Food is regularly described as an expression of love, and we all know the way to someone’s heart is often through their stomach! However, having a picky eater in your house, human or four-legged, can make what should be an enjoyable moment of mealtime bonding, incredibly stressful and unpleasant. It is not uncommon for owners to lament the fussiness of their cat or dog when I discuss their diet in the clinic. Not only do they worry their pet is not getting adequate nutrition, but they also begrudge the numerous packets of unused pet food sitting idly in their cupboards. This stress can often be compounded when it is a case of a pet needing to eat a specifically prescribed diet to help manage a medical condition. So, what can you do if you have a fussy eater? While there is no perfect food out there, here are a few tips and tricks to help please your pet’s palate.
First and foremost, it is important to establish a consistent feeding routine with your pet.
Many owners fall into the trap of leaving food out all day in the hope their pet will nibble away when they are hungry. Unfortunately, this commonly has the opposite effect. Instead, it is better to establish regular mealtimes for your pet. This helps create a sense of routine and consistency and your cat or dog may also be more inclined to try something new. If you are guilty of offering the all-day buffet, the best way to transition to a more structured approach is to leave your pet’s meal down for 15-30 minutes and if they don’t eat it remove it. Then, do the same again at dinner time. Pretty quickly they learn to eat their meal when it is put down and with any luck, they may even turn into one of those cats or dogs that can tell the time and starts pestering you for dinner as soon as the clock hits five!
The next thing you need to consider with a picky eater is the texture of their food, particularly for cats.
Some may prefer a wet food with chunks whilst others may like a smoother consistency. Alternatively, something drier and crunchy might be your feline’s choice or they may like a combination of textures. Trialling a few different textural options, such as Feline Natural’s Feast range which comes in Freeze Dried, Cans or Pouches, might help you to identify what textural sensation your cat likes best. Remembering of course if your cat prefers to eat a drier diet to ensure they have plenty of fresh water available.
Adding a tasty ‘topping’ can also help to entice picky eaters.
Think of it like putting tomato sauce on your food except, if you pick the right one, it can actually add a nutritional boost to your pet’s diet. The K9 Natural Topper range is the perfect example of this, and it is specifically designed for this purpose. In addition, I often recommend the K9 Natural and Feline Natural Green Tripe Boosters to get fussy eaters interested in their food, or for those who need to be tempted to eat a medically specific diet. This freeze-dried ruminant stomach may smell undesirable to us, but it is irresistible to your cat or dog, and it is loaded with natural goodness packing a nutritional punch.
Rotating the protein source of your pet’s meal can help to maintain food interest, particularly in fussy eaters.
Imagine being served the same meal every day, surely even the most delicious feast would become boring over time. Of course, we need to be careful not to upset your pet’s stomach so when trying a new protein source for the first time do it in small amounts. The Feline Natural Variety Box Pouches are a great way to mix up your cat’s mealtime. For our canine friends, rotating through the different flavours of the K9 Natural Feast range can help to keep their mealtime interest piqued.
A couple of other helpful tips and tricks for picky pets is to make sure their meals are warm or at least at room temperature. This helps to increase the aromas of the food which has been shown to improve the palatability. In addition, some pets do well with food puzzles or toys that dispense treats. This not only engages them mentally but also makes them work for their food, turning it into a rewarding experience.
Hopefully, this handful of tips and tricks can help turn those fussy eaters into food lovers and make mealtimes a joy!
Written by Dr. Josie Gollan