What Do You Do When an Older Cat Becomes a Picky Eater?

Open a can of wet food and your senior feline might come running in for a little taste.
i A cat eats from a dark blue bowl on a white background image by Kapu from Fotolia.com

Cats are finicky eaters to begin with, but when they start to get a little gray around the face, they can be extremely hard to please. There's usually a good reason for their pickiness, from food that's hard to eat to a stinky food bowl.

Wet Food

Older cats often have teeth problems, which makes eating dry, crunchy food a chore. A switch to wet food helps make their meals much more enjoyable. If your senior cat already eats wet food, a different brand or flavor can help spark her appetite. Remember that if you switch her food, even to a different flavor, always do so by mixing in her old food and slowly transitioning into the new food. Most manufacturers include instructions somewhere on the food container.

Warm Water

If the softness of wet food isn't enough to persuade your feline to eat, adding in a bit of warm water to help make the food into a gravy-like meal can do the trick. Some cats enjoy the texture of mushy food, while others just like the warmth. Never heat the food in a microwave, as it can burn your cat's tongue because of uneven cooking. The water just needs to be warm to the touch, never boiling or even hot. WebMD explains that adding fish oil, broth or cooked egg can help as well.


Older cats may suddenly be spooked by loud sounds if they eat near a washing machine, dryer, dishwasher or other appliance. Moving your cat's food bowl into a quiet room allows her to eat without distractions and sudden noises. Putting your cat's bowl on the ground can also help, since senior kitties often have difficulty jumping to distances they once could reach with ease. If your cat's always eating in places that make her legs ache after jumping or in places that have scary sounds, she's probably not going to be too eager to eat regularly.

Food Bowl

Over years and years of eating, cat dishes start to take on an unpleasant smell, especially when the dish is full of wet food. A nice washing can do the trick, but if it's plastic, your cat will probably still take in the pungent smell within a few days. Switching to a ceramic or metal bowl can help.

Vet Visit

If your cat's eating sparingly even after you try your best to persuade her to munch down on her food, she might be fighting a medical condition. If she doesn't eat at all, it's vital you take her to the vet. Cats cannot go long without eating -- often only three days maximum -- before their liver becomes damaged.

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