Michigan Humane Society

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Ask the Veterinarian: Picky Eaters

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Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Mondays to see common veterinary questions answered. If you have an immediate medical concern with your pet, please call your veterinarian! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

“My rescue cat is a very picky eater. I have tried several types of dry and wet food and he doesn’t seem to really like anything. I am worried he is not getting the proper nutrition because he is barely eating anything. He walks up to the food; sniffs and walks away. When he smells people food he tries to get at it so that tells me something about his history. I would rather not give that to him. He is fully vetted and (very healthy.) At the shelter he was fed whatever was on hand so I am at a loss and frustrated here. I have owned and fostered cats before and never seen such a picky boy. Thanks for any suggestions.”

Cats can be fussy when it comes to their diet, but it is important to make sure a medical problem isn’t to blame. A physical exam, blood work, and other diagnostics such as an abdominal ultrasound may be needed to detect underlying disease that may be causing nausea or other issues affecting your cat’s appetite. Once a medical issue is ruled-out, there are a few things you can do to provide your cat with proper nutrition.

Some cats associate the smell of certain foods with a previous stay in the hospital or with another stressful event. Make sure your cat has a quiet place to eat with no interruptions from people and other pets. Offer fresh food. Canned food that has been refrigerated may need to be warmed. Adding some warm water or tuna juice to the food may help. If your cat prefers people food, try chopping up some boiled boneless chicken breast or ground turkey and add in small amounts of cat food. If your cat accepts this, very gradually increase the amount of cat food over several weeks.

If your cat still refuses to eat cat food and medical issues have been ruled-out, check with your veterinarian about a homemade diet. A consultation with a veterinary nutritionist may be needed. A diet can be formulated to make sure your cat receives the proper nutrients and calories.

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