Article by - Rosemary Richards
Most cats will not deliberately starve themselves but some will be stubborn, some more than others. If they were weaned onto kibble, kibble is all they know as food. They are usually accustomed to free feeding kibble all day long, now they are confronted with this wet goop that does not have animal digest spray on it, that can stay down only for a few hours (5 – 6) depending upon your climate. The spray on kibble is highly addictive, it is made of animal digest. The manufacturers will have ensured that it smells just perfect. It is not the taste, the crunch, the shape of kibble that your kitty loves it is the animal digest spray.
- Try introducing the wet food when your cat is hungry. Only put out a small amount, as if it were a treat being offered, rather than a full serving – you won’t waste as much food and your kitty may not be “put off” by a large glop on her saucer. Warm food that has been stored in fridge.
- Although a trick to prevent “whisker fatigue” (yes there is such a thing), using a small saucer or plate for her food may peak their interest, many find it a little easier to lick up the food and it is different from the kibble bowl.
- Some members have found that if they “rolled” or separated the food into small treat or “kibble bits” spread out a little separately on the saucer their kitties were more likely to try eating one or two bits.
Think about flavours that she has been interested in trying from the human foods – examples would be
- full fat, plain (no flavourings) sugar free yoghurt, full fat sour cream, full fat cottage cheese, kefir
- if you have human canned tuna keep the water and use to add to the food. If this works you can make more “tuna water” – take a tablespoon or two of the human canned tuna, put in a small storage container and add a small amount of water to cover. Store in the fridge and allow to sit for awhile. strain and store the water for her meals, add a small amount on top of her next serving of canned food.
- same principle but you can also try adding salt free chicken broth (no other ingredients or spices added) or if you know if your cat tolerates beef, a littlest free beef broth
- texture – some cats just do not like the smooth pate they want a lump or two in their food – there are foods flaked/minced/shredded that are low carb and do contain pieces of meat, they do tend to be more expensive than Fancy Feast or Sheba but will be helpful in getting the kitty to accept canned food. You can either add a little of the food with texture to the pate or start with a small serving of a textured food and then try to start adding a little pate along with it. You can also set this up yourself by cooking a small chicken breast in water and then chopping fine, keep some in the fridge and freeze the remainder so that you can extend its shelf life, just add to the pate (press into the food a little to prevent your cat from picking it out and leaving all the pate behind) but leave it mainly on top of the food.
- continuing with the theme of adding to canned food there are various things you can sprinkle on top of the food, parmesan cheese, finely shredded cheddar cheese, bonito flakes, crush a piece or use the crumbs/powder from bag of freeze-dried treats. We have another suggestion for sprinkles if we end up in a standoff however it is a last resort option after you have tried everything else.
- another consideration in food choice, is to use one of the kitten formulas that are acceptable. These formulas are great for our adult kitties but some do contain milk products. As with humans over time cats will lose the enzyme Lactase that is needed to break down milk products and some kitties will possibly have diarrhea as a result of ingesting even small amounts however if your cat can tolerate the small amount of milk, they may be a good option to try as well.
- Using one of the options like water, broth etc. try pureeing the food smooth and thin almost liquefying it.
- warm the food first, warming can increase the aroma of the food
- if your kitty proves to be a “difficult to transition” kitty there is a product that is produced by Purina a probiotic, FortiFlora. It is not a great probiotic but it does provide a flavour and aroma that is consistent with the spray on kibble. Many difficult kitties will eat canned food with FortiFlora sprinkled on top.
- Nutritional Yeast is another flavour that some kitties like. It has a smell and taste that is similar to cheese
Some non food related tips
You are trying to work with your kitty’s natural instinct to determine what is a high bio-available diet. Recent research has shown that kitties are not primarily directed by taste/smell/texture in their food choices. They have a unique ability to determine what food most closely conforms to their ideal natural nutritional needs. Kitties in the study would consistently choose the food that most consistently conformed whether crunchie kibble, raw, freeze-dried, pureed, minced, chunked, but most importantly even if the one un-balanced food was chicken/turkey/beef and the second food properly balanced was orange flavoured they would choose the orange flavoured food.
- Try not to make a big deal out of offering wet food instead of kibble. Whatever your pattern of behaviour is when offering them kibble should be maintained. If you normally simply put the food down and walk away, then do the same with the canned food. Try not to hover or appear anxious/stressed by their refusal to immediately dig in, don’t immediately pat and coddle and kitty talk them unless that is normal behaviour when feeding. Your cat will pick up on that anxiety/stress, but will not know why you are anxious or stressed just that it seems to have something to do with that plate. Do not pick up the plate too quickly – leave it there for an hour or so as if free feeding and then quietly remove and set up to try again later.
- One thing many of us do not think about during the process of transitioning is the kitty’s very strong sense of smell. Make sure you wash the saucer well after each use and double rinse to be sure that there is no soap or rinse agent perfume left on the plate. If she does not like that perfume she may associate it with this new stuff she is being offered and develop an aversion.
Cats have a strong sense of self-preservation. As long as they are not sick and avoiding food because they do not feel well, they will not choose to starve themselves. They may push your sense of time but they will eat. This is why it is important that they know you will not cave too quickly.
Yes we must be concerned with Hepatic Lipidosis but that occurs when the kitty is eating nothing at all. While transitioning, your kitty is still eating kibble although a reduced amount.
Yes in order to give insulin they must have food in their systems providing energy/fuel. It can be really hard and stressful but do try to prevent them knowing there is the option of kibble appearing minutes after their first refusal of wet food. Give it an hour if possible before you cave. Try not to free feed kibble, set meal times for the kibble at injection time.
Okay I have tried it all! It is still a No Go, what do I do now?
Yes we do have some very tough nuts to crack. Not often but there are a few. Patience and determination, equal to your kitty’s determination not to comply, is needed.
Make sure she/he does not know there is kibble in the house, that will magically appear if she/he just holds out for an hour. Keep that kibble tightly locked up, do not underestimate their determination to dig it out, wherever it may be hidden, either. The Fridge or freezer is the best location for this purpose.