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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.


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.

I’ve seen cats that stopped eating because the owner moved the bowl somewhere and the cat was afraid to go there and eat.

Q: How do I keep my kitten from becoming a finicky eater?

A: Pick a good feeding site. And particularly in a kitten, feed it a variety of flavors and forms of food. Always offer the different foods in separate containers. Your kitten can’t tell you what he likes and dislikes. So keep offering him choices so you can find what he’ll like and what he doesn’t. It’s like kids. You want to expose them to lots of different choices.

Reviewed on July 08, 2009
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