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Fussy cat - when your cat stops eating her favourite food.

Yesterday I liked it
Today I donít
New favourite tomorrow

Everyone who has lived with a cat knows that they can be capricious creatures. Something that suited them just fine yesterday positively offends them today. Nowhere does this on-off attitude show itself more often and more exasperatingly than with food. Though sheíll still happily eat pot plants and spiders, all of a sudden your cat is turning up her nose at her previously favourite food and leaving it abandoned in the bowl. Why is this?

Clearly our feline friends can be quite fastidious when it comes to mealtimes. So if your catís favourite food suddenly becomes an outrageous imposition, itís worth investigating further. For a start, is your cat getting too much of a good thing? You might like fish and chips, but if you get that for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a month, suddenly a sausage roll will start to look pretty good. Cats are conservative creatures who tend to object to change on principle, but just to be awkward, they donít like monotony either. And thatís also true of their diet.

So it is a good idea to mix-and-match with the cat food. And that goes for texture as well as for ingredients. For example, your cat may love liver pate and happily chow down on it day after day - then suddenly she wonít touch the stuff. Before you rush her to the vet, remember itís not unusual for a cat to suddenly refuse to eat the food which only the day before it was attacking even before youíd properly put it in the bowl. If the cat appears to be healthy, try another type of food - tuna chunks for example. It may be that changing the type and texture of the food was all that was required. Keep liver pate off the menu for a week or two and next time you serve it to her majesty it might be flavour of the month again.

But cats donít just get bored with their food. There are a number of reasons why a particular dish may suddenly get the cold shoulder. For example, the cat may have been chewing through your sock drawer just before dinner. Just after the cat has reported for her regular mealtime and eaten her favourite food, the toe of the sock you used in your athletics class comes back to give her a powerful wave of nausea. The cat associates the feeling of illness with the perfectly innocent cat food she has just eaten and will not touch it again at any price. This is a natural reaction which cats share with a number of wild animals. Itís a type of learning process, which keeps cats from repeatedly eating harmful substances, and one which might eventually save the rest of your socks, but in the meantime her formerly favourite food is collateral damage.

Also, despite the fact that garden rodents, earthworms and other totally unsuitable items seem to feature on your catís menu, cats are nevertheless remarkably fussy eaters. Cats have a very acute sense of smell and they can very quickly detect food which is going off, even though it seems fine to our very much blunter human senses. If a cat gets a whiff of unsavoury bacteria there is no way that she will touch the food, any more than you would eat a meal with mould growing on it. Furthermore, any fresh food of the same type will be regarded with deep suspicion next time it is offered. So if you think the food might have been off, try offering fresh food of a different type, while quietly muttering to yourself about the story of the Princess and the Pea.

And another thing, cats donít like being watched when they eat. Theyíve got their faces down in a dish, and theyíre vulnerable. Also if this is their favourite food, theyíll assume other creatures must want it too. So someone watching them eat makes them deeply uneasy. Are they going to have to fight for their dinner, and if so, is it worth it? This is particularly true if a stranger such as a guest is watching the cat eat. If the cat was the strangerís size and that stranger was eating food the cat wanted, then kitty would take it. So kitty canít be blamed for assuming the stranger is about to do the same to her.

If you have guests, make sure that they donít disturb the cat during her meal time. If the cat is not eating during the day, it might be thereís too much human traffic around her food bowl. Make sure you leave some food for the night so she can eat undisturbed when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep.

One rule to remember when the cat is off a particular food, it is not a good idea to force the issue. Sometimes it has to be done, for example if the cat is on a special diet for health reasons. If so expect some trying times. If it comes to a battle of wills you might be surprised to find how far your cat will go (including right down the block to see if the neighbours have anything better to offer). A cat which refuses to eat a particular food might stay off that food for a long time even if that means going without food altogether. Since not eating causes the catís appetite to decline further and can soon cause physiological damage, the best approach is surrender and change the food. See if she starts eating again. If despite a change of food the cat still doesnít eat anything for more than a day or so, it is a good idea to discuss this with your vet.


The information supplied here is intended as a guideline only.

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