Why has my cat gone off his food?


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If your cat has gone off his food, there may be an underlying medical issue, he could be a fussy eater, or the temperature could be wrong. Read more about why your cat might have gone off his food.

Has my cat gone off his food because he's ill?

It is difficult to give any specific advice about a cat going off his food without having examined him and seen his blood results.

Referral to see a feline specialist may be something to discuss with your vet. Further tests - such as additional blood and urine tests, blood pressure measurement, X-rays or an ultrasound scan - may be needed to investigate the cause of your cat's inappetence.

Inappetence is the most common presenting sign of any illness in cats, so it is impossible to say what is the cause is. With regard to diet, the most important thing to remember in any inappetent cat is that any balanced cat food is better than nothing, so we would always advise tempting them with their favourite foods and hand-feeding (as long as this includes some complete cat foods) rather than trying to stick to a specific diet.

Your vet may be able to advise you about which diets are usually more palatable for a fussy cat. There are also drugs available that can stimulate appetite. However, this will not be addressing the underlying cause of why he isn't eating, and so it is important to try and get to the bottom of this first. This is something that you should discuss further with your vet.

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Has my cat gone off his food because he's a fussy eater?

Is your cat a fussy eater? Here are some expert tips and tricks on dealing with the fussiest of felines.

Some cats are arch manipulators and use every trick in the book to persuade you to give them only the type of food they enjoy. If your cat is hungry enough, chances are he will eat his least favourite food! However, in normal circumstances, there are some issues you can look at.

Fussy Cat checklist:

  • Is the food the right temperature? Cold food just doesn't smell right for a cat. Room temperature or slightly warmer is better.
  • You can't reprimand a cat for refusing canned food that's been down for a few hours. If the surface of the food looks dried throw it away, scour the bowl, rinse thoroughly and try again.
  • If your cat licks just the jelly, but leaves the chunks, try mashing the whole lot together.
  • Offer just a small portion. Some cats are put off by a big bowl full.
  • It might be a good idea to try and raise the bowl off the floor, as some cats, such as older ones, with creaky joints, can't crouch in comfort.

Top fussy eater tips:

  • Mix the favourite food in with other food.
  • Be sparing with treats - otherwise you will have a spoilt cat who demands them all the time!
  • Introduce a kitten to a wide range of flavours and tastes.
  • Buy a mixture of flavours and swap them around so that your cat doesn't have a chance to get fixated on just one!

Has my cat gone off his food because it's the wrong temperature?

Temperature plays an important role in food selection. Most cats prefer food at temperatures around 35 degrees centigrade.

This preference may be partly explained by the increase in food odour that occurs as the food is warmed but there are theories that this is also linked to the temperature of freshly-killed prey. With temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade and above, the preference for the food drops dramatically.

The length of time you can leave canned cat food out depends on room temperature. In the summer, lacking air conditioning, food shouldn't be left out longer than 20 minutes, maximum. Likewise, in the winter, if the heater is on, or the food is in a warm kitchen, around 20 minutes should apply. The absolute maximum under optimum temperature, would be around 30 minutes.

Kittens should be given smaller meals more frequently and probably will finish their meal well before 15 minutes. It's better to give them only a tablespoon or two every three hours than to take a risk on spoiled food.

Canned food remaining in the can should be covered and refrigerated immediately after opening, and allowing the next serving to be warmed up. Zippered disposable bags can be used for storing uneaten food.

You can put servings of food in a clean microwavable dish, then cover with plastic wrap, and warm on a low setting for a short time. You don't want to heat the food, but warm it to room temperature so that the food is nicely palatable.