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Healthy Cats

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How to Deal With a Cat That’s a Picky Eater

WebMD veterinary expert answers commonly asked questions about cats and finicky eating habits.


A: Cats are nibblers and eat many small meals, so my preference is the daily ration of food be put out several times a day. Even better, put it in a foraging device. These are small plastic containers with holes in them. The cat has to play with them to get the food to fall out. It doesn’t just slow down a cat’s eating; it also stimulates the cat mentally.

Q: Should I cook for my cat instead of buying her food?

A: You can, but I don’t recommend it. It takes a lot of time, and you have to include supplements. If you want to do this, you really should talk to your veterinarian to be sure you’re doing it correctly. There are places that will sell you the supplements and then you can just add in the protein and carbohydrates. That is if you have the time and the interest.

Q: Can a food allergy cause my cat to be a picky eater?

A: I’m not aware that that’s been looked at. But if the cat has an adverse reaction from eating a food and it can make that link that it was the food that made it sick, then it will certainly avoid the food. The problem with food allergies is that it can take days or weeks for the problems to manifest. So the cat probably won’t make the connection that it’s the food that’s making it sick.

Q: If my cat rejects a food, should I keep offering it to her or try something else?

A: It depends on how it was offered. If the old food was taken away and only the new food was offered, then try it again side by side with her old food. I’ve seen cases where a cat rejected a new food when it was offered alone, but when it was offered next to her regular food, then she tried it.

Usually cats will start eating a new food within a day or two if it’s a food they will like. If it’s a food you want to switch them to, once they’ve started eating the new food, just put more of the new food out and less of the old food. That way they still have the safety of their old food, but you’re using their hunger drive to get them to eat more of the new food.

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