Is my cat bored with it’s food?Sep 03, 2023
Should I switch my cats diet because it’s bored with it’s food?
The wonderful owners of my British Shorthair cats and kittens often ask me if they should switch to a different diet because their pet is bored with their food. I also hear “my cat is a fussy eater” on different chat groups I am in.
I know everyone loves their British Shorthair cats and want the very best for them but when it comes to food cats don’t really get bored. To be honest they are not born fussy either. Their behaviour to food can change over time though. Let me explain.
What do we know about cats and flavour?
Let’s begin with a little science lesson. When it comes to food cats are not driven as much by taste as you may think. They only have less than five hundred tastebuds. In comparison people have around nine thousand.
As owners who love our cats, we can tend to impose people thinking on them in regards to taste and flavour. To them it’s not such a big deal. They definitely enjoy food that is palatable i.e., taste good but they don’t really need to have fish flavour tonight and chicken flavour tomorrow to be happy.
“My cats have been fed for the last fifteen years with a brand of food that doesn’t have specific flavours. No chicken or beef flavour and everyone still eats well.”
Cats do taste their food but the sensory experience they get is not the same as people. Interestingly cats can’t taste sweet things. They may like to lick your ice-cream bowl or the icing on a cupcake but they are probably more attracted to the fat than anything else.
Flavour vs Feel
If flavour isn’t a huge motivator for cats when it comes to eating what is?
Well as the owner of a lot of cats, one of the things I notice is that cats will enjoy a food based on how it makes them feel more so than how it tastes. When they are digesting it easily, it is giving them energy and its not causing any bloating or tummy troubles they will happily eat the same thing all the time.
A Good food choice for cats that are motivated by different sensations when eating is the Royal Canin Sensory range.
A cat’s well-being is enhanced when their diet provides sensorial variation. ROYAL CANIN® SENSORY™ stimulates cats’ senses and enhances their feeding experience.
Feeding for Health
My cats all have very different life stages. From pregnant girls, little kittens, active breeding males, retired pet cats and even seniors & cats with health concerns. If I fed them all based on making sure it was yummy or had a lot of variety, I would not be focusing on what’s super important to me, their health. It always comes first.
“I often tell my new kitten owners to feed your cat like you feed your kids. I don’t mean people food though. What I want them to think about is that when your kids won’t eat a good healthy dinner we don’t say “that’s okay darling, here have some ice-cream instead”. Likewise, we don’t rush off to McDonalds to get them something different that isn’t as healthy but tastes better.”
My cats all have a diet chosen for them by me based on their life stage and nutritional needs. I feed Royal Canin as it has a big range of diets for all sorts of health requirements. From my breeding girls and their kittens through to my elderly pet cats there is a food for their needs. There is a diet for my boy who has a sensitive tummy and a low-calorie diet for my fatties. Something for everyone including food specifically for British Shorthair Cats.
I see choosing diets in this way, rather than by taste, as an investment in my cats health. When you are showing and breeding, this can have a big payoff. It’s the same for my desexed pet cats. I want them to all live as long as possible.
Feeding them a diet that puts their health first can help me keep to do that. Long, healthy and happy lives. That’s the goal.
So why is my cat off their food and what should I do about it?
Keep it Fresh
How do you store your cat’s food?
Cats have a very keen sense of smell. If the food seems stale or off they won’t eat it and it will get wasted. This can look like a cat that is bored or fussy. The reality can be that the cat is happy with the food but not with the way it is being stored.
It goes without saying that you need to seal up the bag but how well are you actually doing that? Is the ziplock a little bit open? Is it in a cute container that looks good but has a bit of a loose lid? Do you fold it over and put a clip on it? The enemy of freshness is air so switch to an airtight container with a really good seal.
Smell is Everything
Dry cat food has a lot of oils. Remember what I just said about air? It makes food go stale and it also makes those oils oxidise. They go rancid and they smell bad.
Cats will smell it before you do so again, they seem bored or fussy but they just don’t like the rancid smell. It’s best to wash the storage container often as adding fresh food to a stale container will make the fresh food seem stale to your cat.
Buying the best quality food is important so make the most of it by storing it correctly. You can read more in my article here
Time for a Reset
Let’s have a think about how cats would eat in the wild.
Cats are carnivores. Yes, people have domesticated them into lovely pet kitty cats and they are no longer the wild cats that may have lived in Egypt long ago. The thing is though, their guts are still very similar.
What does this mean? Well, they have digestive systems designed to hunt, eat and then rest before getting hungry and going out to hunt again. Our beautiful pet cats are spoilt and have food supplied for them so they don’t have the same feeding patterns. Their digestion doesn’t get that rest period.
What I have found when my cats do slow down eating or don’t finish all of their wet food is a reset is in order. Once a week I give them all just kibble, no wet food. This also helps to give their digestion a break and I find they have better appetites if I do this.
Of course I would follow my vets recommendation for feeding if any of my cats were unwell. For example our poor Henry who had Lymphoma got his wet meal every night while he was with us even if the other cats were just getting kibble. If your cat is healthy the once a week reset is something you can try to keep their appetite up.
They’re Just Not Hungry
Ask yourself, are you feeding them too much or too often?
When a cat food says feed a quarter of a cup how many of us just guess? Or do you just feed how much feels right and generous not even looking at the pack? You may be feeding your cat too much and they just don’t want to eat it.
Yes, changing brands at this stage will mean a new, fresh out of the bag food. Every cat loves that feeling and you may feel oh good they like this one. The thing is that if you are feeding too much food it will happen over and over and you will think you have a fussy cat who constantly needs a new food to try. Experiment with feeding less.
But they get so excited for dinner time, surely they are hungry?
Well not always. Excitement over food can be because a cat is hungry but it can also be for other reason. Some cats I have bred will take your leg off to get to their dinner meal then scoff it down all while a half full bowl of kibble sits next to them. They are not starving. They like the wet food. Its like dessert for them.
What about cats that act super excited but then don’t eat their food? They seem to really want dinner but walk away when it is served? Well, lets look at how it was served. Did you get them all excited? Did you talk to them and give them attention and generate a whole big deal about that bowl of food?
Maybe your cat actually isn’t hungry. Maybe it just loves the excitement and fun of dinner time. Maybe they love making you go to all that effort for nothing because, you know, their cats!
To deal with this issue take yourself out of the feeding. Get an auto feeder that opens at a set time or just quietly feed them without a lot of fuss. Reduce the quantity of kibble they have and see if that changes things. If the kibble is the food they seem to be sick of feed a bit less wet food. Make the fun and exciting time for them a play time with a toy on a stick instead of when you are delivering them a bowl of food.
Most cats are self-regulating. They will eat what they need and what they need may be less than you are feeding.
Other things that can affect a cat’s appetite
My cats drop their coats twice a year and being British Shorthairs that is a dense coat with a tonne of fur to come out. At this time of year they tend to go off their food. They are not bored. They still like it. They just have hairballs from grooming and that makes them feel off.
I will often temporarily switch to Royal Canin Hairball wet and dry food during this time to help get their digestion moving. They will happily go back to their regular diet after they have had a change of coat.
This is a big deal. Not eating and loss of appetite can be a sign of illness. Before rushing off to buy another type of food a vet check may be in order. If your cat stops eating entirely an urgent vet visit is needed. They must have food, even a little bit or they can get very sick very quickly.
It may be hard to notice but one cat may be intimidating another into not eating. They may then eat that cats food but not always. If you have two or more cats look at whether the one eating looks at the other one. If you suspect they may be scaring them away from the food move to feeding them in separate areas or rooms.
Cats are just cats and we love them for it
I hope you got some tips and ideas from this article. Really it comes down to cats being cats. They are a real enigma. I often wish we could talk to them and ask them what’s really going on. As I have described its often not what we think!
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