Categories: wet cat food

Why don’t cats ever eat all of their food?

Cat eating from bowl. Photo: Pinterest.

Why don’t cats ever eat all of their food? Well, firstly, it’s not true that cats never eat all of their food in the bowl.

However, often they do leave some food. The two obvious reasons are probably the correct reasons. Firstly domestic cats don’t have an ‘education’ or training on the need to finish up what is on the plate so they eat what they want to eat and stop. If there is too much in the bowl some food is left behind.

This implies that the normal amount of food placed in the bowl is too much for a cat in one sitting. It is said that domestic cats should eat small amounts frequently. This would work in terms of eating everything in the bowl. So the second reason is that there is too much in the bowl!

I often use wet food sachets. There are two kinds where I live; small and larger sachets. My cat usually leaves very little when I feed him with a small sachet of wet food. He leaves more when I use a larger sachet. The conclusion is obvious: the large sachet it too large.

It is said that humans eat portions which are too large. There is normally too much on the plate which is one reason why there is an obesity epidemic in the West. Perhaps pet food manufacturers are creating portions which are too large for cats (as are prepared meal manufacturers for people). If this is true it may be deliberate so that they can sell more food and make more money.

Someone might speculate that cats deliberately leave some food behind as an insurance policy so they can return later and finish it. I am not sure about this idea. I don’t believe it. My distinct impression is that cats just don’t think like this. Leaving food in the bowl is more a careless approach to food consumption than planning for the future.

Another speculative reason is that cats don’t like to eat the last bits in the bowl because their whiskers brush against the bowl which is uncomfortable. Once again I don’t believe it because I don’t see signs of this.

P.S. This question can only really apply to wet food as dry is left in the bowl a lot because it is overfilled because it does not go off. I am not saying everyone overfills food bowls with dry food but in general they probably do.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I have read this article to Jet. He does not believe that cats exist who would leave some of their food. He says that these cats must be mythical beings, borne of an ape mind that:s been addled by too much seasonal 'nip.

    Jet eats every molecule of food, every time.

    That's what living hungry & injured on the street can do to a cat.

    • :) Wow, you have a special cat. My cats have tended to leave some behind. Not always but quite frequently.

      • When Mungo was on a urinary RX diet, he would regularly leave some food at each meal. He is not interested in human food at all. Now he is on a better quality food, the bowl is clean.

        Jet will eat anything. The food, the wrapping it came in, the delivery van and the driver too, given the chance.

        We joke about it, but a serious food obsession has put him in peril, a few times. It can be very sad to watch his temper flare if he can't get at food. He can get very distressed. We have had to adopt some big rules about food prep' in this home.

        Currently his favourite snack is a slice of cucumber, when I am preparing salad.

  • My cats each weigh about 9 pounds and I feed each of them about 2.75 oz of wet food twice a day. They almost always finish it. One usually wants a little more and one sometimes leaves a little, so I give that bit to the first one. I don't know where the idea that they always leave some food comes from or the particulars of that, but I hope the answer to that situation is found.

  • Most of our house pets have never known hunger. I assure you that the little colony I have licks the bowl clean and I give them much more than their body weight suggests. There is the issue of food security vs the I have no idea where my next meal is coming from. I have never had a dog or cat that was free fed from the time they were weaned that had a weight issue. Frog had a tubby issue but she's a big cat to begin with and she's now eating freeze dried raw and looking much better. She chooses this over the wet or kibble. I had a rescue dog once that hid food in her bed. When I got her she was chained up in a back lot and eating dirt and rocks to have something in her stomach.

    • I have read on more than a few occasions about freeze dried raw food being recalled due to salmonela or listeria, so I'd be extra careful about it. Truthaboutpetfood dot com and petsumerreport dot com are two sites that help us with pet foods.

      • I get regular alerts to a site i signed up to long ago. I had a fried who lost two outside ferals to the debacle of melamine in cat food from China years ago. I've never trusted the industry since.

        • I'm sad to hear about any cats who die from bad food. Care to share that site? I also avoid foods sourced from China, which petsumerreports informs of. Thanks.

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