September 30, 2022

Why cats and dogs snack so differently

Why cats and dogs snack so differently
Dr. Chris Brown

It always feels like there are two styles of diners. The fussy and the fast! With very little in-between. But here’s why some hairy humans are so picky with their food and treats. It’s probably not why you think…

It’s remarkable how often I’m told by pet parents that ‘we’ve tried everything but he’s never really interested’. Yes, fussiness with food from both dogs and cats is one universal phenomenon. But just why some are ‘ho hum’ while others ‘hoover’ is pretty poorly understood. So let me explain with some Secret Confessions of the Fussy:

Fussy Fact 1: Blame the relatives

For all cats and some dogs, this is a massive one. While dogs are mostly descended from wolfpack members who would have to compete for food with the group (and so would hoover it down the moment it’s available) cats are different. They have always been solitary hunters. There’s no rush. They can have a little here, a little there. And choose their time to eat. So just be patient with cats and snacks. They will come back when it suits them. And when they’re hungry.

  • Interestingly, ex shelter dogs are often gluttons for the above reason. Being around lots of other hungry mouths means they tend to hoover. I should know. Buzzy is this personified...


Fussy Fact 2: Emotional eating

Here’s a surprise. For the fussy, the biggest influence over whether they dine or delay eating isn’t the taste or the aroma. It’s what’s happening around them at the time. Too much noise, general mayhem or other animals lurking nearby can make them second guess a snack. In their mind, it’s just not a safe environment. It’s why you’ll often hear cats eating dinner later in the evening and why some dogs insist on you sitting with them while they eat.

Fussy eaters are so often emotional eaters. Too much mayhem and anxiety and they’ll just wait for a quieter time. And yes, it’s why fussy eating and anxiety are often linked.

Tip: Creating a quiet moment away from the TV or the kids with plenty of pats can be the ticket to tempting them into eating.


Fussy Fact 3: The Morsel matters

This might sound ‘peak picky’ but genuinely, the size and shape of what they’re eating has a big influence. It comes from the fact our small dogs have a surprisingly small amount of space for chewing while cats completely lack any teeth for grinding down big food items down to small ones.

So genuinely, making the morsel a suitable size can make all the difference. And it’s something fussy cats and small dogs do agree on. The perfect piece? No larger than 1cm! So breaking a treat or dinner morsel into something around 8mm should lead to a breakthrough. Interestingly, it’s why I spent an embarrassing amount of time getting my cat treat size down to 8-10mm. But feel free to go smaller if you need to. It may tempt them even more….!

Oh and don’t forget. Any sudden onset of food fussiness could actually be a sign of a sore mouth and dental disease. So get that checked out by your vet.

Teeth + Breath Cat
Teeth + Breath Cat

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