While many cats can be finicky eaters, most pets will come running at mealtime and some may even be insistent or aggressive at feeding time if their owners aren't dishing up fast enough. If your cat seems to forget about meals, disregard mealtime or lose interest in eating, however, you can take easy steps to give them proper dining reminders.
Visit the Vet
Any change in appetite or eating patterns can be a warning sign, and if your cat is forgetting meals your first step should be a visit to the vet. There could be any number of health-related reasons for a cat to start avoiding meals, from simple tooth decay or a mouth sore to more serious conditions such as ulcers, kidney disease, intestinal blockages or different cancers. Your vet will test your cat and be able to rule out different problems, pinpoint any health causes for your cat's appetite change and offer advice for correcting the issue. If no health problems are obvious, however, the next step is to be gentle in reminding your cat about meals.
Reminding Your Cat to Eat
Cats may start to lose interest in meals for different reasons, including senility, anxiety, fear, grief or general finicky feeding. By providing your cat with clues and encouragement, however, you can overcome this behavior and help your cat be more comfortable with each meal.
- Offer Smaller Meals More Frequently
Cats do not generally overeat all at once, and if you are only offering your cat a large meal one or two times a day, they may not finish all their food. Instead, offer several smaller meals throughout the day to coincide with your pet's hunger and they'll be happy to clean their plate.
- Keep It Clean
Cats have very highly developed senses of smell and taste, and even subtle changes can make a meal less appetizing. If your cat's bowl, feeding mat or the general area around their dishes is not clean or has a new smell, such as from a new cleaning product, the cat may be reluctant to eat.
- Remember the Routine
Cats are creatures of habit, and they are comfortable when meals are offered at the same time and in the same way each day. This means using the same dishes in the same place and avoiding new or unusual distractions. Construction noise nearby, a guest in the home or a new pet can all throw off your cat's feeding behavior and should be minimized as much as possible.
- Provide Favorite Foods
Cats get used to the same meals, and they often resist changes to their favorite foods' tastes or textures, even skipping meals if they aren't familiar with the food. If you must change your cat's food, gradually mix in the new food with their old favorites over the course of a week or two so they can adjust and their digestive system will not be upset.
- Feed Securely
Different cats have different preferences for how secure they must feel when they eat. Some cats need company and will feed easily with other pets or while you are nearby, but will avoid eating if they are alone. Other cats feel safest if they can eat alone without fear that their food will be taken away. Learn your cat's preferences and provide meals in a way they are comfortable with.
- Use Auditory Clues
Giving cats a little encouragement can help them remember to eat. Use verbal commands – the same command, offered in a positive tone – with each meal, and it will become a clue that it is feeding time. A bell, whistle or other auditory clue can also be used, and if your cat leaves a few bites uneaten, repeating the clue can help them remember to finish their meal.
- Praise Your Pet
Turn feeding time into a positive, enjoyable experience by praising your cat when they eat. Comforting words in a friendly tone or gentle petting can help relax your cat and let them know they're doing well when they eat, which can help reduce any fear or anxiety that may be affecting mealtimes.
Using several different feeding reminders can help your cat remember to eat more effectively. In time, the cat will learn those feeding clues and never miss a meal again.