Cat Not Eating? Maybe Your Pet Food Smells or Tastes Bad

PetMD Editorial
Updated: June 13, 2016
Published: September 17, 2014
Share this:

Is your cat a "picky eater"? It can be frustrating and expensive trying out different cat food brands just to find something she likes. Fortunately, there is a way to help make the right choice.

While many cats will readily accept new foods, your cat may have certain preferences to consider. Often this comes down to three simple things — the taste, texture, and smell of the cat food.


What's food without good taste? Fortunately, cat food companies are providing customers with a wide variety of options and ingredients for even the pickiest of eaters. Just don't forget that the freshness of the cat food will also affect its taste. So once you determine which food your cat best enjoys, store it well and replace it no later than the "best if used by" date.


Just as it would for us, the smell (or aroma) of a food can entice or deter a cat from eating it. Perhaps your cat likes strong odors, or maybe he prefers something milder. The freshness of your cat food will also affect its odor. As foods age they lose their aroma. The fats in the product also start to oxidize into peroxides. This degradation is known as rancidity and results in undesirable odors. Don't sacrifice the smell and safety of your cat’s food just because it's more economical to buy in bulk, and make sure to store the cat food properly and replace it once the "best if used by" date has come and gone.


You may not think it's as important as smell and taste but the texture of cat food can be crucial for a "picky eater." Characteristics such as hardness, cohesiveness, viscosity, and elasticity can all make a big difference. Many cats prefer crisp, soft textured foods that are easier to break up. Cats may also develop strong preferences for particular shapes when it comes to kibble.

Go Easy on the Cat Treats

Feeding your cat extra treats that are tastier and more interesting than her normal diet can cause a finicky appetite to develop over time. Additionally, if there are too many people giving your cat extra treats or are slipping him table scraps, it can lead to obesity. A good rule of thumb is for treats to make up no more than 10% of the total calories you feed your cat daily.

When in Doubt, Consult Your Vet

Still unsure what's the best cat food to buy, or why your cat is being so picky when it comes to eating? Speak with your veterinarian. He or she can ensure your cat's picky habits aren't due to an underlying health concern such as problems with the teeth or mouth. 

Image: Francesco83 / via Shutterstock

More to Explore

Should I Give My Cat Supplements?

5 Dos and Don'ts for Mixing Your Pet's Food

Does Your Cat Drink Enough Water?

How to Transition Your Cat to a New Food