How Do Cats Choose Their Food?
It's surprising how quickly some cats will take to certain foods and can then appear to have no interest in others. To humans, cats seem to be some of the pickiest pets when it comes to their food and it can cause all kinds of headaches for owners when it comes time to feeding them. This is why it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with how your cat chooses their food so you can find them something they are happy to eat that also fulfils their nutritional requirements.
How they choose
Cats don't have the same number of taste buds as humans, in fact far less. Because of this, cats use their other senses when it comes to choosing their food unlike people who rely on flavour. Cats use three senses to decide whether or not they will eat something:
1. They use their nose
A cat's sense of smell is their primary way of interacting with food. Cats will usually sniff their meals before eating it, and food that smells unappealing will be more than likely rejected. Incredibly, cats have 65 million olfactory (scent) receptors, whereas humans only have 15 million. This is why feeding your cat a meal that gives off a meaty, appealing aroma is so important, as cats typically favour smell over anything else.
2. They need the right texture
The way food is grasped and feels in your cat’s mouth plays a big part in whether they decide to pick it up and eat it in the first place. Each cat will have their own different preferences - some will prefer soft food in jellies or gravy that is easy to chew and swallow, while others will prefer a loaf texture or dry kibble. If you have a pure breed cat, you should also pay particular attention to how they pick up dry food. Some breeds like the Persian can have trouble grasping their food because of their short muzzles. ROYAL CANIN® takes this into account with our range of breed specific diets that use kibble specifically designed for their individual needs. For instance, our Persian kibble’s unique shape and size makes it easier for Persian cats to pick up with the underside of their tongue and encourages proper chewing habits in their flat jaw.
3. They need to feel good afterwards
The ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrate in your cat’s food can impact how your cat’s body feels after it starts to break down in digestion. This ratio, often referred to as the Macronutrient Profile (MNP), determines the ideal ratio of energy derived from the three macronutrients and helps provide a positive post-digestion sensation. If you’re finding it difficult to find a food your cat prefers, you can try a one-off food trial. For example, simply put out a small amount of jelly, gravy and loaf textured food and see which food your cat prefers. When it comes to dry foods, look out for products that address the specific needs of fussy cats - aromas, texture and nutrient preferences. You can do the same one-off trial with the dry food, and this can easily help you find out whether your cat is mainly driven by smell, texture or the digestive sensation.
Common misconceptions about feeding
Myth: Cats select their food based on taste.
You’re not alone in thinking your cat favours flavour. A recent survey with cat owners showed that 99% of Australian owners feel their cats prefer flavour, however cats primarily choose their food based on smell, texture and the digestive sensation. Flavour plays quite a small role when it comes to their preference as cats only have 500 tastebuds, whereas humans have 9,000.
Myth: High protein diets are bad.
High quality proteins like fish, beef and chicken are excellent for cats. Cats need a high protein diet to gain much needed nutrients like the essential amino acid taurine that they can only get from animal based proteins.
Myth: Cats prefer either exclusively wet or dry food.
Around 85% of Australian cats are fed a mixed diet of wet and dry foods, not just one or the other. Wet food can help your cat stay hydrated and dry food is excellent for their dental health.