Help! My Pet is a Picky Eater

picky cat

A pet that is a picky eater? It almost seems like an oxymoron, but some cats and dogs are more finicky eaters than others. Although there are a number of potential reasons that Fido is turning his nose up at his bowl, it probably isn’t because he is preparing for bikini season at the dog beach. As a responsible pet owner, it’s up to you to do some digging and get to the root of your picky pet’s problem.

A Little Picky or a Big Problem?

Before deciding that your pet is being a little picky, it’s important to ensure that he isn’t experiencing a bigger health problem. If your pet was once a regular eater and has recently started avoiding food, this could be a sign of a health issue. Allow your pet 24-48 hours to see if he comes around to his food, but if not, you should take him to a vet.

Keep an eye out for other indications of illness or nausea such as vomit, diarrhea, lethargy, drastic weight loss, and the loss of shine to his coat.  If you notice any of these symptoms accompanied with lack of eating, you should take your pet to the vet to diagnose the problem. On the other hand, if your pet is happy, healthy, but has never been interested in dinner, it is probably safe to assume that you have a picky eater on your hands.

picky-dog

Life-Size Treat Dispenser

Who me? Yes, you. As shocked as most pet owners are, you are most likely the primary cause of your pet’s lack of appetite. When your pet sits patiently under the table, wagging his tail and staring up at you ever so adorably, fight the urge to toss him a nibble of your BBQ.

Too many table scraps not only spoils your pet’s dinner, but also trains him to think that if he waits long enough, people food will be given to him. If you are not the culprit in this scenario, look to your roommates or family members who may be succumbing to those puppy eyes.

In addition to table treats, regular dog and cat treats can be leading to your pet’s lack of hunger during mealtime. Check the serving size on your treats to ensure that you aren’t overfeeding throughout the day. It is also important to not give treats as if they were a meal. Stick to the Halloween rule of thumb and make sure your dog does a trick before getting a treat! Completely cutting out table scraps and reducing the number of extra treats throughout the day can help encourage your pet to eat regular meals.

Kicking the Habit

If your pet has been unintentionally trained to rely on treats and human food instead of kibbles and wet food, it’s time to kick the habit. Although our pets are domesticated cuddlers, if they are hungry, they instinctively will not pass up a meal. Think of your pet as a toddler. If he asks for a hot dog and then cries for mac and cheese once dinner is served, by giving in and making mac and cheese, you are rewarding tantrums and training him to think this is acceptable behavior.

One method of breaking this picky habit is to stick to a routine. Make an effort to feed your pet at the same time each day with the same portion size. Getting your pet into an established routine will help him learn that dinnertime means dinnertime.

picky-pet

If your dog is still ignoring the meal, try leaving it out for 15-30 minutes before taking it away whether it has been eaten or not. Stick to your routine and do this consistently until your picky pal learns that he must eat when the bowl is put down. Cats on the other hand tend to eat multiple small meals throughout the day. Try to entice your cat with a food puzzle feeder to keep him interested while eating.

Finally, if you think that the food is the problem, try switching to a pet food that does not have corn listed as the top ingredient, as this might not be too attractive to a natural carnivore. However, pets are creatures of habit and don’t always like it when their food is switched.

On the other hand, by continuously switching our pets’ food, they are led to believe that if they keep waiting, more food options will be presented to them. Combat this by gradually switching your pet’s food. For dogs, ease the new food into the old food, and for cats, try leaving both foods side by side to see which they opt to eat. Dealing with a picky eater isn’t always fun, but with patience and discipline you can get your pet on a healthy eating routine.