"Dealing with a Cat which is a Picky Eater

"Dealing with a Cat which is a Picky Eater


Some cat owners don't need to worry about whether their cat eats or not. They simply put down the food, and the cat eats it, no matter what it is. But cats, like people, are all different. Some of them can be extraordinarily fussy about what they eat. They may only like one type of food, or demand constant change. Or they may decide not to eat at all, and this is particularly worrying for an owner. Here are some hints on what to do if your cat refuses to eat, or simply becomes very picky about his food.

Does Your Cat Have a Health Problem?

If your cat suddenly starts to be picky or refuses to eat, having previously been a good eater, it is as well to get him checked over by a vet. It could be due to a health problem. The most likely issue is his teeth. Cats can't tell us when they have toothache, but bad teeth happen quite often in cats, and are perhaps one of the most common reasons why cats refuse to eat. Your vet will be able to give your cat a dental if this is required, and also check if there is any other medical reason for his sudden food pickiness. If he is given a clean bill of health, then start looking for some other reason.

Is the Type of Food or its Location a Problem?

Cats prefer to have somewhere quiet to eat, so make sure your cat has a special eating place which isn't in a busy area of the house. Most cats don't like to eat in a toilet any more than we would! So don't put the cat's food too near the litter tray. It is also a good idea to place it some way away from the cat's water, since in the wild cats eat and drink in separate locations, and some domestic cats like to do the same. Make sure the cat's food dish is washed before every meal, and that the food itself is fresh. Even if you feed your cat dry food, it can eventually become stale, so check that this is not the case. Don't keep partially used cat food tins or packets in the fridge, as cats don't tend to like very cold food. If you do keep them refrigerated, warm them up to room temperature before feeding your cat. Don't feed a fussy cat too many between meal snacks, and if your cat goes out, bear in mind that he may be hunting or snacking away from home and he may not be hungry at meal times, ie he may not be picky at all.

Are You Turning Your Cat Into a Picky Eater?

Some cats are prima donnas, and will wind us around their little paws if given half a chance. One way of doing this is to refuse food, or eat the food once, and then refuse it the next time and ask for something new. Thus cats learn that they can get new and tasty treats by refusing heir usual food, and many will continue to do this. The problem is emotional rather than anything else. The cat is probably bored, and you have taught it to look for novelty and variety as a way of making life more exciting. If this is the case, try to go back to just feeding your cat one type of food, or maybe two, and not responding to his miaows, which are basically emotional blackmail. Most cats will eventually eat when you do this, when they really become hungry. Often cats do not need as much food as we think they do, and they are not actually hungry at mealtimes. If your cat has been given a clean bill of health by the vet, it is quite safe to do this. Although it must be said that cats are experts at winding their owners around their little paws and getting what they want, so you may find yourself struggling to feed your cat what he wants, regardless of what seems to be sensible.

Other Things You Can do to Persuade a Picky Eater to Eat

  1. Try warming up the food in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This makes it smell and taste better, and may tempt your picky cat to start eating.
  2. Stick to a definite feeding routine. It does not matter too much whether you feed your cat twice or three times a day, or have food down all the time, but stick to it. Cats like routine, and chopping and changing may be upsetting your cat.
  3. Some people say you should play with your cat before feeding times. Exercise stimulates hunger, or it should.
  4. Sprinkle tiny amounts of something really tasty, like roast chicken or tuna, on the cat's usual food. Strangely enough, some cats just love sardines in tomato sauce, so try this! Once he starts eating, he may be tempted to carry on.
  5. It sounds a little drastic, but one very experienced pet owner told me that his very picky cat started eating when he got another cat. She began to realise that this other cat was going to eat all her food if she left it, and suddenly her fussiness disappeared.

A Warning. One of these suggestions should work, as most cats will not starve themselves to death. But a small minority may actually do this. If your cat stops eating completely for more than 24 hours, you need to take him to the vet, even if he has previously been given a clean bill of health. Cats can develop a fatty liver syndrome, called hepatic lipidosis, if they actually starve themselves for too long. So if your cat really, really won't eat, you need to take this seriously.


Cats, like people, are all different. There are all sorts of reasons why cats become picky eaters, and sorting out the problem can be a bit of a trial for the owner. But if you persevere, these issues are rarely serious, and can usually be sorted out fairly quickly.

Newsletter icon
Get free tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.


Pets for StudWanted Pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge Hub


Support & Safety Portal
All Pets for Sale