Tested and Approved By our cats
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Picky cats enjoy fresh smelling meaty wet foods. Choose a texture your cat enjoys. Try a higher protein and lower carb canned food. Use variety to stop boredom and flavors your cat enjoyed as a kitten.
Here are our best 5 cat foods handpicked from our research to help fussy cats eat:
- Best Overall: Wellness Core Tiny Tasters
- Best Tasting Cat Food for Picky Eaters: Fancy Feast Savory Centers
- Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Older Cats: Meat Mates Dinner
- Best Affordable: Sheba Perfect Portions
- Best Kitten Food for Picky Eaters: Royal Canin Kitten
Do you have a picky cat that refuses to eat?
It can seem like a gamble finding something your fussy cat will enjoy. Lots of money gets wasted when your cat won’t budge and eat what they’re served.
In this article, I’ll help you stop wasting money of uneaten cat food with a buying guide. I have tested these cat foods and more with our cats and gotten the meow of approval on the best ones.
But what makes a food best for a picky cat? Why are these darn cats so fussy anyway?
Find out more by reading on…
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. This article is not intended as medical advice.
5 Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters
Best Overall Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters
Cat Food: Wellness Core Tiny Tasters Duck Pate
Who it’s for: Our cats loved Wellness Core’s Tiny Tasters. This product is low in carbs and an overall healthy choice for cats of all life stages.
Who it’s not for: Nothing really bad here aside from some added gums, which may test a sensitive stomach.
Learn More: Wellness Core Cat Food Review
Best Tasting Cat Food for Picky Eaters
Cat Food: Fancy Feast Savory Centers
Who it’s for: Our cats loved the gooey gravy goodness of Fancy Feast Savory Centers, as do customers online. Comes in an affordable variety pack to mix up flavors and cut boredom.
Who it’s not for: Not the best choice for senior cats. Also uses meat by-products which can put off some.
Learn More: Fancy Feast Cat Food Review
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Older Cats
Cat Food: Meat Mates Lamb Dinner
Who it’s for: With 3 unique high protein flavors, you can tease out something your cat will love. Meat Mates is also high in calories to help senior cats stay strong. Our 5 cat taste testing team enjoyed Meat Mates.
Who it’s not for: Meat Mates has limited availability and is a little pricier than most wet foods.
Learn More: Meat Mates Cat Food Review
Best Affordable Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters
Who it’s for: Our cats loved Sheba Perfect Portions and customers agree. Lower in carbohydrate than most budget wet foods.
Who it’s not for: This is a great choice for any cat, but some might not trust this Mars Petfood brand.
Learn More: Sheba Cat Food Review
Best Kitten Food for Picky Eaters
Cat Food: Royal Canin Kitten
Who it’s for: Our big kitty Oscar devoured Royal Canin Kitten and made quite the mess. This option is also low in carbs and higher in meat than many other kitten foods.
Who it’s not for: A little pricey, especially if you have a lot of mouths to feed.
Learn More: Royal Canin Kitten Food Review
How Did I Choose These Products?
Using the best practice guidelines below I sorted cat food options. These are foods I’ve researched and tested on my own cats.
I filtered for picky cat criteria and sorted based on nutrition quality. Of most importance of course is cats enjoy the food, but other factors are considered (e.g. price, nutrition quality).
You can find more information about each cat food by looking at my reviews on the product.
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters Selection Criteria
- Wet cat food
- Taste results (own cat testing and customer reviews)
- High protein (>40% dry matter basis)
- Low in carbs (<14% dry matter basis)
- High in meat based ingredients
Here is a list of our chosen wet cat foods that meet our criteria with a comparison table on key features:
|Cat Food for Picky Eaters||Sheba Perfect Portions||Fancy Feast Savory Centers||Wellness Core Tiny Tasters||Royal Canin Kitten||Meat Mates Lamb Dinner|
|Tastiness (out of 100)||97||97||95||90||91|
The best wet cat food for picky cats is one high in animal based ingredients. These foods are what cats prefer to eat, when given a choice.
In the wild cats are strict carnivores, who thrive off animal-based foods.
In a 2016 study, 39 cats tested four different foods prepared with different macro ratios. Served together, cats showed a preference for a diet with
- 52% protein
- 36% fat
- 11% carbohydrate
Adding flavors to the food didn’t change the dietary preference.
Cats enjoy the following foods most:
- Red meat
Ew, blood! Darn vampire cats.
Cats also have less preference for non-essential protein sources (e.g. collagen). Some budget cat foods might put cats off, if they load up on lower quality meat sources.
Here are some other things to consider:
Switch It up With Some Variety
Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day…and neither does your cat.
If limited to one flavor, cats start rejecting meals. This is an evolved strategy to avoid nutrient imbalances.
The technical term for this is neophobia.
The simple solution is to change it up. Pretty simple right?
Problem is, cats need time adjusting to new things. So mix in new flavors slowly.
Many cat foods have generic flavors like chicken. Don’t be afraid to venture out and try things like duck, lamb, or turkey.
Feed Your Cat What They Got as a Kitten
Cats build food preferences as kittens. If a kitten eats a wide variety of different meats they are less likely to wind up picky adult cats.
Taste preferences are also passed via the milk of a kittens mother. So look at the mother cats diet.
Boost The Fat Content
When given a choice, cats prefer a higher fat diet. Animal fats like salmon oil increase your cat’s liking of canned food.
Why is 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.
A cat doesn’t need plant based fat in their diet, since they can’t utilize the essential fatty acids in them. So it’s best to give foods with these ingredients a miss.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why Are Cats Picky Eaters?
Cats are strict carnivores that evolved to eat a high protein diet.
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.
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 and need specific nutrients 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. Cats can only rely on their senses which tell them whether food is safe and healthful.
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. This suggests some cats are pickier than others.
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.
Bottom Line: Cats use their sense of smell to decide whether food is worth eating.
What Will A Picky Cat Eat?
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.
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 Celsius 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.
Bottom Line: Cats prefer warm food between 15-50 degrees Celsius.
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.
How Do 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.
Bottom Line: Start by adding a small amount of new food to old food. Make sure to warm food for best results.
Is Wet Food Better For Cats?
Yes, most of the time.
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.
Check out my best cat food for kidney disease to learn more.
Bottom Line: Wet food is a better choice most of the time due to having more animal protein and moisture.
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.
Bottom Line: Heat wet cat food to a warm temperature and add a topper to help improve the taste.
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
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.
Bottom Line: If your cat refuses to eat, see a vet.
In this article, I’ve looked at the best wet 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.
Cats prefer warm, fresh-smelling wet meat with a lot of animal protein. They don’t like off-smelling meat as they associate this with a dead carcass (i.e. not good to eat).
A wet cat food low in carbohydrates is usually a good choice for picky cats. Giving your cat a variety of foods helps to cut boredom.