Fussy cat

2014 | Nutrition & Health| Healthypets, Royal Canin Blog

As a breeder you know that cats can be very fussy and sometime it is hard to understand why they are so reluctant to eat their food.

Knowing how your cat chooses their food is the best way to ensure that you can find exactly what your cat will eat and to fulfil its nutritional requirements based on age, lifestyle and breed.

Cats have a weak sense of taste with approximately 500-800 taste buds, compared humans that have 9000. Therefore cats don’t require much variety in their diet with regards to flavour.

How Cats Choose Their Food

Choosing food

1. Smell

Cat sense of smell

A cat’s sense of smell is their primary way of interacting with food. They will usually sniff the food before eating it, and food that smells unappealing will be rejected. Cats have 60-70 million olfactory receptors whereas humans have 5 million. This is why smell is so important to cats when selecting food.

2. Mouth Feel
Cat mouth feel

The way food is grasped and feels in your cat’s mouth has a major impact on whether or not they will pick it up and eat it. Each cat will have different preferences - some will prefer soft food in jellies or gravy that is easy to chew and swallow, while others will prefer dry, harder to chew food.

Cat food type

3. How It Makes Them Feel After They Eat It
Cat mouth feel after eating

The ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrate can impact how your cat’s body feels after it breaks down the food. This ratio, often referred to as the Macronutrient Profile (MNP), determines the optimal ratio of energy derived from the three macronutrients and helps provide a positive post-digestion sensation.

If you’re finding it difficult to find a food your cat prefers, you can try a one-off food trial. For example, simply put out a small amount jelly and gravy textured food and see which food your cat selects. This will help you buy the one your cat prefers.

With dry foods, look out for products that address the specific needs of fussy cats: smell, texture and how your cat’s body feels after eating. You can do the same one-off trial with the dry food, which again will help you find out whether your cat is mainly driven by smell, texture or the digestive sensation.

Common Feeding Myths

  • Variety is Important: We humans may love variety, but cats don’t have the same need. That’s because, while we have 9,000 taste buds, cats have only 500. Also, changes in your cat’s diet can cause digestive upsets, which is why we recommend sticking to a single formula.
  • Cat’s Select Their Food on Taste: You’re not alone if you think your cat favours flavour. A recent survey with cat owners showed us that 99% of Australian owners think that their cats favour flavour. In actual fact, cats primarily select their food based on smell, texture and the digestive sensation. Flavour plays quite a small role.
  • High Protein Diets Are Bad: High quality proteins like fish, beef, and chicken are excellent for cats. It is well known that cats need a high protein diet to gain much needed nutrients like the essential amino acid, taurine. High quality protein – i.e. highly digestible protein – is key to a healthy diet for cats.

Food Storage

All food products change with time, particularly after being opened. When food is opened and comes into contact with oxygen in the air, the fat molecules in the food are oxidised. Oxidised fats become rancid, making the food far less palatable. Therefore it is essential to keep all bags sealed correctly after opening to minimise this process from occurring.


Kittens are conditioned to accept specific nutrients from a very early age. Long before they are born they are sensitive to the aromas of the amniotic fluid and after birth, to the composition of the mother’s milk. These are dependent in turn on the diet of the queen. It is important to keep the same nutrition after queening to help them transition to the kitten food. The food kittens receive in the presence of the mother is generally preferred up to the age of 4-5 months.

Key Points:

  • Cats choose their food based on smell, mouth feel and how it makes them feel after they eat it, rather than taste.
  • Keep your bags sealed correctly in order to keep it fresh and avoid rejection due to rancid odours.
  • Ideally it is best to keep the same nutrition from queening to weaning in order to facilitate the transition to kitten food.
  • If your cat suddenly becomes fussy about their food, this could indicate illness. In this situation we strongly recommend a veterinary check-up immediately.

Related Articles

Queening Nutrition
Cookie Settings