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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.
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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.

 

Q: How long can my cat go without eating before I should worry?

A: Not eating is not normal for cats. If a cat isn’t eating but otherwise seems healthy, then it probably doesn’t like the food. So I’d change the food. But if it’s not eating and also seems lethargic or sick, then take it to your veterinarian immediately.

 

Q: Can there be physical reasons my cat is a picky eater?

A: Yes. The most common and least specific sign of illness in a cat is not eating. So it’s important to know when your cat isn’t eating. And if he isn’t eating, it’s important that you figure out why, whether it’s an illness, whether it’s environmental reasons, or whether it’s just because he doesn’t like the food.

 

Q: Can two cats share a bowl? Or should each be fed separately?

A: Cats should be fed in separate bowls out of sight of each other. And the location of your cat’s feeding area also is very important. It should be someplace where another animal can’t sneak up and trap the cat. And don’t put the bowl somewhere where equipment or a motor can suddenly turn on and scare the cat, like near a central heating duct or next to a refrigerator that can kick on.

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