Almost weekly we have customers, that describe their cats' picky eaters, who are giving them a hard time to switch from one food to another. While there is always the possibility that the cat simply doesn't like the new food, we had people trying up to 10 different high-quality brands, dry and wet, and the cat would still ignore every single one. Sometimes it just seems like the most simple solution to give up and stick to whatever worked before. However more often, due to a health condition, an allergy, an attempt to reduce weight or because the previous food is low in quality, cat owners really must try hard to make the change work.
But why are cats, picky eaters?
Studies found out that cats can not taste sweet stimuli but are very sensitive to bitter tastes in their food, therefore they may detect a greater number of bitter compounds in their everyday diet. The reason for that, studies suggest, is that cats possess the genes that protect vegetarian animals from ingesting poisonous plants by giving them the ability to taste bitter.
Food that tastes bland to us or to a dog could be an unpleasant gastronomic experience for cats. On the other hand, unlike dogs, they can't get hooked on sweet components. Also, while dogs are omnivores, cats are naturally carnivores and fare better on high protein rather than high carbohydrate diets.
A cat’s food preferences are formed when he is young. What his mother ate during gestation and nursing plus the types of foods the kitten was exposed to early in life play a big role in his preferences later on in life. Therefore, when kittens are young, it is important to offer a variety of foods (only small amounts at a time over the course of many days to avoid causing digestive tract upset). If a cat develops a medical condition later in life that could be better managed with a canned diet (e.g., kidney disease), it is important that they will accept this type of food.
How can I make my cat eat the new food?
Do you keep a never-empty dry food bowl and let your cat decide when to eat? Remove it and give your cat the chance to get hungry during the day and start feeding her at morning and at night instead. For the ones working outside during the day another advantage is, that the cat can't make you feel guilty when you're not at home.
2. Play with your cat before feeding her
Just like with humans, a little exercise can stimulate kitties appetite.
3. Create a stress-free environment
Cats tend to eat better when they are relaxed. Because they are usually solitary hunters in the wild, they can take their time when eating their food. In comparison, dogs often gulp down their food, because in the wild they usually hunt in packs and have to compete for their food.
4. Keep your cat company while she's eating
You may have noticed that your cat eats better when you are home so just feed your cat while you stay close or even eat at the same time. Some cats even enjoy being petted while eating.
5. Hide the old food
Cats can smell their old beloved food in the cupboard. Especially the low-end dry food has a strong aroma. If you are transitioning your cat from dry to canned or trying to feed a better quality dry food for that matter, keep the dry food in the fridge or, even better, outside where they can’t smell it. Like this, they won't end up waiting for it, ignoring the new food.
In any case, except acute health issues, the transition to a new food should happen gradually.
If that doesn't work you can try to mix the new food with something delicious like a bit of tuna or chicken or, if it's dry food, dip the pellets in a bit of tuna juice. Just be careful to not leave the wet food and the wet-dry mixed food out longer than 30 minutes, since it can get bad fast and make your cat sick.
Just like many people around us, cats have lots of food issues. It is hard work and it might take quite some time, to figure out what works for your furry one(s)and what keeps them healthy. If you have any other tips or thoughts, we'd be happy to hear them!