Why Do Cats Seem More Finicky Than Dogs When it Comes to Food?

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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Pam Johnson-Bennett is a certified cat behavior consultant, best-selling author of 10 books and host of Animal Planet UK’s Psycho Kitty. With the release of her latest book, CatWise, she is currently on the national CatWise Cat Cafe Tour presented by Wellness.

Cartoons and social media memes often portray the finicky feline image. It’s common to see the picture of a cat turning his nose up at the vast array of food his loving cat parent has set out for him in a desperate attempt to please the picky kitty. You don’t see those images of dogs very much at all though. Fido comes running at record speed, leaping over furniture to get to his bowl of food, no matter what kind is being served. So, are some cats really finicky? If so, what contributes to the behavior? Here are some reasons why it may happen and what you can do to help prevent the behavior.

Cats are Creatures of Habit

Finicky eating may happen as a result of a sudden change in meals. Cats take comfort in familiarity and that applies to just about everything in their life – territory, the litter box, where they sleep, and yes, their food. When a cat goes to his food bowl he expects the meal to smell and taste the same as previous meals. Even the texture of the food is important. If you make a drastic change, especially going from one particular texture to an entirely different one, it can be enough of a curveball to cause a cat to reject the food. Changes should be done gradually by adding a little of the new food into the current one so your cat has time to adjust.

I’ve seen cat parents buy so many brands of food and then open a new kind every day in the hope that kitty will like the latest and greatest flavor. What usually happens though is that the cat gets stressed and confused by all the drastic and abrupt change.

Cats are Hunters and not Scavengers

A cat uses his nose to detect the temperature of food to determine whether it’s fresh. His nose is an important tool in pre-tasting a potential meal. For a cat who must rely on his hunting skills for food, this is an important safety feature to help ensure that he doesn’t accidentally ingest spoiled food. Your cat uses that same safety feature even though his meal is conveniently served to him. If food is left out too long, however, a cat will often reject it because it no longer smells or tastes fresh. This can be the case if you place wet food down for your cat to nibble on at his convenience. He may not come to the feeding station right away and by the time he does make his way there, the food may be too dry or hard. This mistake can even be made with dry food if a mound of it is left in the bowl for so long or if you just top it off without ever emptying uneaten food. If it has been sitting too long, it goes stale.

Don’t serve cold food straight from the refrigerator. The temperature is uncomfortable for the cat’s stomach and it also won’t release enticing aromas. Cold food is a common contributor to finicky eating, as is heating food in the microwave to an unsafe temperature.

Bribery, Begging and Bad Choices

Finicky eating may also develop if you’ve fed your cat from the dining table. Why should kitty eat his own food when he can get his fill of rich, spicy food off your plate? Feeding your cat from the table means he won’t have enough of an appetite for his own food. In addition to finicky eating, this type of behavior also means the cat won’t be getting the appropriate nutrients and may even be getting foods that are harmful to him.

Some cat parents try to entice their cats back to the food bowl by mixing in bits of tasty food from the table. What often happens is that the cat starts eating around his food instead.

Stressful Mealtime

In nature, a hunter makes sure he’s in a safe location before he begins to eat. That precaution is necessary for survival and even the most pampered indoor cat has that instinct as well. Mealtime should be a time of security, calm and safety. If the feeding station is located in a chaotic area of the house, the cat may not feel comfortable to sit and finish his meal or maybe he’ll develop the habit of just nibbling now and then when the coast appears to be clear.

Stress can also be related to the type of food bowl you use. A bowl that’s too narrow may cause discomfort to his sensitive whiskers if they get bent or squished. The cat may develop the habit of paw-dipping to get food.

If you have a multicat household, it’s very important to ensure the feeding station for each cat provides safety and peace. If there’s tension between the cats or if one cat intimidates at the food bowl, it can create a situation where a more timid cat may become a finicky eater.

Cats have a social structure but they’re not social eaters the way people are. We love to gather around the table and socialize as we dine, but for cats, the security of the resource is more important. To help encourage healthy appetites and stress-free dining, make sure each cat has their own food bowl and don’t place them close together. In some cases, you may even need to have multiple feeding stations in various locations in the home or feed on different levels. For example, if an older cat has started to reject his food because he prefers the taste of his new companion’s kitten formula food then you must make sure to either supervise during mealtime or feed the cats separately. If the older cat is not as mobile, you might be able to feed the kitten in an elevated location.

The key is to evaluate your specific set-up, pay attention to the dynamics between your cats and make adjustments to create a more peaceful mealtime.

Feeding Station Maintenance

Dirty food or water bowls can contribute to finicky eating. Remember, cats rely on their noses to determine if food is safe. Even fresh food won’t taste fresh if it’s placed in a dirty bowl or if it’s sitting next to the water bowl that has bits of old food floating in it. Wash the food bowl after every meal and clean up any food spills. Wash the water bowl every day and replenish it with fresh water.

Negative Associations

For some people, the thought of medicating the cat brings images of engaging in feline wrestling while trying to avoid becoming the target of a sharp claw or tooth. To make it easier, the cat parent may try to disguise the medication in the food. Sadly, this practice often backfires because the cat’s incredibly sensitive nose is often able to detect the food manipulation before the first bite. If the cat does start to eat, the medicine may ruin the taste of the food enough to cause future rejection. Some pills, for example, are very bitter and meant to be swallowed intact so the protective coating can remain until the medicine reaches the cat’s stomach. It’s very sad to see a cat no longer want to eat the food he has always loved because of this unpleasant association.

If you have to medicate your cat and are unable to do it, talk to your veterinarian about other options. Your veterinarian or veterinary technician can show you several techniques for administering medicine. There are also soft treats available that are manufactured specifically to hide pills. Some medications can be compounded into transdermal forms or can be flavored with tastes that are cat-appealing. Don’t resort to hiding medication in food.

The Benefits of Probiotics for Your pet

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Do you know how important your pet’s digestive health is to their overall well-being? A healthy gut prevents disease, improves digestion, aids in better nutrient absorption and boosts the immune system. So, in other words, digestive health is extremely important and that’s where probiotics come into play. What are probiotics? Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our pets’ intestines and without the right balance of that good bacteria, your pet can experience major health issues. Let’s talk about the benefits of probiotics for your pet and how you can help to maintain that balance.

Happy Healthy Dog

Benefits of Probiotics
So, what are the actual benefits of giving your pet food with a healthy amount of probiotics, or even adding probiotic supplements to their food?

Promote a Healthy Digestive System

Overall, a diet that is rich in probiotics will help your pet to achieve digestive balance and promote a healthy gut.

Slow and/or Eliminate Diarrhea

If your pet doesn’t already have a diet with added probiotics and they start to suffer from diarrhea, a probiotic supplement can help to treat the diarrhea. Once you start feeding your pet a probiotic-rich diet, such as Wellness TruFood, they will be less likely to suffer from digestive problems such as diarrhea.

Ease Gastrointestinal Ailments
Does your pet suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or any condition similar to it? Probiotics can help to soothe most gastrointestinal ailments that your pet may be suffering from.

Healthy Dog

Do All Pets Need a Probiotic?
Because the digestive system is so closely connected to a pet’s immune system and overall health, all pets should have some form of a probiotic as part of their diet.

Probiotic Diet vs. Probiotic Supplement

While both forms of probiotics can be beneficial to your pet, feeding your pet a probiotic diet is the most proactive way to improve their health. Generally speaking, most pet foods that include a proper amount of probiotics are also among the healthier choices of pet foods. These foods will generally have more natural ingredients and are overall better choices for your pet.

Are you ready to start feeding your pet a diet that is rich in probiotics? Any chance to improve your pet’s overall health and potentially add years to their life is a chance that’s worth taking.

Understanding Food Labels

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For a pet parent, reading the food label on your cat’s dry or wet food packaging, and, understanding the written content at a glance, offers peace of mind in knowing that your cat is getting a balanced and highly nutritional diet to support her overall health and well-being.

The goal of all Wellness labels is to make the information takeaway as easy as possible to find on the packaging.

Cats are carnivores (meat eaters). That means they require two to three times the amount of protein that humans do. Consequently, diets offering high meat, poultry or fish proteins, along with moderate amounts of fat and minimal carbohydrates boosted with vitamins and minerals are best to meet a cat’s nutritional needs.

LABEL BASICS
Like human foods, all pet food brands are regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and must be truthfully labeled. Also they are governed by labeling regulations recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that set the basic ingredients guidelines that by law must be acknowledged on every label.

Also, every label has to include the product name, net weight, statement of purpose or intent, ingredient list, guaranteed analysis, feeding directions, nutritional adequacy statement, and a statement of responsibility.

The product name: The product name explains what kind of what food it is, highlighting the key ingredient/s, and the words used in the name must conform to AAFCO regulations. For example, a product cannot be named “chicken” unless 95 percent of its weight is chicken, not including moisture content. If a product contains two key ingredients, such as chicken and fish, then the product has to contain more of whichever one is named first, but together they must add up to 95 percent.

The statement of responsibility: This statement lists the name of the company responsible for making the product, as well as the address and, where possible, a toll-free phone number so that customers can quickly and easily obtain product information. In addition to stating that the product is guaranteed, the company should indicate what action would be taken to meet customer expectations, such as replacing the product or giving a money-back guarantee.

All Wellness cat recipes whether they are in bags, cans or pouches all have a 100 per cent Catisfaction Guarantee, whereby any unused product in its original packaging, along with the purchase receipt can be returned to the store where it was bought for a full, no-questions-asked refund.

The net weight: This has to state exactly what the food in the container weighs.

The statement of purpose or intent: The packaging must state that the food is specifically for cats. This is to draw the consumer’s attention to the fact that cats have specific nutritional needs. Most Wellness packaging has an image of a cat too.

The AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement means that the manufacturer has to detail for which specific lifestyle and age of cat the food is intended.

All Wellness Natural Pet Food recipes include all this relevant information and meet these AAFCO basic guidelines. However, because they are just guidelines, pet foods can differ in terms of the quality and the ingredients in their recipes. And the Wellness feline formulas offer cats balanced nutritional meals that go beyond these basic requirements.

The purpose of all the latest packaging is to highlight on both the front and the back of dry food bags (and of course of canned labels) all the key ingredients and to explain the role that the proteins, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the right amount of vitamins and minerals play in a cat’s overall diet to thrive. This demystifies the list of ingredients and eliminates the guesswork is trying to ascertain what is right for your cat.

HIGHLIGHTING THE INGREDIENTS THAT GO INTO A WELLNESS RECIPE
The first three ingredients listed on the packaging label are the biggest clues as to what each individual recipe contains because they are considered the main ingredients. For example, the Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal and Rice recipe, the first three ingredients are actually included in the name of the recipe.

(to be safe, I would remove this paragraph as we don’t want to confuse consumers to think they are by-products, which we do not use)
In an effort to inform pet parents about the individual recipes, the Wellness products also highlight the various other ingredients that are included, spelling out why they are recipes essentials for overall feline health.

For example, the Complete Deboned Chicken, Meal and Rice details the nutritional requirements essential to excellent feline health as follows:
• Essential vitamins and minerals such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids support a healthy skin and coat.
• Prebiotics and probiotics along with a chicory root extract and fiber are in the recipe to aid healthy digestion.
• The levels of Calcium, phosphorous and vitamin A support healthy eyes, teeth and gums.
• While vitamins such as vitamin E and vitamin A are included to promote a healthy immune system.

The way these nutritional facts are presented makes it very easy to cross-reference them on the ingredients list.

It’s equally important for a pet parent to be aware of what is not included in the recipe your cat loves such as meat by-products, wheat, corn or soy, artificial preservatives, colorants and flavors. It is these exclusions that make an all-natural recipe different from non-natural pet foods.

When it comes to small cans and pouches, although the ingredients are listed, space precludes detailing the benefits of the ingredients. So it’s a really good idea to do your homework on the website before shopping. Of course you can always reference information on the dry food packets as this relevant ingredient information crosses over to wet food recipes as well.