Written by Dr. Josie Gollan
Despite all their wonderful attributes, when it comes to mealtime, many of our feline friends can be a significant source of frustration, particularly when new foods are introduced. Cats are known for their fastidious behavior and this all to frequently extends to their diet. It is not uncommon for an owner to put down a delectable plate of fresh beef mince to ‘treat’ their kitty, only for them to sniff it and walk on by with complete indifference. If you have no idea what I’m talking about and your puss’ feeding habits more closely resemble that of a Labrador, well congratulations, you’ve won the jackpot! For the rest of you suffering the indignation of a fussy feline, below are some tips and tricks that might help you expand their gastronomic horizons.
In terms of getting cats to try new foods I always recommend my clients think about the Three Ts: Texture, Taste and Temperature.
Cats are largely textural animals so if you want them to try a new food, pick one that has a similar mouth feel to your kitty’s current diet. If for example you are trying to transition to Feline Natural, the canned variety would be a good choice for those that regularly eat wet food whereas the freeze-dried variety (where you can control the water added) would be a better choice for the dry food addicts that like the crunch. If you offer your puss a meal that is texturally similar to what they usually eat, they are far more likely to give it a go!
The taste of food may seem a ‘no brainer’ in terms of importance but you would be surprised how many owners just pick a new food with a new flavour and expect their cat to try it. If we go back to the notion that felines are fussy foodies then it makes sense to keep as many variables the same or similar when asking them to try something new. So, once you have the texture of the food right, pick a familiar and well liked flavour combination for your cat to further increase the chances of success.
The third T, ‘temperature’ is the one that always seems to get forgotten but can be a real game changer. Feeding your cat room temperature or warm food markedly increases the chances they will try a new meal. Food never smells or tastes as good when you take it straight from the fridge, so if we are trying to tempt our kitties to try something new, we should at least make sure it is as appetizing as possible.
If you’ve nailed the Three Ts but you are still having no luck then it is worth thinking about ‘how’ you are feeding your feline.
Cats feel vulnerable when they are eating so ensure you are feeding your cat in a quiet space where they feel safe. If they feel safe they are more likely to take their time and enquire about a new food you offer them. Also remember our fastidious friends don’t like to eat anywhere near their litter tray or have their food close to water. Some finicky felines also don’t like their whiskers touching the bowl so I often recommend feeding new foods on a flat plate. The idea is to try and make the whole experience as inviting as possible and who knows, with a few tweaks and a bit of luck you may just end up with one of those meowing Labradors!