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How to Feed a Finicky Eater

Q: Dear Nora,
I feed my cat a combination of wet and dry food. Even though she only eats a portion of the can of wet food, I have to toss the leftovers because she won’t go anywhere near it the next day. Any ideas on how I can keep her food fresh so I can trick her into eating it? 

iamthegreatwent @ Instagram
iamthegreatwent @ Instagram

A: We smell things much more strongly than humans, and I’ve been known, too, to stick my nose up at something that wasn’t as fresh as I’d like. How are you treating the leftovers? I recommend a lid that is specially made to fit over the top of cat food cans to seal it up tight. Also make sure that your fridge is cool enough.

The problem, though, may not be about freshness at all. Many cats don’t like food that is too cold. When we’re eating, we like to pretend that our food is freshly-caught prey, and as such, we like it to be room temperature or slightly warm. I suggest heating your cat’s food up a bit (not too hot– you don’t want to injure her). About 30 seconds in the microwave should do it.

What Foods Are Toxic to My Cat?

Q: Dear Nora,
I’ll be hosting a cookout at my home for the 4th of July. My cat is very clever and sneaky, and I’m worried that she’ll eat some foods she shouldn’t be eating. What average cookout foods are toxic or dangerous to my cat? I can be more proactive about keeping food away from her if I know what to look for.

A: Thanks for reminding our readers that fireworks aren’t the only holiday threats to animals. Many human foods can be dangerous to your cat. Here are some items that make an appearance at your 4th of July party that you should keep away from her:

  • Alcohol – can cause coma or death
  • Bones – choking hazzards
  • Chocolate – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or a heart attack
  • Onions – toxic
  • Garlic – toxic

Find a more comprehensive list here at www.peteducation.com.

As you may know, cats also just have very sensitive digestive systems and are prone to vomiting and diarrhea even with the most simple diet changes. For that reason, it would be smart to keep your cat away from human food always, toxic or not.

If you suspect that your cat has eaten something toxic, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.

How Can I Keep My Cat From Eating So Fast?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat is a rescue who was denied food for a portion of his life before he came to me. As a result, he’s a bit wild about food. At mealtimes he scarfs it all up immediately, then sometimes vomits before he even has a chance to digest it. How can I help him slow down so he’s benefiting from his meals (plus, you know, help me not clean up cat vomit a couple times a week)?

A: This behavior is pretty common in cats who have come from similar situations. As you can guess, he’s got some emotional issues that make him believe that if he doesn’t eat the food as quickly as possible it’ll disappear. And he has no trust that he’ll have a chance to eat again tomorrow. Eventually, as he learns and trusts that you will consistently feed him every day, he may ease up on the scarfing (But don’t be alarmed or offended if he is a lifelong scarfer. These issues can be very deeply rooted). While you work on helping him understand that you will always feed him, you can add food puzzles to his meals. A food puzzle like the Stimulo will make it impossible for your cat too eat quickly, making it easier for him to digest his whole meal. As an added bonus, it’ll help stimulate his hunter instincts and keep him alert.

 

What Kind of Dishes are Safest For My Cat?

Carlito
Carlito

Q: Dear Nora,
I recently adopted a new cat and want to give him the best life I can. I’m confused about all of the options for food and water dishes. When it comes to my cat’s dishes and safety, is there really a difference between plastic and stainless steel?

A: First of all, congrats to you and your cat!

When it comes to materials for your cat’s dishes, there is in fact a difference between plastic and stainless steel, and the stainless steel is worth paying a bit more for. Plastic gathers nicks and scratches easily. They may be too small for you to even notice, but those scratches can become breeding grounds for bacteria. Plus, many cats are allergic to plastic and can break out with small bumps on their chins.

Most veterinarians recommend stainless steel bowls because they are easy to clean, unbreakable, and don’t harbor bacteria. Ceramic dishes are also a good choice as long as you make sure they have a lead-free glaze. If the cost hike is prohibitive, you can often find stainless steel bowls at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost.

Why Does My Cat Drink From My Cup?

Sheridan
Sheridan

Q: Dear Nora,
My cats have a large water bowl that I always refill when it gets low. Still, I frequently find them sneaking water from the kitchen sink, my own water glass, etc. What gives?

A: There are two things that may be happening. First, the water may not be fresh enough. Our wildcat-ancestor survival instincts are still very much in tact, even though we let you think you’ve domesticated us. If your cats are thirsty and the water smells or tastes bacteria-laden, they may avoid it. Keep in mind that our senses are a lot stronger than yours, so something that seems fine to you may be disgusting to us. Try using smaller bowls, which will force you to refresh the water more often. Also, give the bowls a good washing at least once a week.

Secondly, in a multi-cat household, weaker cats may seek out alternative water sources if a bully-cat is watching over the bowl. To solve this problem, put water (and food) bowls in several locations throughout your home, so there is always a safe and accessible alternative.

How Do I Stop Territorial Bullying?

Carlito
Carlito

Q: Dear Nora,
My youngest cat seems to bully my older cat in a territorial way. I’ve seen her kick the older cat out of prime sleeping spots, and try to steal her food (even though she has plenty of her own). What’s happening? And what can I do to stop it?

A: I do this to my sister, Pippi, too. You’re right: it’s territorial. Cats are territorial by nature and there will always be a hierarchy in a multi-cat home. As long as it doesn’t turn aggressive, I wouldn’t worry about it. Still, there are a few things you can do to make the home more pleasurable for your older cat and to keep her from feeling too pushed-around.

First, make sure that there are many desirable sleeping spots. Do they seem to be competing for a chair by the window because it has a few warm hours of afternoon sun? Is the oldest one being kicked off of the highest tier of the cat tree? Try to figure out what makes a spot desirable– whether it’s sun, coziness, privacy, etc.– and recreate it in several locations. Your older cat may still get kicked out, but she will at least have an equally cozy spot to transfer to.

As for stolen food, it’s important that your older cat is getting enough to eat and drink. Try putting dishes of food and water in several locations throughout your home. This way, your oldest cat will always have a second option if she is being kept from the first one. As a last resort, consider closing your oldest cat into another room during feeding times to ensure she’s getting proper nutrition without being bullied.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Vomiting After Meals?

Aggie
Aggie

Q: Dear Nora,
Sometimes my cat throws up after eating. Is this normal? 

A: Frequent vomiting, from any animal, should be considered abnormal. Remember that we get our nutrients from our food, just like you. In order to absorb all of the nutrition we need to be active an healthy, we really need the food to stay in our bellies.

If there are other cats in your home, your cat may feel like she has to compete for food. This will make her scarf it down as quickly as possible and cause her to throw it up. If this seems like a possibility, try separating your cats at feeding time. It may also be that your cat simply has no self-control when it comes to food. If this is the case, try a food puzzle— it will force her to slow down, while also adding some great mental stimulation.

If neither of these seem to be the problem, take your kitty to see the vet, since there are a lot of medical reasons that could cause regular vomiting.