If your cat is fussy, a little sick, or elderly, or if you need to change food, you may have noticed how much your cat is not changing.
Helping your cat like a new food, switch to a special diet, or maybe even eat something when she’s under the weather or can’t smell something can be a challenge. Here are some tips and tricks to encourage your cat to eat.
Please Note: If your cat is not eating, the most important thing to do is to see your veterinarian to find out why your cat is not eating. This article is not a substitute for your veterinarian’s advice.
Why change the diet?
There are many reasons you might need to change your cat’s diet. For example, you may have a cat with kidney problems, food intolerances, or allergies, your cat may be overweight, or your cat may need better diet for dental care. Whatever the reason, it can be a little traumatic for everyone involved. Cats don’t like things to change. For the most part, they like to eat the same thing every day and are very adamant about change.
Make the change gradually
Unless recommended by your veterinarian, all dietary changes should be made gradually over a minimum of 7 days. Your pet has enzymes and bacteria that have adapted to digest this old food. A sudden change in diet can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting. During the first 3 days, 25% of the total food should be the new food. For days 4 through 5, 50% of the food should be the new food, and for days 6 through 7, 75% of the food should be the new food.
Take advantage of smell
Cats are very sensitive to smells. They often refuse to eat a new food until it is warmed to body temperature. They instinctively like to eat things that are “freshly killed” and warm. Try microwaving the food until it is a little warm. Just watch out for the hot spot in the middle and never feed it boiled bones.
Switching from dry to wet food
If you have a cat with urinary problems or diabetes, your cat may find it best to eat high-protein wet food. Many cats love dry cookies, so switching to wet food can lead to a hunger strike. Using the step-by-step transition above, just mix your cat’s biscuits with just a small amount of wet food.
You can also just add some warm water to the biscuits and let them sit for 5 minutes to soften them a little so that they get used to a new texture but have the same taste. Just don’t skip food for more than 4 hours and avoid this as a long-term solution. Dry foods tend to mold and add moisture compounds.
Dry foods are often sprayed with flavor enhancers that make them absolutely delicious. However, this does not mean that they are healthy. If you have a very stubborn cat, use a mortar and pestle to grind the cookies to a powder, then sprinkle them on the new food.
Imagine meat and bones
If your vet recommended a whole raw rabbit or raw chicken necks or wings for dental health, your cat may want nothing to do with this new and unfamiliar food. Sometimes it takes a little underhandedness. Invest in a meat grinder or good bone scissors (for cutting chicken carcasses).
First, chop these bones into very small pieces, then mix them in with your cat’s regular food. Gradually increase the size of the pieces of bone over time until your cat is on board with the switch.
With broths, sauces and food mixes
Many cats love a little broth and flavor added to their food. Please check with your veterinarian to see if this is appropriate for your cat’s situation. For example, you can use onion-free, reduced-salt broth and mix it with the new food. To make your own tuna broth, add 3 cups of water to a small can of tuna, mash it, and freeze it in ice cube trays.
This works particularly well in cats with kidney disease to encourage them to follow a kidney diet. Even if your cat eats a small amount of other food, there will be some benefit at least if the majority is the kidney food. Cottage cheese, BBQ chicken, regular canned food, or even a few cookies can be just enough to encourage your pet to eat.
Many cats will eat when they are petted or hand-fed. This might be just enough to get them working. Give it a try and see if a nice long, slow blow from head to tail will help your pet eat. If your cat is leaning on your pat, chances are she’ll be enjoying it. So go ahead.
Encouraging your cat to play can increase their appetite. So take out the laser pointer or fishing line toy and encourage your pet to pounce. If your cat is walking on a harness, you can even go outdoors for some fresh air. You may also find that your cat is more willing to experiment when you withdraw food and then encourage activity.
If all else fails, ask your veterinarian about syringe feeding. There are special foods that are easy to liquefy, like Hills A / D, and in some cases your vet may recommend human meat-based baby foods for short-term use. Your vet can also place a feeding tube when your cat is not eating.
What if my cat really doesn’t eat?
Cats really need to eat regularly. If they go on hunger strike, they are at risk of developing a condition called liver lipidosis, which makes them very sick. If your cat regularly eats less than 50% of its normal ration or goes without food for more than 24 hours, contact your veterinarian.
While many cats take months to transition from dry to wet food, a gradual approach will eventually work for even the most reluctant cat. Just be persistent and try the tricks listed above. If all else fails and you need to make a transition quickly, ask your veterinarian about appetite stimulants to encourage eating.