Feeding cats can be challenging: The ramblings of a frustrated kitty guardian

When I am owned by a cat that regularly eats with gusto, I thank the gods for rewarding me with a kitty that isn’t a picky eater. Two of my cats fit into that category, but when it comes to one of them there are times I have found this thankless task to be as challenging as climbing Mount Everest.

Finickity cat eater
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Finicky cat!

Our hall closet is filled to the brim with piles of cans of different cat foods that would appeal to even the most finicky cat. But those cans with the brilliantly shiny labels, which were so appealing to them on the first or second pass through, are now gathering dust. I tell you there is nothing as frustrating as having to deal with a cat that makes me get down on my knees and beg him to eat the food he once thought was nectar of the gods; but is now turning up his nose at it.

Of course there are other reasons for cats to refuse their favorite repast. A cat with a stuffed nose due to a cold or seasonal allergy can’t smell their food and consequently will not eat. There are many serious medical conditions that will put kitties off their food. And some cats who may require prescription diets may show their distain by planting their paws on the floor and look up at their guardians with disgust.

But today I am referring to healthy cats with appetites that are completely unpredictable. This kind of finicky behavior makes it nigh impossible for devoted kitty caretakers to logically be able to plan an acceptable menu; especially when the cats’ “rules” are constantly in flux. As far as I am concerned, although I simply adore Sir Hubble Pinkerton, our 15 ½ year old Oriental Shorthair kitty; his flip-flop attitude toward cat food generally drives me to tears out of frustration.

For example: We recently visited a local pet supermarket and purchased several different cans of a variety of brands and flavors to make sure he liked them before I ordered some cartons. He loved them and polished off every can with dispatch. He was even purring while he was eating so I went online and ordered a few cartons. But my happy dance soon was turned to a solemn dirge after the food arrived and Sir Hubble refused every one of them. He is such a fickle feline.

At first I thought he might be under the weather and wasn’t hungry. To rule out that possibility I offered him some roast chicken and roast beef. That clever kitty nearly took my fingers off while he was grabbing those tempting morsels out of my hand.

He has now learned that when I offer him a brand of cat food he refuses; one that he once thoroughly enjoyed, to appease me he takes a few perfunctory nibbles, gives me that “look” and hurries to the refrigerator planting himself in front of the door, expecting that I will dole out the “good stuff”.

Unfortunately he is right. We all know that since a cat has gotta eat we are often tempted to make those “exceptions” to the rule. And since I am very concerned about his health and maintaining his weight, he has trained me very well. But there goes more cans of cat food down the drain.

I wouldn’t mind it so much since the other cats would inherit food that Sir Hubble refuses, but right now Aki, our 6 month-old kitten needs a special diet, so hand-me-downs are impossible right now. But get this one; Sir Hubble thinks that Aki’s food is the cat’s pajamas and he can’t have it!

How do you handle feeding- time frustrations? Tell us about it with a comment.

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16 Responses

  1. Michael Broad says:

    My cat Gabriel is a good eater. I can’t say he is fussy. He like mice – a lot…. 😉 and he eats them very fast.

    He also likes high quality wet food – the best I can buy – and Royal Canin Dental for nighttime grazing. I also give him lactose free milk.

    That’s it. I think this fussiness with eating is primarily a character trait. Some cats are and some cats are not. Most are not that fussy in my opinion.

    • Jo Singer says:

      Aki eats like a horse! He is a very easy feeder. He likes just about everyhing and we will be transitioning him to raw in a few weeks – very slowly- since he is still recovering from a tummy problem and is on a special food to help calm it down. Sir Hubble has pancreatitis, kidney disease and IBD/possible Lymphoma so his appetite waxes and wanes. I will feed him JUST about anything he wants to eat as long as he is eating. He gets roast chicken, roast beef and I try to entice him to eat any cat food he will eat. His weight also waxes and wanes but we want to keep him at 9 lbs. He is getting subQ fluids, and an assortment of medications to help him- and to alleviate any inflammation in his gut. So while I am not thrilled with his diet- we do the best we can to keep him eating! It is a very difficult and delicate process.

      • Dee (Florida) says:

        I so understand, Jo.
        When there are serious health issues that affect eating/survival, I will give anything to them that they will eat.
        The same is true for any seniors 12 years and over- whatever they want. They earned it.

  2. Has your Cat lost weight ?,very thin, off their food, no appetite? Is he or she ill ? your pet could benefit from a natural foods diet. Please check out all the helpful links online. below is one example I found. Hope your cats health and appetite improves very shortly’
    free post—FYI
    Just for reference__

  3. jmuhj says:

    If anything, we have the exact opposite situation going on here among five female “senior” cats, who harangue, harangue, harangue me continually for food and have almost canine eating habits! Ever since our sweet Mainey man passed back in November of last year, the ladies have been insatiable. I have no idea if his passing and their sudden food lust are directly connected; I only know that this is how things are. I feed a wide variety of high-end tinned foods and one high-end dry food, plus some high-quality treats. We have a water fountain plus bowls of water. They eat VERY well!

  4. Dee (Florida) says:

    Opening can after can after can is the norm in this very multi-cat household.

    Some don’t like poultry, some don’t like tuna, some that liked chicken yesterday won’t eat it today, on and on…

    Hoping that any cat will eat what’s there when they get hungry enough is a myth here. That food will sit, dry up, and turn to dust. And, I will have cats sitting on the counters just staring at me like I’ve lost my mind.
    By that time, I nearly have.

    And, it’s a sure bet that anything salmon or beef is just a waste of money.

    Sometimes, I just have to pop some chicken breasts in the oven to bake in order to appease most. But, for that hour and 15 minutes baking time, I am in a living hell of stalking and complaining.

  5. LOL-and Lot’s of sympathy. One out of four of my cats is a finicky eater. She is the smallest and has different taste since she hasn’t been altered. This will affect her hormones and taste buds…glands…etc.

    Even my bigger cat with dermatitis will eat two out of three varieties. Then there are those moments when a cat taste something utterly divine and will hold out for that special treat can to reappear—Good Luck on re-organizing the closet.

    A cat will eat if they get hungry enough, unless they are ill. They can usually also manage their way back down a tree
    if they are not overweight or if there are no other extenuating circumstances. that is.

    Eva Says_

    • Jo Singer says:

      I always worry if they don’t eat because cats should not go without food for more than 24 hours. The danger of liver inflammation (fatty liver disease) is much to great. If that happens then their appetites are even worse.. so then it is essential to find any way to get food into their belly. We need to keep weight ON our sick kitty so whatever he wants he gets when he gets picky.

      • Dee (Florida) says:

        So true, Jo. I will do whatever I have to to get them nutrition. Whatever they want. I have cooked up countless pounds of chicken breasts, gizzards, livers, catfish, tilapia… you name it.
        I run like I’m on fire!

  6. My cat usually gets a variety of raw food, and only once in awhile doesn’t eat it. I don’t question it; I usually just replace it with another flavor.

    After doing extensive research on cat foods, and discovering what the ingredients really meant, I will never give her cheap food again. And that includes the expensive “Breed Specific” and prescription diets from Royal Canin, and Hills. I was so shocked when I actually took the time to look at the ingredients on the prescription foods. They are the same ones that are in the cheapest food. I looked up the ingredients on line, so I could actually read them.

    I just finished reading “Food Pets Die For -Shocking Facts About Pet Food” by Ann Martin, International Authority on Pet Food. 3rd Edition. She’s done years of homework on this topic.

    Our cats are attracted to certain pet foods because of the addictive animal digest sprayed to entice them to eat rendered meat by products of euthanized cats and dogs, in addition to other unhealthy ingredients. But sometimes it seems to me, that our cats are responding to a higher knowing, and begin to refuse those foods, as an attempt to survive. This is my speculation, although there are many other theories on what causes cats to turn away from foods they have enjoyed before. It’s much deeper than being finicky.

    I see it as an intelligence that goes beyond our own limited knowledge of what we’re trying to feed our beloved pets. I realize that many people don’t want to know the truth about the industry that makes billions in exchange for euthanized, diseased, and slaughtered animals, including the drugs used for euthanasia (Sodium Pentobarbital) that aren’t fit for human consumption, but just fine to give our pets. After all, they’re just cats…..

    Does anyone notice that more and more cats have IBD and pancreatis? Does anyone suspect that there’s a deeper issue here? IBD in humans have also increased greatly, though I don’t have the staggering statistics on hand.

    Something’s very wrong with our food and our pet’s food. More is being revealed by courageous people willing to tell the truth. I appreciate the work they do to inform us of what we’d rather not know.

    • Jo Singer says:

      Sandra Murphy- that is an amazing book! I also subscribe to Susan Thixton’s site- and her Petsumer Report. The information that she shares is shocking! I can hardly wait to be able to transition all our cats to a healthy raw diet. Cats do so well on a well balanced raw diet- with great results for many kitties with digestive system issues.!

  7. Susan Gort says:

    Two of my cats are on special diets-one has to have a urinary diet and the other has IBD and chronic pancreatitis. They are very good about eating their food, knowing that if they clean their bowls, they will get to lick the bowls of the other four (at least they lick the crumbs and taste). The other four get Purina One. I get the the 6 lb bag and vary the flavors. I also give then i/8 can of Friskies pate twice a day. I vary those cans also. Each cat gets 1/4 cup dry and 1/8 can twice a day. For Kutawnnie (who is the IBD kitty) she will get on occasion, a shred of chicken or a lick of vanilla ice cream. This seems to work for her and she hasn’t vomited except once in about 8 weeks or more since I started this way-that’s been about 2 years. And the cats not on a diet get to lick Howie and Kutawnnie’s empty bowls

  8. Diane Ricciardi Stewart says:

    Michael — and Jo:

    I must be very fortunate!! I mix several types of Science Diet and one prescription brand (ordered by my vet), and my cats absolutely LOVE their food! I have never had such success with my cats as I have with the Science Diet. I have owned cats for 50+ years, and these ones are the best with their food. I feed them twice a day — again vet recommended — and I have had no problems with them eating/finishing their food. My vet and I are both very satisfied with their overall health and weight. I must be doing something right! They do get occasional treats as well — and, of course, da nip! But I can truly remember the days of the finicky eater with cats in the past. Great post!! ♥♥♥

    • Michael Broad says:

      Great to hear and well done. I am wondering if the Siamese and Oriental are finicky eaters (Hubble is an Oriental). This breed does have a certain character.

      • Diane Ricciardi Stewart says:

        Michael, I have had several Siamese. They still loved the Science Diet. That’s actually when I began using Science Diet. My Lilac (who passed July 15, 2015 at 15 yrs) was not a finicky eater — or any of the other Siamese I had. Lilac’s big thing was BBQ potato chips — she LOVED them!! — go figure. . . LOL!! I had her, and her sister (Porschia) and Porschia’s daughter — a CH Special needs kitty. They have all gone to RB. None were finicky eaters. I currently have one polydactyl who has all the physical traits of an Oriental, but he is not finicky either. . he has 24 toes!! ♥♥♥

  9. Michael Broad says:

    Good article. I’m just wondering whether you have ever given him a different food every day or even as frequently as every meal. In other words you constantly changes food from one meal to the next. I know that cats do like variety normally and perhaps Hubble has taken this to extremes! Also to make sure that he is always hungry before mealtime. Perhaps the portion size could be smaller at about half the usual portion size. I’m just thinking aloud basically and I’m pretty sure that you have tried these things before.

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