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Top 5 Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters


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Do you have a picky cat that refuses to eat?

This problem is common with many cat owners. It can result in lots of money wasted on the wrong food that your cat won’t eat.

Picky cats enjoy fresh smelling meat products. Choose easy to swallow wet pate foods higher in protein and fat. Offer a variety of foods to cut down flavor fatigue.

In this article I’ll help you find the best wet cat food for picky eaters. You’ll learn what to get to stop wasting money buying food your cat doesn’t want to eat.

Best wet cat food for picky eaters

The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.

The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

Let’s get into the article.

Our Top Picks: Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters

Overall: Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters

Tiki Cat After Dark Variety Pack

The perfect food to help picky cats of all ages eat more. Filler free and high in animal protein to sway the fussiest of cat. 5 flavors in the box to cut boredom.

Key Features

  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • No animal by-products
  • Carrageenan-free
Nutrition panel for Tiki Cat After Dark variety pack cat food.

Premium:Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters

Feline Natural Variety Pack

Filler free and 99% grass-fed meat for a real meaty taste cats love. Low in carbohydrates to stop fussy cats refusing food. 3 unique flavors to stop flavor fatigue.

Key Features

  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • No animal by-products
  • Carrageenan-free
Nutritional information for Feline Natural Variety Pack cat food.

Kitten: Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters

Fancy Feast Kitten Classic Pate

Affordable kitten food to help fussy cats eat and grow. High in animal protein and low in fillers to stop wasted food. 4 flavors to stop boredom.

Key Features

  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • Carrageenan-free
Nutritional information for Fancy Feast Kitten Classic Pate food.

Budget: Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters

Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural

The most affordable cat food to help feed picky cats of all ages. Huge range of animal protein sources to improve taste. No fillers or cheap ingredients unlike other budget foods.

Key Features

  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • Carrageenan-free
Nutritional information for Purina Grain-Free Natural cat food.

Mid Price:Best Wet Cat Food For Picky Eaters

Instinct Original Grain Free Pate Real Chicken

The perfect choice for chicken lovers. A great high protein option without fillers to entice picky cats. High in calcium, moisture, and fat to help support senior cat health.

Key Features

  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • Carrageenan-free
  • High in calcium for kidney health
Nutrition information for Instinct Original cat food.


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.

Best wet cat food for a picky cat

What Should I Look For In Wet Cat Food For Fussy Cats?

High Protein Content

A cat eats 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.

Cats enjoy the following foods:

  • Liver
  • Blood
  • Red meat
  • Fish

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.

Bottom Line: Choose a high-protein wet canned food low in carbohydrates for a fussy cat.

Wet canned foods are generally the best choice for picky cats

Look For Variety

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.

Bottom Line: Give your cat a variety of foods to cut boredom.

Picking a wet canned food for your cat.

Feed Your Cat What They 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.

Bottom Line: Look for food that your cat enjoyed as a kitten for best results.

Kittens develop taster preferences which pass through into adulthood

Choose A High Fat Food For Taste

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.

When given a choice, cats prefer a moderate-fat diet (25-40% on a dry matter basis).

Bottom Line: Give your cat a diet with 25-40% fat on a dry matter basis for best taste.

A moderate-high fat diet is preferred by cats.

Cats Love Water

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.

Bottom Line: Cats enjoy foods with lots of moisture.


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 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.

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. 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.

A cat relies on their sense of smell when deciding what to eat.

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.

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.

Bottom Line: Cats prefer warm food between 15-50 degrees Celsius.

Cats prefer heated and warm food. A microwave is a quick way to improve taste for picky cats.

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:

  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Unripened tomato
  • Nuts
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Raw eggs
  • Citrus fruits

Check out this article here to learn more about why these foods are toxic.

Onions are toxic to cats and should be avoided.

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.

Cats going for a bowl of food.

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.

A cat eating canned food.

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.

Check out my article on the signs your cat is in pain to learn more.

Bottom Line: If your cat refuses to eat, see a vet.

See a vet if your cat is not eating enough food.


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.

A cat looking at food in the distance.


TIKI CAT After Dark Variety Pack (5.5 oz x 8)

Tiki Cat After Dark Variety Pack Grain-Free Wet Cat Food, 5.5-oz, case of 8
  • 95% animal foods for great taste
  • 6 flavors to reduce boredom
  • High in moisture for easy chewing
  • Great meaty smell
  • Pricey
  • Some cats don’t like the texture

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