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The cat I had growing up was very picky about the kind of food we gave him. He had a thing for Meow Mix dry cat food. If we bought him any different brand, it seemed as though he wouldn't eat it as much or as quickly, so we always stuck with the Meow Mix to keep him happy and well fed. He also refused wet food.

Why did he do this? I have heard of cats having a preference between dry and wet food, but is there really that much difference in the brands of cat food that he could taste? If so, what makes one brand more preferable to cats than another? Or was this all in our imagination and he really didn't care either way?

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Were the flavors also different? For example, were you comparing a seafood flavor from Meow Mix with a chicken flavor from somebody else? I have a cat with strong opinions about flavor but he doesn't care about brand. –  Monica Cellio Apr 24 at 16:59

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Dry food is flavored with a coating of animal digest to make it palatable to cats (it acts as a flavor and scent enhancer). It's entirely reasonable to assume that different sources of animal digests from different manufacturers will have different flavors, and that your cat prefers the particular flavor from a certain manufacturer.

In addition, Dr. Karen Becker explains

there are research and development departments in many of the big commercial cat food companies whose job it is to study what shapes cats prefer. Whether it’s an “x” shape, a triangle, a circle, or maybe a tiny fish, the goal is to develop products your kitty will demand once he’s hooked.

So if a particular brand all share the same shape, then your cat is expressing their preference for that particular shape of food.

John is right that cats don't easily change between food, but I do generally recommend a rotation of at least 3 different brands/flavors so that your cat is not in any danger of Feline Hepatic Lipidosis if the manufacturer suddenly changes their formulation to something your cat finds unpalatable.

In addition, a food rotation also can protect against accidental nutritional deficiencies due to manufacturing error. An article found on Pawnation reviewed a study that found:

"Since 2009 [article published September 2013], there have been 5 major voluntary pet food recalls involving thiamine-deficient pet foods in the United States that ultimately involved 9 brands of cat foods and at least 23 clinically affected cats. Most of these recalls were instituted in response to a report from a consumer or veterinarian after treating a cat that had clinical signs consistent with thiamine deficiency."

(the study is not available on the web, but it is: Thiamine deficiency in dogs and cats. Markovich JE, Heinze CR, Freeman LM. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2013 Sep 1;243(5):649-56. )

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Different brands of foods will have different compositions and, as a result, different tastes. Cats are not like us, they're not looking for variety in their food, it's a sustenance thing and not a pleasure source in the same way it is with us.

As a result, cats are not generally interested in having their food changed. It's atypical for them to easily switch between foods, though it is possible for some cats to have a couple of foods they like (ours had a particular wet food and dry they would eat). There is some evidence that the mother's preference influences the cat but you can alter that over time with a gradual food swap.

In terms of brand preference. I've noticed that brands that tend to have less filler and more meat tend to get favoured by cats. Cats have a keen sense of smell too, so the smell of the food will play a role in the appeal (or lack) to the cat. The brand our cats eat definitely has a strong fish (herring) smell and our cats love it.

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Cats can be very picky about their food. Unfortunately, they pick based on a personal preference (flavor / texture) and not based on how good the food is for them (just like us).

You didn't ask but I'd encourage feeding wet rather than dry food.

Dealing with finicky behavior is definitely very annoying. You want to be able to feed the cat what is good for them and have them eat it, sometimes they can be very insistent that they don't wish to eat that. I have that issue with one of my cats and it bothers me a lot. Good luck with your transition.

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Is wet food generally more nutritious for cats? –  Nicole Rae Apr 25 at 3:30
    
Wet food is considered more healthy since cats tend to drink very little amounts only and thus the food humidity helps. For example, it helps preventing FLUDT (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feline_lower_urinary_tract_disease). But note that dry food also has its goods, e.g. concerning teeth. –  Matz Apr 25 at 9:53

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