Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Updated: May 15, 2024

What are the best cat foods for picky eaters?

Updated: May 15, 2024

It can be a worry if your cat is a finicky eater, often refusing to eat food or just licking the gravy or jelly around it.  So, we have put together a list of recommendations of the best cat food for picky eaters. However, please be aware that sometimes fussiness can be caused by an underlying health condition, such as a dental problem or sensitive stomach. So, if you have concerns, seek advice from a veterinarian first.

  • Blue Wilderness Adult Cat with Chicken (Dry)

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    Highly Recommended

    Blue Wilderness Adult Cat Chicken received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of 11 recipes in this dry product range made by Blue Buffalo, a company owned by General Mills.

    Blue Wilderness Adult Cat Chicken dry food derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 44% protein, 19.8% fat and 28.3% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 45%.

    Made from high-quality natural ingredients such as real chicken and with no artificial flavors or preservatives, this range also includes variants for weight and hairball control.

    Read our review of the full Blue Buffalo Wilderness (Dry) range here
    Main Ingredients Deboned chicken, chicken meal, pea protein, tapioca starch, peas
    Texture Dry
    Type Kibble
    Protein Percentage 44%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Kittens/cats & senior cats

    Save up to 35%

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    Sample buyer review...

    "My Bengal is the PICKIEST cat ever…. He would rather not eat than eat something new… He ate BlueBuffalo without a hitch… He LOVES IT!! No digestive problems….. NOTHING!!! Our new choice of Bengal chow!!!"

  • Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken (Wet)

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    Recommended

    Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consomme received the Cat Food Advisor’s high rating: 4.5 stars.

    It is one of 16 recipes in this product range made by Tiki Cat, a company founded in 2005 by husband and wife, Christine and Robert Hackett. Christine had previously worked in research and development for PetCo.

    Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consomme is grain-free and derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 80% protein, 13% fat and 0% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 16%.

    Tiki Cat Luau is known for its high-quality ingredients. It is made with real, shredded meat or fish as the primary protein source. Common protein options include chicken, fish (such as tuna or salmon), or seafood combinations.  These proteins are typically paired with other natural ingredients such as broth and vegetables.

    Read our review of the full Tiki Cat Luau (Wet) range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken, chicken broth, sunflower seed oil, calcium lactate, dicalcium phosphate
    Texture Wet
    Type Grain-free
    Protein Percentage 80%
    AAFCO Standards Unspecified
    Best For Adult cats

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    Sample buyer review...

    "I LOVE this product, as it’s nothing but beautifully shredded white chicken meat that my two kittens and 14 year old cat love. It’s a great meal topper to pates, or by itself. Highly recommend it."

  • Smalls Smooth Fish (Fresh)

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    Highly Recommended

    Smalls Smooth Fish received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of nine recipes in this fresh product range made by Smalls, a company founded in 2017 by friends Matt Michaelson and Calvin Bohn. It is now produced with a co-manufacturer in a human-grade commercial facility near Chicago.

    Smalls Smooth Fish derives the bulk of its protein from cod, a marine species of fish native to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 55.8% protein, 26.9% fat and 9.3% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 48%.

    Using high-quality human-grade ingredients, Smalls’ recipes come in a variety of flavors and textures. High in protein, Smalls  contains no fillers or preservatives and is ideal for even the pickiest eaters at all life stages.

    Read our review of the full Smalls (Fresh) range here
    Main Ingredients Cod, salmon, pumpkin, nutritional yeast, peas
    Texture Smooth
    Type Fresh
    Protein Percentage 55.8%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Kittens/adult cats & senior cats

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    Sample buyer review...

    "Just have to pass on that my kittens are thriving on Smalls, and I hope I never have to put them on mass-market food ever again. The reduction in stink alone is worth every penny."

  • Just Food for Cats - Fish & Chicken (Wet)

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    Recommended

    Just Food For Cats – Fish & Chicken received the Cat Food Advisor’s high rating: 4.5 stars.

    It is the only wet cat food recipe made by Just Food For Cats, the sister company of Just Food for Dogs. The food is made by hand in open-to-public kitchens and is  lightly cooked to retain its nutritional value.

    Just Food For Cats – Fish & Chicken derives the bulk of its protein from cod, a marine species of fish native to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America. 

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 46.2% protein, 17.3% fat and 28.5% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 38%.

    It is formulated with high levels of animal protein such as wild-caught Alaska Pacific cod, chicken meat and organs and sardines. As a food with high moisture levels, this food will keep your cat hydrated and is perfect for adult cats of all breeds.

    Read our review of the full Just Food for Cats (Fresh) range here
    Main Ingredients Wild-caught alaska pacific cod, chicken thighs, chicken hearts, chicken liver, tapioca starch
    Texture Minced
    Type Fresh
    Protein Percentage 46.2%
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For All cats

    Save up to 35%

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    Sample buyer review...

    "My cat goes crazy for this! Her energy is phenomenal and most importantly, her stools are improving slowly but surely."

  • Wellness CORE Tiny Tasters - Tuna (Wet)

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    Recommended

    Wellness CORE Tiny Tasters Pate Tuna received the Cat Food Advisor’s high rating: 4 stars.

    It is one of 12 recipes in this wet product range made by Wellness Pet Company.

    Wellness CORE Tiny Tasters Pate Tuna derives the bulk of its protein from tuna, an oily marine fish not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 50% protein, 27.3% fat and 14.7% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 55%.

    Made from natural ingredients, this range is high in protein and contains essential fatty acids to help maintain your cat’s healthy coat.

    Read our review of the full Wellness CORE Tiny Tasters (Wet) range here
    Main Ingredients Tuna, chicken, fish broth, water, sunflower oil
    Texture Wet
    Type Paté
    Protein Percentage 50%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For All cats

    Save up to 35%

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    Sample buyer review...

    "I have two cats. One has terrible allergies. She loves TINY TASTERS Tuna and Salmon Recipe. If she leaves anything in her bowl, the other cat without allergies will eat it as well. I love the fact that I don't have to dig in the pouch to get all the products."

  • Darwin's Natural Selections Chicken for Cats (Raw)

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    Recommended

    Darwin’s Natural Selections Chicken for Cats received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of three recipes in this product range made by Darwin’s, one of the first pet food companies to bring raw pet food directly to pet parents. Based in Seattle, Darwins has been formulating raw pet foods for 15 years.

    Darwin’s Natural Selections Chicken for Cats derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 53.3% protein, 30% fat and 8.7% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.

    Natural Selections’ meals are minimally processed to preserve the vital nutrients a cat needs. All meat is pasture-raised and grass-fed so your pet is receiving top-quality meat.

    Read our review of the full Darwin’s Natural Selections (Raw) range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken meat, chicken necks (including bone), chicken gizzards, chicken livers, chicken hearts
    Texture Wet
    Type Raw
    Protein Percentage 53.3
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For Cats

    Get 10lbs of Darwin’s Raw Food for $14.95

    Sample buyer review...

    "I’m a physician and am really picky about what Amanda eats. After switching her to Darwin’s, I was amazed not only at the increase in her energy level, but also the improvement in her coat and in her new and passionate interest in her meals. Thanks for the care you put into your meals"

  • Dr. Marty Nature’s Feast Fish & Poultry (Freeze-Dried Raw)

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    Highly Recommended

    Dr. Marty Nature’s Feast Essential Wellness Fish & Poultry cat food received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of three recipes in this range founded by Dr Marty Goldstein, a vet with more than 40 years’ experience. The food is freeze-dried raw and designed to help support pet health.

    Dr. Marty Nature’s Feast Essential Wellness Fish & Poultry derives the bulk of its protein from fish & chicken.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 38.9% protein, 24.2% fat and 28.8% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 62%.

    The first three ingredients are quality meat or fish sources which means the protein level is very high.  Unlike foods that are cooked at high temperatures, this food is freeze dried which means the nutrients are more protected in the production process.  

    Read our review of the full Dr Marty Nature’s Feast (Freeze-Dried Raw) range here
    Main Ingredients Salmon, turkey, whitefish, chicken liver, chicken heart
    Texture Wet
    Type Raw
    Protein Percentage 38.9
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For Cats

    Exclusive new customer offer

    up to 54% off Dr Marty Nature's Feast

    Sample buyer review...

    "I have been worried about my cat for months because he has become such a picky eater. The vet said it looks like he has kidney failure. I was drawn to Dr. Marty because he mentioned in a video about dogs (!) that he had a cat that lived five years with kidney failure until she was 23 years old. I thought it would help Oreo's kidneys if I upgraded his food. He is loving the change. He can smell the difference. He comes to the kitchen as soon as I start fixing his new blended food."

  • Fussie Cat Tuna with Salmon in Aspic (Wet)

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    Highly Recommended

    Fussie Cat Tuna with Salmon in Aspic received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of 11 wet cat food recipes which come in pouches in a product range made by Fussie Cat and manufactured by Pets Global, Inc., an independently owned, holistic pet wellness company, based in Valencia, CA.

    Fussie Cat Tuna with Salmon in Aspic derives the bulk of its protein from tuna and salmon, both an oily marine fish not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 61.5% protein, 11.5% fat and 18.9% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 19%.

    This food offers very good levels of protein. Carbohydrate is low, fat near-average and moisture content high. Vitamins and minerals have also been added making this food a very good diet option for your cat.

    Read our review of the full Fussie Cat Pouch Formulas (Wet) range here
    Main Ingredients Water sufficient for processing, tuna, salmon, carrageenan, glycine
    Texture Wet
    Type Pouch
    Protein Percentage 61.5
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For Cats & senior cats

    Sample buyer review...

    "I love Fussie Cat and how well my cats and kittens have done on your food. It took a lot of trial and error and trying out soooo many different brands but so far Fussie Cat has been a favorite and has been doing a great job with my kittens and cats health! People always say my kittens look gorgeous and healthy and fluffy. I attribute that to your food! My kittens do so well on your food and it clearly shows in their development!"

  • Acana Highest Protein Meadowlands (Dry)

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    Highly Recommended

    Acana Highest Protein Meadowlands received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of eight dry recipes in this product range made by Acana, a cat and dog food brand created by Champion Petfoods in Canada.

    Acana Highest Protein Meadowlands derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 40% protein, 20% fat and 32% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 50%.

    This protein-rich recipe has been formulated to support the development of a kitten. It includes taurine, DHA & EPA for cognitive development and eye health and probiotics for digestive health.

    Read our review of the full ACANA (Dry) range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken, turkey, chicken liver, chicken meal, catfish meal
    Texture Dry
    Type Kibble
    Protein Percentage 40
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For All cats

    Save up to 35%

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    Sample buyer review...

    "My cat is super picky when it comes to his food. But he loves this. I appreciate the premium ingredients being 75 percent meat. His favorites are turkey and chicken, fish and cage free eggs. This food doesn't seem to irritate his stomach which I love. His coat has been shiny and healthy looking since eating. All from a brand I trust. The morsels are round and a perfect size for him to chew."

  • Applaws Chicken Breast in Broth (Wet)

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    Highly Recommended

    Applaws Chicken Breast in Broth received the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    It is one of six recipes in this wet product range made by Applaws, which is owned by premium pet food company MPM, which specializes in the production of high quality, human-grade pet foods made from natural, clean-label ingredients.

    Acana Chicken Breast in Broth derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 94.7% protein, 1.6% fat and 0% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 2%.

    Applaws Natural Broth pouches offer cats an excellent source of high quality protein and essential fatty acids. They are made with natural, wholesome ingredients, are free from grains, carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

    Highly recommended.

    Read our review of the full Applaws Broth Pouches (Wet) range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken breast, chicken broth
    Texture Wet
    Type Broth
    Protein Percentage 94.7
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For Cats

    Save up to 35%

    with Autoship
    See discount in cart

    Sample buyer review...

    "My two cats are very fussy eaters and "don't do tin cat food", I have always bought fresh and cooked it for them. From the instant of opening a can of Applaws you can see the quality of the food. Both my cats go crazy at meal times now, so much so they have discovered the empty tins go inside the bin and I have found them raiding the bin for the tins. What you read on the label you see in the can. Thank you MPM not only have you saved me time in preparation, but also money. Well done on such fabulous cat food."

What to feed a cat that’s a picky eater?

It’s challenging having a cat that is a picky eater. Here are some tips to help encourage your cat to eat:

Your cat may have a preference for certain flavors and textures, so experiment. Try offering a variety of wet and dry foods with different flavors to determine what your cat prefers.

Warm up the food: Heating the cat’s food can enhance its aroma and make it more appealing. Cats have sensitive tongues so warm it through and do not overheat it.

Introduce new brands: Some cats may have brand preferences. There is a huge variety of brands and formulations to choose from, see which your cat responds better to.

Add toppers or mix-ins: Pet food toppers can make food more palatable to picky eaters. Add on top of your cat’s regular food. You can also try mixing a small amount of wet food into dry kibble to add more flavor and moisture.

Establish a routine: Leaving food out all the time may contribute to your cat’s picky eating behavior. Instead, stick to a feeding plan of meals at a set time of the day rather than free-feeding, this will help establish a routine. 

Offer interactive feeding toys: Some cats enjoy the challenge of hunting for their food. Interactive feeding toys, such as puzzle feeders or treat balls, can make mealtime more engaging and encourage your cat to eat.

Consult your veterinarian: If your cat is refusing food after 24 hours or eating less than usual you should consult your vet. This could possibly be an indication of an illness or disease.

Why do cats become picky eaters?

Cats can be picky eaters for various reasons, including instinctual, behavioral, and health-related factors. Here are some possible explanations for their finicky eating habits:

Cats are natural hunters, and in the wild, they have a diverse diet consisting of different types of prey. This can make them more selective when it comes to their food preferences. Some cats may have a preference for certain flavors, textures, or smells based on their innate instincts.

Cats can be fussy eaters and surprisingly picky about their diet. With only 470 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000, a cats’ sense of taste in food is very selective. So you may find your cat will turn their nose up at food that doesn’t tempt their taste buds or lacks nutrition.

Previous negative experiences could be a big factor in your cat becoming a picky eater. If a cat becomes ill after eating a particular food, they may develop an aversion to it and refuse to eat it again. 

Texture is important for cats. Some cats prefer wet food because it has a higher moisture content and a softer texture, while others may prefer the crunch of dry kibble. Each cat will have their own preference.

Health problems are another major factor in your cat becoming a picky eater. Anything from dental issues, gastrointestinal discomfort, or underlying medical conditions can affect their appetite. It’s important to rule out any underlying health issues if your cat’s picky eating persists or if you notice other concerning symptoms.

Cats are very sensitive to change, if your cat has become a picky eater it could be their environment that is affecting this not the food you are serving them. They are creatures of habit. Stress, anxiety, or changes in their routine, such as moving to a new home or the addition of a new pet, can affect their appetite and make them more selective with their food

Understanding the reasons behind a cat’s picky eating behavior can help you address their needs and find ways to encourage them to eat a balanced diet. If you have concerns about your cat’s eating habits, it’s always advisable to consult with a veterinarian for a thorough guidance.

What do vets recommend if your cat is a picky eater?

Veterinarians may recommend several strategies to address picky eating in cats. Here are some common recommendations:

Ensure a balanced diet: It’s crucial to ensure that your cat’s nutritional needs are met. Vets may suggest offering high-quality, balanced cat food that provides all the necessary nutrients. They may recommend both wet and dry food options to cater to different preferences.

Food trials: This involves introducing different brands or flavors of cat food in small quantities to identify what your cat prefers. This will help determine which specific food your cat prefers.

Variety and rotation: Providing a variety of cat food flavors and textures to stimulate your cat’s interest in mealtime could increase the chance of finding a food that your cat likes. Rotating between different brands or protein sources can also prevent boredom.

Feeding schedule: Establishing a regular feeding routine can help encourage your cat to eat. Vets may suggest offering food at specific times and to remove the food after a certain time, typically 15-20 minutes. This helps create a routine and motivates your cat to eat when food is available.

Feeding environment: Create a calm and comfortable feeding environment. Vets may recommend feeding your cat in a quiet area away from any distractions. Providing a clean and appropriate-sized bowl can also enhance the eating experience.

Consultation and monitoring: If your cat’s picky eating behavior continues or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian. Your vet will conduct a thorough examination, assess your cat’s health, and provide advice and recommendations.

Sources

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Article reviewed by
Georgia Jeremiah

Veterinarian

Dr Georgia Jeremiah has a first class honors degree in comparative pathology with field experience in anatomic and clinical pathology, studying disease processes in a multitude of species.

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