What tactics can I employ to get my finicky feline to finish her meals?

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One day your cat is running enthusiastically toward her food, but the next, she’s turning up her nose at it. You feel frustrated and confused.

First, you need to decide what’s causing this behavior, and a trip to the veterinarian is warranted to rule out any illnesses, including dental disease. The problem is that it’s not that normal for her not to eat, and it could possibly create some other health problems—so you want to deal with it as quickly as possible.

If all is well on her health front, try the following strategies to get her to finish her meals:

• Stop free feeding. If you’ve been doing this, you can not accurately know how much she is eating. Instead, measure the food and feed her at specific times. You can also measure out a portion of her daily food and put it inside a food puzzle. This enables her to work for her food throughout the day.
• Eliminate table foods. These aren’t good for cats anyway, and will only serve to increase her taste for those flavors, while decreasing her taste for her own food.
• Microwave: When wet food is heated up (slightly—you don’t want to burn her mouth!) tempting odors will come out.
• Bribery: Add a very tiny amount of cooked meat, tuna juice, liver flakes or cheese to her food. Even some supplements, like probiotics, have especially appealing flavors so talk to your vet about this.
• Employ tough, but patient, love: Admittedly, this one’s a fine line. On one hand, you need to be firm that she should eat her own food; on the other, you don’t want her to go too long without eating. You’ll need to use your best judgment, as well as your vet’s guidance on this matter.

Whatever you do, though, don’t try to entice her with bribes or treats. On the other hand, don’t let the food spoil—make sure it’s always fresh—and don’t yell or look anxious.

• Feed all your pets separately: If you have several pets in the house, each one needs his own bowl and should be fed in a separate location, where another pet can’t sneak up and trap the other. Your non-eating cat could just be too afraid to eat, if this is the case.
• Use a little canned pumpkin to entice her. Cats love the taste—and pumpkin is full of vitamins and fiber. Just be sure it’s 100-percent pure and not pie filling.
• Make sure she’s drinking enough water, or add some to her food, because dehydration can be a cause for appetite loss.

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