Is your cat a picky eater or do they have good alternative reasons?

The so-called ‘picky domestic cat’ eater is a concern to many cat owners. But they will reject food for a good reason and here are 8 possibilities. These possibilities do not reflect the behaviour of a cat who is a picky eater. These are genuine alternative reasons. So, it should not be puzzling to cat owners when their cat rejects the food that they put down for them.

Why do cats sometimes reject their food?
Why do cats sometimes reject their food? Image: MikeB

1. Ill-health

This is a box that has to be ticked at the outset because clearly, a domestic cat can fall ill fairly quickly without any really clear signs that they are ill. They go off their food as a consequence. If none of the other reasons look as if they apply, the owner should observe their cat for other signs of illness and act promptly and take their cat a veterinarian if it is appropriate.

2. The size of the meal

I have mentioned this before. My argument is that the ideal quantity of food for a domestic cat is the bulk and mass of a mouse. It should not be more or less than one mouse. Often times cat owners put down the equivalent of about five mice into a cat’s bowl.

Hills wet cat food sachets are too large?
Hills wet cat food sachets are too large?

And many wet food sachets are in my view to large. This is not to say that a domestic cat won’t eat all the contents of a large sachet because sometimes they will. It might be fair to say that some cat owners like to put down perhaps a little bit too much food because it is more convenient. It actually may prove to be inconvenient as they have to clear up the leftovers and dispose of them without ponging out the home.

However, if they have put down too much and their cat has fed on most of it, they will not be in a mood to eat again perhaps when the next meal arrives. This is because the cat is not yet ready for their next “kill”. Or they aren’t ready for the next session of scavenging because ultimately when domestic cats feed on food provided by their caregiver, they are scavenging rather than killing.

This argument, therefore, supports the idea that domestic cats are good at regulating their food intake and in maintaining a good healthy weight. It doesn’t always apply because there is apparently an epidemic of obesity among the feline population in the West.

I suspect that the problem here is that many full-time indoor cats (a growing number) become bored and they eat for pleasure just like people. Therefore, they lose their ability to regulate their weight. Enriching their environment may help.

3. Sex!

If a female cat is unsterilised and is coming into heat, it may temporarily put them off feeding.

4. Weather

If the weather suddenly becomes very hot or more humid or both, a domestic cat may instantly cut down on their food intake. Airconditioned homes preclude this influence.

5. Obtaining food elsewhere

We know how domestic cats allowed outside like to wander into their neighbour’s homes and make friends there and occasionally be fed by the neighbour.

Should this be happening, the natural consequence is that they will not want to eat the food put down for them by their owner.

6. The wrong place

Cats like to eat in a spot where there is dim light and some quiet. If the food is put down in an area where there is bright light and a lot of noise or busy movement, they may be put off eating. This is a reflection of the wildcat devouring prey in a quiet spot. Sometimes wild cats drag their prey into the spot to both protect the prey from being stolen by another predator and to eat without being bothered by other predators.

If the food is in the wrong place an alternative response may be to gulp down their food and eat too much. Their feeding may become erratic.

7. Food variety

Cats fed a variety of foods may then demand a variety of foods so if that demand is not met, they may become picky. Alternatively, cats fed one type of food might lose their desire to eat a variety and become picky when a new food is presented to them! But the argument is that in the wild, wild cats eat a variety of foods and therefore inherently they probably expect variety. It might be fair to say that the desire to feed on a variety is inherited in their DNA.

Also, when wild cats eat a variety of foods they are protecting against those occasions when a certain prey species is no longer available. They generate an inbuilt flexibility which aids in survival. The argument is that this feline characteristic is inherited in the domestic cat. Therefore, normally, variety is important.

8. Contaminated

It may not be apparent to the owner but the food provided may be contaminated. Sometimes commercially manufactured pet food is contaminated and the owner doesn’t recognise it but with the cat’s superior senses, they can detect it and reject the food.

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