A cat not eating wet food is usually not a big problem, but the list of potential reasons why can be long. I’ve familiar with this problem of my picky Maine Coon cat not eating food at all, so I have plenty of practical experience here!
All the reasons fall under a couple of buckets: It could be something up with the cat food, their eating environment or bowl or dish. It can also be a behavioral/psychological issue or health-related.
Let’s break down each on below in detail, as well as cover tips and tricks on getting your cat to start enjoying wet food again.
- Why Won’t My Cat Eat Wet Food Anymore?
- Cat Food Issues
- Bowl or Dish Problems
- Behavioral Issues
- Health Issues
- Why You Should Feed Wet Food To Your Cat
- Can My Cat Only Eat Dry Kibble?
- When Should I Switch My Cat to Eating Wet Food?
- How to Transition from Dry Food to Wet Food
- How to Get Your Cat to Eat Wet Food
Why Won’t My Cat Eat Wet Food Anymore?
From texture changes to a seemingly harmless bowl swap, many factors can influence a cat’s willingness to dive into that can of wet food, and have pet parents asking “why won’t my cat eat wet cat food all of a sudden?”
Let’s look at some of the usual suspects. Start with the cat food itself.
Cat Food Issues
Imagine eating the same wet cat food day in, day out. Not only would this be monotonous, but our taste buds may even become numb to it. Similarly, cats might lose interest in their wet food if it’s all they’ve been served for too long.
A cat not eating too much, but other acting normal? They could be picky eaters.
Within the same brand and flavor, not all batches of cat food are created equal. A slight change in the composition of a recent batch might turn your feline friend off.
A change in the recipe of their favorite food can be a turn-off for some cats. Manufacturers often adjust their ingredients, much to the chagrin of cats and cat parents everywhere. These changes can alter the taste, texture, or smell that your cat has grown to love.
You may not know when the can of food expired, but Fluffy can! (Even if they might not understand why) Cats have an amazing sense of smell, and some won’t eat wet food that’s smells imperceptibly off. Always check the expiration dates on canned food to ensure freshness.
Texture or Flavor Changes
Did you swap a creamy pâté texture for chunks in sauce? Or chicken for tuna? Your cat might not be on board with the change. A sudden change in texture or flavor can be a deterrent. Cats are quite particular about the texture and flavor of their food.
Watch the Temperature of the Food
You need to mind the temperature of the wet food. Are you serving a fresh room temperature can or cold leftovers from the refrigerator? All those are factors that affect why a cat won’t eat their wet food.
If the food is too cold (straight from the fridge) or too hot (just after being microwaved), it might be less appealing.
Too Many Treats
This is one I know too well, and I’m sure many pet parents do too. An abundance of cat treats not only causes kitty to not feel hungry when mealtime rolls around, it also spoils their palette.
Cat treats and snacks are too delicious, and wet food pales in comparison. If we always had super palatable snacks, like chips, available (wait, we do…), then real food, like a potato, is not a priority.
Treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calorie intake.
Bowl or Dish Problems
A cat’s food bowl, dish or feeder definitely influence a cat’s eating habits. My cat, Chelle, likes to eat from elevated bowls now. In the past, she preferred a low and wide stainless steel bowl. I guess as she got older, she is over bending all the way down to eat.
Consider the bowl or dish material, orientation, and even its location. If any of that changed, it could be grounds for a hunger strike.
Can’t won’t eat wet food but eats dry food? Make sure you’re washing the wet cat food bowl with soap and water after meals. You don’t want to eat off a plate crusted with past meals right? Don’t subject your cat to the same.
I always recommend stainless steel, ceramic, or glass because they are more hygienic. Those materials do not maintain odors or develop cracks like plastic where bacteria can grow.
Sometimes, cats associate food with an unpleasant experience, like vomiting or a stomach upset. If this happens, they might develop an aversion to the particular food they ate at the time.
Another example would be if your cat stops eating her wet food after a vet visit or dental work. If they were exposed to it around then, now the food is linked with unpleasantness!
Eating Somewhere Else
Your neighbor or housemate loves your cat too! They might be feeding them on the low. An alternative food source leads to decreased appetite for the food you offer.
Dry Cat Food is Engineered to be Good
Some kibble is basically junk food: tons of carbs, grains, filler, artificial flavors. All enticing and crunchy to cats. If a cat or kitten has gotten use to this type of eating, they might just snub wet food.
Similar to this, is that cats are creatures of habit. Any significant alteration in their feeding routine can lead to mixed results.
Cat Won’t Eat Wet Food But Will Eat Dry Food? Maybe They’re Unfamiliar with It
Like the above, if your cat was never simply fed wet food as a kitten, they might simply not recognize it as food. Introducing wet food gradually alongside their familiar kibble can help.
In a similar vein, if your kitten is not eating wet food, you will want to find alternatives or take steps to provide nutrition as soon as possible. The younger the kitten is, the less time they can go without eating.
Stress can significantly affect a cat’s appetite. Any changes in the environment, like moving to a new house or introducing a new pet or person, can stress out your cat, causing them to lose interest in food. This can be subtle, so if your cat is not eating but acting normal otherwise, it could be stress.
Cat won’t eat wet food all of a sudden? If the above explanations don’t get things clicking in some way, it may be health related. If your cat is only licking the gravy and leaving the chunks behind, it could be a sign of oral pain.
Cats can go for about a week without food in certain situations, but if he is skipping more than a few meals, call your veterinarian!
Why You Should Feed Wet Food To Your Cat
If you can, include wet food in your cat’s diet. Not trying exaggerate, but in this wet cat food vs dry food debate, I will go far as saying that the worst wet food is better than the best dry cat food.
Higher Moisture Content
Hydration is essential to your cat’s overall health. The moisture content in wet food is significantly higher than that of dry food, typically around 75-80% vs 10-15% in dry food.
This added hydration helps keep your cat’s urinary tract health in check and prevent dehydration, particularly for cats that aren’t enthusiastic drinkers.
Cats have a low need for carbohydrates. Wet cat food has low carbs and filler than dry food, making it a good choice for cats, especially lazy indoor cats who may be at risk of obesity or diabetes.
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a diet high in animal protein.
Wet food has a higher protein content than dry food, meeting your cat’s species specific nutritional needs more closely. Protein supports various functions in your cat’s body, including muscle growth and repair, and maintaining a healthy immune system.
Can My Cat Only Eat Dry Kibble?
It’s possible for a cat to survive on dry kibble alone. In fact, an untold number of cats, indoor and outdoor, domesticated or feral, have eat dry food only.
However, it might not be the most beneficial diet for them in the long run. You might save on costs and hassle now, but what if this heavy carb diet leads to health complications when your cat is older?
I always advise giving a mix of wet food and kibble, for variety and complete and balanced diet that provides the benefits of both types of food.
When Should I Switch My Cat to Eating Wet Food?
If your cat is on a dry food only diet, you should incorporate some wet food as soon as you have time to complete the transition process.
How to Transition from Dry Food to Wet Food
Transitioning your cat from dry food to wet food isn’t usually an overnight process. A sudden switch from dry to wet food might cause digestive issues such as diarrhea or constipation, and could even lead your cat to reject the new food outright.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to go about it:
- Begin by offering a small amount of wet food alongside the dry food your cat is used to. This helps your cat get accustomed to the new smell and texture.
- Gradually increase the proportion of wet food while decreasing the dry food. This process should be done slowly over a week or two to avoid upsetting your cat’s digestive system.
- Monitor your cat’s reactions. If they seem to enjoy the wet food, continue to increase the ratio. If they seem hesitant, slow down the transition.
- Eventually, the goal is to completely replace the dry food with wet food, but this depends on your cat’s acceptance. Some cats may still prefer a mix of both types of food.
How to Get Your Cat to Eat Wet Food
Here are some creative strategies you can use to get your cat to eat wet food.
Cat Won’t Eat Wet Food from the Fridge? Warm It Up
Wet food changes texture and loses its aroma once refrigerated. To fix this, warm the food slightly in the microwave. The heat helps release the food’s aroma, making it more enticing to your cat.
By the way, go easy on the time. The first time I did this, I set it it for too long, and it was like a fish bomb exploded in my microwave! Microwave in increments of 5-10 seconds.
Keep It On Ice
Keep wet food in a can or pouch on ice or in ice bath instead of the fridge. This maintains the food’s texture and ensures the second meal from the same can is just like the first.
Experiment with Temperature
While many cats prefer their food at room temperature or warm so they can smell it, don’t rule out chilled food. Some cats might actually prefer it cold, for a change.
Mix Wet Food and Dry Food
Try mixing the usual dry food they already like with wet food. It might be what your cats need.
Implement a Feeding Schedule
Stop free feeding kibble and introduce set meal times.
Try taking away the kibble at night, then feeding wet food in the morning when they’re hungry. All the while ignoring any complaining your cat may do. This can help to establish a routine and encourage your cat to eat when food is available.
Entice with Treats or Food Toppers
Experiment with adding a bit of your cat’s favorite treats into the wet food can make it more tempting. Also consider adding a food topper, bone broth, or gravy to the wet food. These additions can enhance the flavor and may make the wet food more appealing.
I would not rely on this too often though, we don’t want them to get use to it, and refuse regular wet food.
Cat Won’t Eat Wet Food But Will Eat Treats? Offer Variety!
Just like humans, cats can get bored eating the same thing every day. Try different brands and flavors of wet food to find out what your cat likes best. Variety packs can be a great way to test this.
Create a Comfortable Eating Environment
Ensure that the place where your cat eats is quiet and calm. Additionally, keep their food away from their water source, as some cats prefer these to be separate. In the wild, cats avoid water sources near their kills, as it was easily contaminated.
Cats can be social creatures. If you have multiple cats, having them eat together can encourage a hesitant cat to join in. Similarly, some cats might eat more when their human family is also eating.
Increase Exercise and Rewards
More activity can stimulate your cat’s appetite. Incorporate more playtime throughout the day, especially before meals. And once your cat has “defeated” its prey, compliment then and provide a reward of wet food.
Using wet food as a reward can help create positive associations, too. So in the future, if your cat does something good, the pay off bit of wet food.
Try Hand Feeding
For particularly picky eaters, you can try hand-feeding. This can help build trust and make your cat more comfortable with the new food. I won’t lie, I’ve done this a fair bit, especially when the wet food had medicine in it.
Hand feeding is a bit of last resort thing, but my cat will pretty much eat anything as long as it’s hand fed to her. Maybe yours is the same!
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.