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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
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.

Finicky Felines ... How to Prevent and Overcome Picky Eating

July 13, 2012 / (1) comments

The finicky feline is something of a cliché. In my experience, most cats are good eaters when healthy, but I have met a few that have STRONG opinions about what they consider an appropriate meal.

Having a selective appetite is not always a big problem, but take notice if your cat is losing weight, has developed other symptoms of illness, is lethargic, has altered behavior, or if she is eating an inferior food that does not provide optimally balanced nutrition.

If your cat usually has a good appetite and all of a sudden becomes picky, make an appointment with your veterinarian. A serious medical problem may be to blame, and it should be addressed as quickly as possible. The veterinarian will check your cat’s teeth, gums, and the rest of the oral cavity for any abnormalities, perform a complete physical exam, and maybe order blood work or other laboratory tests to diagnose diseases that could be a cause or effect of poor eating habits.

Once you have determined that your cat is simply finicky and not sick, you can start working on getting her to expand her dietary options by:

  1. Confirming that the food you are offering is made from high quality, palatable ingredients. It is not unreasonable for a cat to turn her nose up at a mediocre product. Premium foods are also more nutrient dense than lower quality options, so smaller volumes contain comparatively more nutrition.
  2. Making changes slowly. Take anywhere from a week to a month to gradually mix increasing amounts of the new food in with decreasing amounts of the old.
  3. Avoiding frequent flavor rotation. By constantly offering different foods you are teaching your cat that she can wait to eat until what she really wants appears in her bowl.
  4. Eliminating or at least cutting way back on treats. These tasty extras can have the same effect as frequent flavor rotation and also satiate a cat’s appetite.
  5. Letting your cat get hungry. It is not dangerous for a healthy, adult cat to miss a meal (this does not apply to kittens or cats with certain health conditions, like diabetics taking insulin). Offer your cat her food, and pick up anything that remains uneaten after 30 minutes or so. Try again with the same type of food at the next, regularly scheduled meal time. However, do not let your cat go for more than a day without eating — prolonged caloric deficits put cats at risk for hepatic lipidosis.

Keep in mind that being on the thin side is generally healthier than being overweight. As long as your veterinarian has determined that your cat is eating enough of a nutritious diet and is not sick, working to get her to eat more is counterproductive and often an exercise in futility.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: vnlit / via Shutterstock

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Comments  1

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  • Picky, picky!
    07/13/2012 07:27am

    Cats are notorious for being able to eat around unwanted morsels. Ask anyone who thinks they can hide pill in cat food!

    I had one kitty that refused wet food of any kind and would eat only dry kibble. If even the tiniest amount of wet food was added to her kibble, she would quit eating entirely. She was also seriously against premium kibble and would eat around it (even if it was just one or two tiny kibbles) or remove it from her dish.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

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.

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