (anything!) that your cat will eat on a regular basis?


First, it’s important to remember that some cats develop strong preferences with regard to flavor, texture, etc. very early in life, perhaps even based on what their mother eats while they are still in utero. It is possible to override these preferences if you take it very slowly and are persistent, but it may not be worth the effort. If all your cat will eat is one brand of canned, chicken-based cat food, why not just feed that to him… as long as it provides complete and balanced nutrition and he is maintaining his weight and health, of course.


If your cat won’t ever eat a good meal no matter what’s on offer, take a look at the ambience in your kitty café. Cats are solitary hunters and can take quite a long time to eat what they’ve killed. They often don’t deal well with perceived stress and competition around meal times. Feed your cat alone in a quiet room or try putting on some quiet, classical music (research has shown that cats find it soothing). If your cat is a “people person,” praising or petting him while he eats can also be helpful. Some cats also prefer eating and drinking off of shallow saucers rather than from deeper bowls.


Finally, ensure that your cat’s diet is made from healthy ingredients and is nutrient dense so that whatever your cat does eat packs a nutritional punch. High quality, canned kitten food is a reasonable option for finicky, healthy adults, but home cooked diets are the most tempting. If you’re willing to cook for your cat, take a look at BalanceIT or PetDIETS.com.


Make any necessary dietary changes infrequently and slowly. When you constantly offer new foods, your cat will learn that he can wait for something “better” to appear in his bowl. And don’t be afraid to let your cat get hungry. Eliminate treats and offer food two or three times a day, picking up what remains uneaten after 30 minutes or so.


Keep in mind that cats really don’t need to eat that much in the way of volume. As long as your veterinarian has determined that your cat is at a reasonable weight, is not sick, and is eating enough of a healthy diet to prevent nutritional deficiencies, you probably have nothing to worry about. 



Dr. Jennifer Coates



Image: PCHT / Shutterstock


Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Smart Cats
    09/08/2015 08:18pm

    Of course, we all know that cats can count. Whatever you have the most of - they will refuse to eat.

    Yes, I have spoiled my kitties rotten. Yes, I have one that will wait for "something better." Of course, I'm working desperately to keep a couple of them from losing weight because they are cancer kitties. Hence, I keep offering until they eat.




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.