How long do I allow my cat to refuse food?

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If your cat has been put on an exclusion diet, but is refusing their food - Aga Zoltowska may be able to help...

Q) I have a six-year-old male cat who for the last three years or so has been constantly scratching and biting himself. Blood tests showed he was allergic to numerous things including chicken, fleas, cockroaches, and a number of weeds and trees. To cut a long story short, he has now been to see a specialist who has put him on an allergenic food. However, I am struggling to get him to eat it.

My own vet said to me if he refuses it, take it away and try later, and that he will come round eventually when he gets hungry. I’ve been told to stick with it because obviously it’s a trial for about six weeks, then we go back to see the specialist. I suppose my question is how long do I let him go on refusing this food? I’m obviously worried that he will become ill through not eating.

Your Cat reader

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AGA SAYS:

A) Having to have my own cat on an exclusion diet, I fully sympathise with your struggle! It definitely sounds like you had pretty thorough investigations done and now it is the ‘easy’ part of looking at food sensitivities. Not an easy task with cats! My advice would be to speak to the specialist and ask her for a list of different diets that can be used.

If your cat doesn’t like the diet suggested, it may be better to try a different diet with similar properties. I would also start introducing the diet very slowly. Some cats are very particular with what they eat and may refuse unfamiliar diets. Ultimately, we want the cat on a diet for six weeks, though it may take a few weeks before we can start feeding the cat 100 per cent the chosen diet. It may be worth slowly adding the diet and changing the proportions.

In my experience, lifting the bowl up and offering it again later, is not as successful with cats. I found my cat not eating the diet very frustrating and I was continuously giving in! My preferred option here would be introducing the novel diet slowly and discussing other brands with the specialist.