What to do when your pet turns their nose up at mealtime

How to fix a fussy eater

Feeding a picky family is challenging enough, but when your pet refuses to even taste their favourite gourmet treats it can be frustrating and a little concerning. Whether Fido is reluctant to finish his biscuits or Puss simply won’t eat, there are many reasons why a pet might go off its food.

First, check whether it’s a sign of ill health, advises animal behaviourist Kate Mornement.

“If your pet turns their nose up at more than one meal it’s a good idea to get them checked by your vet to rule out any physical health issues that might be going on,” says Kate.

But if there’s no health issue and your finicky pet is just waiting for something tastier to come along, there are a number of clever methods you can employ to convince them to lick the bowl clean.

Maintain good health

Ensuring your four-legged friend is in top condition will not only keep them happy, it can help prevent unnecessary illness.

“It’s important that your pet maintains good oral hygiene,” says Kate.

If left untreated, poor dental hygiene can result in a build-up of bacteria – characterised by bad breath and bleeding gums – which can make eating painful for your pet, and may lead to serious health conditions involving the heart, liver and kidneys.

“One thing you can do to maintain good oral hygiene is to feed your pet specialised dental foods such as kibble, which helps keep teeth clean by scraping off plaque and tartar,” she says. “Alternatively, raw bones are really good for cats and dogs to chew on to keep their teeth healthy.”

Jazz up feeding time

There’s no right way to feed your pet, as long as its nutritional requirements are being met, but just as humans enjoy variation in their diet, so do our pets.

“Some pets will eat whatever they’re offered, while others will be a bit fussier,” tells Kate.

“For those fussier eaters, it can help to make food taste or smell better by mixing in something like sardines or tuna, which have strong smells and tastes.”

Don’t encourage bad habits

If you indulge your pet with treats throughout the day, you may encourage fastidious eating habits.

Explains Kate, “Lots of people unintentionally teach their pets that if they turn their nose up at food, something better will come along.”

One way to handle fussy behaviours is to only feed your pet from the bowl and avoid leaving food out throughout the day, because leaving food out reinforces that they have all day to eat it.

Instead, Kate advises, “Give them some food and walk away. Then, after 10 minutes, remove whatever hasn’t been eaten so that next time you offer it they’ll be more likely to eat it because they know it won’t be there the whole day.”

Mealtime challenges

In the wild, animals eat almost anything, but in our homes, they learn they can be more selective. Also, in their natural habitat, wild canines and felines don’t eat every day – they tend to only eat when they come across food.

Studies show that animals prefer working for food rather than having it for free. This is where a food-dispensing toy comes in handy. The food is placed inside the toy and to get to it, cats and dogs need

to bat it around to make it come out.

“By providing your pet’s food in a dispensing toy, you’re giving them a task to face, in the same way wild animals do,” says Kate.

A happy home

A fussy eater could be a sign that something is wrong in the home environment. If your pet has recently travelled, moved to a new home, or has been introduced to a new pet or baby, then it’s likely

the loss of appetite is due to stress.

A comfortable and safe location that suits your pet will help ensure they remain happy, healthy and content. Also, keep an eye out for any unusual behaviour.

“Bored pets can also become destructive and may decide to eat things in the backyard – or even raid your rubbish bins,” tells Kate.

“Providing pets with lots of mental and physical stimulation will prevent those behaviours from happening.”

Best pet items to help your fussy eater

Coco the Couch, $329 at The Paws Room

If your pet likes the high life, Coco is a stylish alternative to your couch or bed that still provides the elevation, ventilation and admiration they deserve.

Shop now

Petzone Fleece Cat Cave, $15 at The Market

Your cat will love this cave, super soft and cosy for them to curl up and hide in!

Shop now

Boz the Bowl, $62 at The Paws Room

This beautiful handmade ceramic bowl are crafted with a maze design so that eating requires some thought and mimics natural behaviours. Problem solving adds to your dog’s sense of calm by alleviating frustration that can lead to excessive barking or chewing.

Shop now

Greenies Dental Treats, $18.99 at The Market

These dental treats are nutritious and calorie friendly specifically formulated to help promote dental care while providing essential vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. The chewy texture allows teeth to sink in all the way to the gums for more effective cleaning, while the brush head encourages dogs to manipulate the bone brush in their mouth so more teeth get cleaned.

Shop now

Kong Wobbler, from $50.99 at PETstock

The Kong Wobbler Treat Dispenser provides mental and physical stimulation by making playtime rewarding. The wobbler dispenses treats as the toy is rolled around and played with. Use the Wobbler as an alternative feeder to help extend mealtime and slow down eating. There is a version for dogs, starting from $50.99, and cats, $60.99, to keep everyone entertained and busy.

Shop now for dogs and cats

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