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Why is my cat refusing to eat?

(Q) My cat is a really fussy eater. Recently she has been refusing to eat her food and is sick whenever she eats it. Also, why does she hate chicken flavour food?

(A) Pet care specialist Libby Sheridan says: It's a good idea to get your cat checked by your vet to ensure that everything's OK.

Vomiting after eating can be due to many reasons, but hairballs are a common cause and worth thinking about. Your vet can advise you on treatment. Some kind of sensitivity to her food is also a possibility. If she seems particularly sick when on dry food, a switch to wet food is a good idea. Do this gradually over a period of seven days to allow time for her gut to adapt to the new food. Go for a good quality food, which will be very digestible. This means it will leave the stomach quicker and is less likely to hang around in case of vomiting.

There are several brands of prescription-type food available online and from your vet which are designed to help with sensitive stomachs. These generally contain easily digestible ingredients such as egg, chicken, rice etc, and many have just one source of protein and one source of carbohydrate. Many grocery brand foods have a mix of ingredients which may change from batch to batch (you will see something like meat derivatives on the label). Pets with a more sensitive tummy will do better on a fixed formula. These tend to be the premium diets and the ingredients will be listed. 

Your cat may associate chicken flavour food with her upset tummy if she was sick on it at some point. Food aversions are not uncommon, and are nature's way of helping the animal to avoid potentially toxic foodstuffs. 

Unfortunately, the same association can be made with perfectly good food if she happens to have been sick at the time of eating it.