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If a dog is being fussy about its food then determination on your part will usually solve the problem as the dog will eat when it is hungry.
Cats, however, require a totally different approach. So how do you deal with a fussy cat?
Cats will often refuse food because the texture is not what they are used to, i.e. if they were only fed dry food as a kitten they may refuse any other types of food as an adult.
Cats don’t just go by the smell of the food, texture is very important too. Studies have shown that cats usually eat their prey head first and that this is dictated by the direction of the fur growing on the prey. They appear to dislike foods which are sticky or greasy and prefer their food at body temperature (like live prey!). If moist food is not used in one serving and then kept in the fridge it should be allowed to reach room temperature before being offered. Adding warm water to dry or moist food can encourage an anorexic cat to eat as it strengthens the smell.
The first few months of a cat’s life are when it learns what is safe to eat. This is why, if you have a young kitten, it is a good idea to introduce as many different textures of food as possible. However, you should be aware that chopping and changing the diet can result in digestive problems (most commonly loose or strong smelling stools). It is a much better idea to offer your kitten small pieces of meat or fish, about the size of your thumb nail, as a treat. This is also an ideal time to occasionally offer dry food soaked in a little warm water to break up the monotony of meal times.
But be warned … if you are not careful you can actually train your cat to be fussy. Constantly changing the actual brand of food teaches it to expect a new food every few days. They learn that if they eat the new food for a couple of days and then stop eating it you will inevitably offer something else!
As with dogs, one of the main reasons a cat becomes fussy is because it is being overfed. Inadvertently we can compare a cat’s portion size with our own and decide that they must need more. Remember, your cat’s stomach is much smaller than yours and it should only be offered what it needs – just like us, some cats like to eat what they want and not what they need.
It a cat is not hungry it may wait to see if the owner will bring something else to eat – especially if it knows that ‘something’ will be particularly tasty. With dogs, this problem is easily solved as a dog will give in and eat when they realise nothing else is going to be offered. A cat’s natural independence means that if you don’t provide what they want they will probably just find somebody else who will! The idea of playing the waiting game with a cat can raise concerns that if a cat does not eat for a day or two it may result in a condition called fatty liver disease. This is only an issue if the cat loses weight rapidly.
Another unintentional method of over-feeding is ‘free feeding’, which involves leaving the food down all day. This can encourage the cat to eat for the sake of it or through boredom rather than hunger. Set meals are better if your cat is fussy as when meal time comes round the cat won’t have spent all day picking at the food and will therefore be hungry.
If you are constantly offering more food than your cat needs it will feel full and start to refuse food at meal times. Try and offer enough so the cat consumes the whole amount in one go but would eat a little more if offered.
Some cats are just plain greedy! If you have a greedy cat it is better to weigh their daily allowance at the start of the day and split this into small frequent meals. That way the cat is receiving food regularly but you can control the amount. Feeding balls and other food toys can also make meal times last a little longer.
Peace and Cleanliness
You would not be impressed if you were expected to eat your meals in the bathroom or in the middle of a busy pavement, so don’t expect your cat to either.
Cats should always be fed in a quiet area well away from its litter tray or any strong smelling objects, i.e. air fresheners. The food and water bowls should be cleaned daily and placed apart so food can’t fall into the water.
Stress can adversely affect your cat’s appetite. If you have recently moved home, had a baby or brought another pet into the house, all of these factors may upset your cat and reduce his/her appetite. More sensitive souls can even be upset by something as simple as moving furniture around or decorating a room. In stressful situations most cats prefer foods they are familiar with and regularly eat. Cats are naturally very suspicious of anything new so they can appear fussy when they are actually scared or suspicious. The level of this behaviour is also strongly influenced by their experiences as a kitten.
Feeling the Heat
The appetites of many cats (and dogs) will reduce in hot weather. Quite simply, if they are moving around less then they may have a lower energy requirement. Simply reduce the amount of food you offer when it’s hot and the problem should not arise.
Senior Kitizens
As we get older our appetite and tastes change and the same can happen to older cats.
If an older cat suddenly goes off its food, they should be seen by a veterinary surgeon so they can be checked for an underlying condition. Even in younger cats, a tooth or gum problem (amongst other conditions) may stop your cat from eating so the faster it is dealt with the better.
Author Ref:   Burns Pet Foods

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