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Answers from vets about your cat:

Why is My Cat a Picky Eater?

Posted December 04, 2015 in Cat Diet & Nutrition

Cat Not Eating

Way, way back in 1968, according to their website, 9Lives® introduced the world to a big, orange tabby cat named Morris® – “the world’s most finicky cat.” I don’t imagine that it was too difficult to ‘sell’ Morris as a character. Ask anyone who has ever had a cat (and probably most people who never have) if cats are picky eaters, and the answer will likely be an immediate and resounding, “Yes!”  

Everyone probably has their own personal experiences on this subject. In my own household, I have had cats that would not, under any circumstances, eat any canned food whatsoever, and other cats that just wouldn’t eat the beef flavor. One cat loved crackers and popcorn. Another adored raspberry popsicles. And one of my current cats comes running at the offer of fresh papaya in the morning.

How do cats choose what to eat?
Cats have the opportunity to pick up a lot of things from the ground with their mouths. Clearly, they must have some criteria in place in order to not swallow the wrong things. (At the very least, medications always seem to fall into the ‘spit it out’ category.) But how do they make these choices?

One study, posted on the National Center for Biotechnology’s website, observed a group of cats and their diet choices based on offerings of different combinations of foods with either a strong predominant taste or no dominant taste. The researcher concluded that cats definitely use their sense of smell to select a food. They found that given the choice between one food, with an attractive odor, and another without, the cats ate the former without even bothering to taste the latter choice. On the other hand, if offered only options without an attractive choice (based on smell), the cats tasted the foods in order to make a selection1.

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.