If you have a picky cat that refuses to eat the food you buy for her, then this article will help. Most of us love our pets and want them to be healthy and happy, but sometimes it can be difficult to find the right diet for your pet.
Cats prefer the taste of fresh meat and are averse to food that smells off. They prefer easy-to-swallow textures with moderate fat content since they don’t tend to chew. Picky cats may also get bored of the same flavors and need a variety to keep things interesting.
This guide helps cat owners choose the best wet cat food for picky eaters by providing advice on how to find what works best for their cats’ needs.
Cats are obligate carnivores. They hunt small and eat small prey including mice, and rabbits in the wild.
Cat’s have a strong sense of smell, which they use to make a judgment call on whether they want to give food a taste. They rely on their senses to ensure they get enough nutrition for health and avoid toxic foods.
A fussy eater benefits from wet canned food that has more protein, fat, moisture, and fewer carbohydrate ingredients.
My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. The goal of this site is to provide well-researched advice to improve your cat’s health.
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet before continuing. My article uses research-based evidence as much as possible is not intended to replace the advice of a trained professional.
Let’s get into the article:
Product Review: The Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters Overall: Tiki Cat After Dark Variety Pack Canned Cat Food
Let’s take a closer look at Tiki Cat After Dark Variety Pack.
This food has a more appetizing smell out of the can than many other cat food options on the market. Cat’s have a stronger sense of smell than humans and use smell to decide whether they want to try the food, hence why smell is a crucial aspect of new food. There’s a variety of six flavors to reduce boredom and each food contains high-quality meat and organ sources.
Now onto the negatives. The food isn’t a pate, but shredded slices of meat with broth. If your cat is a pate lover, this might be an off-putting food. The cost of this product is a little high, but that is due to the range of premium meats used.
Chicken & Quail Egg Recipe In Broth Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Quail Egg, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Heart, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Salt, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin E Supplement, Tuna Oil, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Zinc Oxide, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement
Caloric Content (Chicken & Quail): 829 kcal /kg, 129 kcal/can
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters Runner Up: Almo Nature HQS
Let’s take a look at Almo Nature HQS Variety Pack.
There’s a lot to like about this offering. I like that this food uses limited ingredients of human-grade animal foods including seafood and chicken. This is a fresh smelling and authentic-looking product that looks like something you might get in your tuna can.
Unfortunately, despite the variety of flavors, the brand has a lot of seafood flavors. If your cat hates fish, tuna, and seafood then there’s not much on offer for you here. Also, the fat profile is low in most of the flavors which may not give your cat enough calories by itself. This food would work well as an occasional protein source.
Atlantic Tuna: Tuna, Water sufficient for cooking.
Mackerel: Mackerel, Water sufficient for cooking.
Chicken & Shrimp: Chicken, Shrimp, Water sufficient for cooking.
Trout & Tuna: Trout, Tuna, Water sufficient for cooking.
Caloric Content: Atlantic Tuna: 674 kcals/kg, 47.2 kcals/can; Mackarel 560 kcals/kg, 39.2 kcals/can; Chicken & Shrimp 620 kcals/kg, 43.4 kcals/can; Tuna & Trout 710 kcals/kg, 49.7 kcals/can
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters Budget Pick: Fancy Feast Gourmet
It’s hard to find a budget wet food that cats will enjoy, but Fancy Feast is a worthy option.
This pack comes in four different flavors, complete with all the essential vitamins for your cat’s diet. I like this because it helps to keep things interesting and the high meat content improves taste. Another benefit of this product is it doesn’t contain any grains or soy, which is easier to digest.
This product has mixed reviews. Some picky eaters may need more help (e.g. warmed-up food). I noted that this product doesn’t use added flavors or preservatives, which are things many brands add to entice cats to eat their food.
Salmon Recipe: Salmon, Chicken, Liver, Fish Broth, Natural Flavors, Minerals [Potassium Chloride, Mono And Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Guar Gum, Taurine, Salt, Choline Chloride, Vitamins [Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement]
Caloric Content: Wild Alaskan Salmon Recipe: 1,157 kcal/kg, 98 kcal/can; Trout & Tuna Recipe: 1,174 kcal/kg, 100 kcal/can; White Meat Chicken Recipe: 1,091 kcal/kg, 93 kcal/can; Beef Recipe: 1,165 kcal/kg, 99 kcal/can
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters Premium Variety Pack: Feline Natural Variety Pack Grain-Free Wet Cat Food
Let’s take a look at Feline Natural Variety Pack Grain-Free Wet Cat Food.
This is a new product on the market featuring 3 varieties of Feline Natural’s feast range of cat food. I like the quality of this food with premium New Zealand grass-fed meat for top-quality high protein nutrition. The food is in a juicy moist pate texture which is easy to bite and swallow. This complete nutrition product also contains New Zealand green mussels which aid in gut health.
Onto the downsides. This product is filler-free but higher priced. The pack comes in exotic flavors such as lamb and Hoki which may be exotic flavors. It might take time for your cat to get used to these new smells and tastes – just as you may with new food.
Hoki & Beef: Hoki, Water Sufficient for Processing, Beef, Beef Heart, Beef Lung, Beef Liver, Sunflower Oil, New Zealand Green Mussel, Flaxseed Flakes, Calcium Carbonate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement
Chicken & Lamb: Chicken, Water Sufficient for Processing, Lamb Heart, Lamb Lung, Lamb Liver, Lamb Kidney, New Zealand Green Mussel, Flaxseed Flakes, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement
Lamb & Salmon: Lamb Heart, Water Sufficient for Processing, Salmon, Lamb Lung, Lamb Liver, Lamb Kidney, New Zealand Green Mussel, Calcium Carbonate, Flaxseed Flakes, Dipotassium Phosphate, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement
Caloric Content: Hoki & Beef: 1258 (kcal/kg) 107 (kcal/85g pouch); Chicken & Lamb: 1313 (kcal/kg) 112 (kcal/85g pouch); Lamb & Salmon: 1211 (kcal/kg) 103 (kcal/85g pouch)
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters Topper: Nulo FreeStyle Broth Chicken, Yellowfin Tuna and Duck
Let’s take a look at Nulo Freestyle Broth.
This is a topper that contains animal foods and chicken broth. It’s designed to boost the moisture, flavor, and nutrition of a meal. I like that this wet food pouch gives your cat’s diet versatility as a meal or topper. I also like that there are no added nasties, grains, or fillers to help with sensitive stomachs.
The main downside of this product is the cost, which is a little higher. I don’t think this product isn’t designed as a sole source of nutrition, but a ‘top up’ product.
Chicken, Chicken Broth, Tuna Broth, Yellowfin Tuna, Duck
Caloric Content: 575 kcal/kg, 46 kcal/pouch
Buying Guide: How to Find the Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters
Getting your cat to eat is important for obvious reasons. A cat needs to eat enough food to maintain a healthy weight and get the nutrition they need for strength and play.
Cat’s are well known for being finicky eaters that seem to turn their nose up at many things. As strict carnivores, cats have well-honed senses tuned to selecting foods that meet their nutritional needs.
In this buying guide, I’ll walk through the reasons why your cat is a picky eater and how to get your cat to eat more wet food.
Why are cats picky eaters?
Cat’s are picky eaters when they think the food given to them doesn’t smell or taste right.
This makes sense given cats are obligate carnivores. They have bodies that require specific nutrients which are only found in animal-based foods. For example, cats cannot convert beta-carotene (plant-based Vitamin A) into the active retinol form of Vitamin A found in animal foods.
Unlike humans, cats don’t rely on nutrition gurus or YouTube videos to tell them what to eat. They can only rely on their senses, which give them information telling them whether the food is safe and healthful.
Whilst cats don’t have as many taste buds as other animals including dogs, they have a superior sense of smell. This is why cats tend to smell their food before deciding it’s worth eating.
Many cat food companies try to increase the smell and taste of food with added flavor enhancers.
In a 2019 study on hairball control diets, some cats rejected a dry cat food diet. The researchers improved adherence by added artificial flavors, but one cat still refused to eat the food and got removed from the study.
Persisting with a diet that doesn’t support your cat’s health may lead to recurring health problems. In one case study, an owner continued to feed their cat a natural ingredient vegan diet despite frequent urethral obstruction and hospital admissions.
It’s clear that your feline friend will want to eat foods that improve their health and not harm them. A fussy eater is fussy for a reason.
Let’s take a look at some things that will help picky cats eat more food.
What will a picky cat eat?
Wild cats hunt and eat small prey for nutrition. This means they will consume a lot of warm animal foods in their natural habitat.
Let’s look at some things which support the idea that cats prefer a protein-rich animal-based diet.
Cat’s like warm foods
In the wild, cats hunt and eat small prey such as mice, birds, and rabbits. A freshly consumed kill is warm.
Cat’s don’t like to consume dead or dying animals. They are averse to decomposed flesh which contains monophosphate nucleotides. Cat’s also prefer a food temperature between 15-50 degrees celsius.
When preparing your cat’s food, it makes sense that preparing them to a warm temperature mimics their consumption of killed prey.
Putting your cat food in the microwave for a short period and heating it to between 15-50 degrees Celcius will help picky eaters. Another option is to add additional warm water to wet cat food.
Meat by-products may be less palatable (as they may contain dead, dying, or disease state animal parts) than high-quality parts.
Cat’s prefer a high protein diet
A cat is well adapted to eating a high protein diet in the wild.
Research supports that cats prefer high protein over high carbohydrate diets. In 2016, 39 cats tested four different foods prepared with different amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Served together, cats showed a preference for a diet with 52% protein, 36% fat, and 11% carbohydrate. Adding flavors to the food didn’t change the dietary preference.
Liver, blood, red meat, and sometimes fish are cat favorites.
Many dry cat food formulas use flavors to entice cats to eat their food. Sodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer added to heat-treated dry kibble that mimics a meaty taste that cats enjoy. Giving your cat quality ingredients from the start might reduce the need for added flavors.
Cat’s have a preference for animal protein sources.
Sometimes plant-based protein (e.g. soy, wheat, corn, or pea protein) is in wet food products to save on costs. Cat’s have less preference for these food sources and other sources of non-essential amino acids (e.g. collagen protein). This preference may be due to animal protein containing more essential amino acids, which adult cats need to maintain muscle.
Select wet canned cat food that contains around 11% carbohydrate (on a dry matter basis) or less to help your cat eat more. Choose canned wet foods with more animal-based foods, especially as the first ingredient.
Cat’s prefer a variety of cat foods
A fussy eater needs to have a variety of canned food choices. This helps get your cat get enough vitamins, minerals, and protein for top health.
If cats eat only one flavor of cat food they end up rejecting meals. This is an evolutionary trait designed to prevent nutritional imbalances from consuming only one meat type.
The solution here is to change it up.
Many cat foods have generic flavors, such as chicken (with or without other meats). Chicken is cost-effective compared to duck, rabbit, beef, turkey, and salmon.
Instead of giving your cat chicken all day, try some new meat flavors to break up the routine. A variety pack of canned wet foods is a great way to provide different flavors.
Feed your cat what he got as a kitten
Cats develop their food preferences at a young age during the weaning process.
If a kitten eats a wide variety of different meats and flavors it will be less likely to be a picky eater. It is possible the taste preferences are also passed via the milk of a kittens mother.
If your cat is an adult, look at what its mother ate and what it ate as a kitten for clues to food preferences.
Feed your cat wet food with 70-85% moisture
Cats prefer wet food with a high amount of moisture.
This makes sense since consumed prey will contain at least 70% moisture from the flesh, meat, and blood.
Most wet cat food has between 70-85% moisture, so this is no problem.
Feed your cat a higher fat diet
Feeding your cat a higher fat wet food may help a picky cat eat more food.
Another ingredient cats love is salmon oil which increases your cat’s intake of canned food. It isn’t known why salmon is a cat favorite, but since cats have strong odor senses, they may pick up on the smell of salmon.
Cats are averse to medium-chain triglycerides. Coconut and palm oil are two foods high in medium-chain triglycerides. Most fresh meat is high in saturated animal fatty acids, which cats may prefer.
What cat food ingredients should I avoid?
Cat’s are intolerant to many foods. This is because cats have fewer liver enzymes needed to detoxify many plant-based chemicals.
This is another reason why cats are averse to many foods. Bitter food suggests something toxic, so cats tend to give foods with this taste a miss.
Here is a list of foods to avoid:
- Unripened tomato
- Raw eggs
- Citrus fruits
Check out this article here to learn more about why these foods are toxic.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I introduce a new wet cat food?
Always give your cat time to adjust to new wet cat food. Start by adding a small amount to your cat’s regular food and increase the amount over the course of one week.
When giving your cat new food, also make sure to warm it before serving. Cats have strong smell receptors. Allow your cat to learn and accept the new smell.
Older cats may need more time to adjust to new foods. Aging results in a loss of olfactory receptors which reduces the sense of smell. This means a senior cat has a harder time detecting the quality of food given to it and will stick to familiar food.
Is wet food better for cats?
Yes, wet cat food is a better choice for cats. Wet food contains more protein, moisture, and fat needed for top health.
Most dry cat food uses low-cost plant-based foods. The foods are then flavored to enhance taste and palatability. Although these foods have added vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids the long-term effect on feline health are less optimal on dry food.
Kidney disease may result from a lack of moisture in the diet, from consuming too much dry food.
How do I make food more appealing to my cat?
Heating wet cat food to a warm temperature is more appealing to cats.
Keep your cat’s food warm before serving and add warm water if your cat prefers increased moisture.
Adding a topper with quality ingredients (e.g. salmon, liver) might also help increase food intake. Another idea is to add a delicious chicken broth to the meal.
Also, think about how you are serving your cat’s food. Picky cats may prefer a clean and shallow plate to eat off, as this doesn’t cause friction on the whiskers.
Check out my article on cat whiskers for more awesome whisker facts.
What if my cat refuses to eat?
If your cat is not eating any food, it may have a health condition.
There are many health conditions that reduce appetite (e.g. gastroenteritis) and stop your cat from eating. Sometimes a fussy cat is an unwell cat.
If your cat hasn’t been eating for over 24 hours, or you notice any other symptoms (e.g. cat stops grooming, low activity) then speak with a vet.
Conclusion: Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters
In this article, I’ve looked at the best cat food for picky eaters.
Having a picky eater is a frustrating situation, but there are many proactive things you can do to solve the problem.
Since cats are carnivores, they tend to prefer warm, fresh-smelling wet meat with a lot of animal protein. Cat’s don’t like bland off smelling meat as they perceive this to be a diseased carcass that doesn’t warrant consumption.
In this article, I’ve provided a range of suitable cat food products for a picky eater. These cat food recommendations are high protein, low carbohydrate choices using animal foods without by-products.
I’ve looked for quality ingredients that your cat will find easy to tolerate, and offered variety pack suggestions to keep things interesting for your cat.
Following this, I’ve included a buying guide to help you understand why some cats are picky eaters. This covers a few things to look for when choosing pet food for a fussy eater and things to avoid. Finally, the frequently asked section provides extra tips and guidance for cat foods.