How do I persuade my cat to eat their new food?

Cats are creatures of habit and routine, so it’s no surprise if you haven’t found a change of diet to be easy. All that cajoling, smiling sweetly and pretending to eat the food yourself while exclaiming  ‘Yummy!’ might just not be cutting the mustard. Don’t despair, read on for a few hints and tips.

Why won’t my cat just eat what they’re given?

It’s important to know that cats are really rather wild at heart. They have strong instincts similar to those that would see them thrive in the wild. One such instinct is to be very cautious about what they put in their stomachs, avoiding anything that they are suspicious might be poisonous.

From a very young age, the textures, shapes and smells of what they usually eat are imprinted in their minds and this is what they recognise as food. If they have always eaten wet food and you suddenly switch to dry, they might not even recognise this as edible. So while you may think they are being fussy eaters, actually, their inner lion is shining through. It is also important to know that a cat shouldn’t miss multiple meals.

Their metabolism is of a delicate disposition and starvation means that they can suffer a life threatening and tricky to treat illness called hepatic lipidosis. You are asking much of them, so help them through this tricky transition by persuading them all is safe and well in the feline culinary world.

Gradual change
Changing the diet of any pet is a process that should be carried out gradually. A sudden dietary change can cause stomach upset; but also, you’re likely to cause confusion and find your cat turning their nose up when suddenly faced with a full bowl of strange food. It doesn’t matter that you’ve opted for the best of the best, gourmet, organic, no expense spared deliciousness, they will seem disinterested, just because it’s different.

Try mixing just a small amount of the new, in with the old to get them started. Gradually increase the new and decrease the old over a period of two weeks until you’ve made a complete change, you might find that they get the hang of it that way.

Recognition by routine
Another method is to place an (initially small) bowl of the new food down at the usual feeding time. If uneaten, remove after half an hour and replace with a smaller meal of their usual fodder. Repeat at each usual meal time so that this new is diet brought into your cat’s consciousness as a food stuff by association. Often you will find that by day three, they happily tuck into the new food.

Consider why they’re being fussy
It’s worth taking a moment to think about anything physical that might be preventing them from enjoying their new delights. Have you suddenly noticed a buildup of tartar on their teeth and you’re moving them onto a dry, dental diet to try to combat this? Perhaps more damage has been done than you’ve realised and their gums are already sore. In which case  they will long for their non-abrasive soft food once again so that they may eat in comfort. If in any doubt, have them seen by us to treat their mouth, let their gums settle and then try again.

Perhaps their new diet simply isn’t to their taste. Is there a tastier option offering the same benefits? Many brands run a money back guarantee so consider looking into tastier alternatives. Don’t get stuck in the trap of encouraging fussy eating however; it is not advisable to try endless new diets. You will soon notice that you are no longer the trainer in this relationship but that you have become the trainee. They will cleverly train you to offer ever increasingly tasty foods!

A few hints from the professionals!
We vets and nurses have a range of tricks up our sleeves as we commonly find ourselves tempting inappetant feline patients to eat. We’re letting you into a few trade secrets with this list of suggestions below.

  • Warm wet food GENTLY to release the aroma – take care with microwaves which often heat food unevenly
  • Make dry food feel a little more like wet to start with. Using warm kettle water, soften dry kibble initially
  • Understand whether they’re a secret eater – some cats like to dine alone while others even like the comfort of being stroked whilst they tuck in
  • Let them play with their food. Ping a few bits of kibble across the floor and turn it into a game!
  • If all else fails, ask yourself why you’re making this change and whether you actually need to as we don’t recommend changing diets willy nilly. Are you making this change to care for their teeth with a dry dental diet? Could you brush their teeth instead? Is it because your local shop has stopped selling their food? Could you buy it online?

In many circumstances, a change in diet is necessary; for example because of an allergy or because they’re leaving kittenhood and entering adulthood.

If you’re really struggling, speak with us for more advice!