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I have a cat that is at an older age (we don't know her age, we only know she is older than 12 years). She always liked to eat and would eat anything you give her. The last two months this changed. She doesn't want to eat her food but asks for it. Every time we give her food, she smells it and starts to ask for food again without touching the food.

We went to the veterinarian and she said that nothing was wrong with her health. She looks good and there didn't seem to be a problem elsewhere. She said to try different foods. Most of the time if we give something new, she eats from it, but two days later she doesn't like it anymore. You'd think she would eat if she was hungry enough, but she went from 4 kilos to 3 kilos so she is losing a lot of weight.

It is now for a long period very warm for Belgium, normally we don't have such warm weather for such a long time, could that be a cause? It is not that she can't eat, she seems just to be very picky. The vet also said that all cats love cat food with tomatoes in it, but that also doesn't work...

Anyone has some tips and tricks to try?

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  • Did the vet run any bloodwork? Aug 9 '18 at 2:32
  • No she didn't, she didn't think there was something wrong other than just being picky.
    – Marijke
    Aug 9 '18 at 7:21
  • At 12 years old it wouldn't hurt to run a geriatric blood screening, we typically recommend annual blood test on senior pets to catch things early. Aug 18 '18 at 14:03
  • @RebeccaRVT I really didn't know they did that, thanks for the tip :)
    – Marijke
    Aug 20 '18 at 8:05
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It is now for a long period very warm for Belgium, normally we don't have such warm weather for such a long time, could that be a cause?

I'm also from Belgium and had already considered a similar thing for our cats. One of them is incessantly ravenous and never refuses food (he used to live on the street so he values any meal he gets), but he's refused to eat for two days now even though he still asks for food.

One thing you should consider is that heat facilitates smell. The warmer food is, the more of a smell it releases. Maybe the cat food you're giving was borderline okay in the past, but it currently smells too bad for your cat to want to eat it. (Our cat seems to specifically decide to not eat the food after smelling and investigating the food).

I initially considered if the cat simply feels unwell due to the heat, but it doesn't make sense that they hound me for food then outright refuse it. He's clearly hungry, and intends to eat the bowl I'm putting down, but then suddenly refuses after inspecting it.

Whenever your cat refuses to eat, if you want to make sure that it's not a medical issue, give them their favorite food (a treat, human food they love, ...) and see if they eat that. If they don't even seem interested or are unable to actually keep it in, it's time to go to the vet.


I have a cat that is at an older age (we don't know her age, we only know she is older than 12 years). She always liked to eat and would eat anything you give her. The last two months this changed. She doesn't want to eat her food but asks for it. Every time we give her food, she smells it and starts to ask for food again without touching the food.

However, there are also some different considerations:

Older cats are more set in their ways. They're more likely to have standards and might be very inflexible about them. However, since you mention that she was easy going a few months ago, this may not be the case now.

For reference, our 3 cats were all rescues from the street. They were initially happy to eat any meal provided. Because I used to have an older cat who was very particular about the food she'd eat, I've intentionally tried to prevent a standard from forming with our 3 cats. I never buy them the same brand food in a row, and I switch between most brands that seem good enough.

While I can clearly see their preferences, I am intentionally refusing to cater to them because you're going to eventually pain yourself in a corner with the food options that your cat will accept.

Have you replaced meals when your cat didn't eat? Because that can implicitly teach your cat that it can ask you for a replacement meal. You need to be hardheaded here. Refuse to replace the meal. You can't make your cat eat the food, but you can get them to choose between having a mediocre meal or not having a meal at all. It's up to them to decide.
Similar to children, I give my cats no treats unless they're reasonably finished their meal, so they don't get a substitute snack.

Safety warning: don't be hardheaded enough to ignore a cat who's willing to starve itself. Medical needs come before training.

Are you using plastic bowls? Plastic bowls often have microscopic pores, which can over time get clogged with food remains, which start to give off a bad smell after a while (and no amount of normal washing will clear this). It's possible that the smell has accumulated on the bowl enough that it ruins your cat's appetite. Try feeding them from a new container and see if that changes anything.
In regards to a long term solution, favor metal bowls over plastic ones. They accumulate less food remains because they're not as porous.


The vet also said that all cats love cat food with tomatoes in it, but that also doesn't work

That is a spurious assertion. Our cat's don't like Felix in general, but they still eventually eat it. However, the "beef in tomato sauce" Felix (which smells and looks like actual raw tomato was used) is notably left more than any other Felix meal.

Our cats hound us for pretty much anything we eat. But not vegetables, including tomatoes. I'm well aware of what they like/dislike/try, and one of our cats eats pretty much everything (including non-foods). Never have I seen him interested in tomatoes (or any vegetable) in any shape or form.

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  • Thanks for this elaborate answer. We have three cats with different diets so it is not possible to leave food out there so she can eat it when she sees that we will not give in. I will certainly try to put it in other bowls because we use indeed mainly plastic ones that we have for a very long time. I have told my mother to not give in, but she actually does give treats if she doesn't want to eat anything. I told her also not to do it but she is too afraid that she will loose too much weight. But then she learns of course that if she doesn't eat something, she will get other options...
    – Marijke
    Aug 7 '18 at 11:28
  • @Marijke: I told her also not to do it but she is too afraid that she will loose too much weight. Explain to your mother that she is enabling the cat's desire to starve itself (because it expects replacement food, because your mother provides it when asked). There's a reason they call it spoiling a child/pet. The word is not ironic. It ruins their behavior when interacting with all people, not just your mother.
    – Flater
    Aug 7 '18 at 11:34
  • @Marijke: We have 3 cats with different eating habits too. It took a whle, but we managed to ensure that everyone gets what they like without others taking it. The trick is to rely on a hungry cat being more insistent on its food. One of the cats was notoriously soft and would let the others take her food. We policed it but it kept happening. I chose to ignore it for two days. The third day, she forced herself onto the bowl and refused to give any of her food up. Since then, the others have not bothered taking her food unless she walks away from it.
    – Flater
    Aug 7 '18 at 11:38
  • We have one cat with kidney problems and he only gets 1 type of food because he needs it and if other cats would eat it, it would not be good for them. One of our other cats did manage to eat from it one time and the next days she didn't do anything else than drink and barf. But because he is the most dominant one, he steals away food from others when we don't watch and he really may not eat that food. So it makes it a little more complicated. But I can see how your method can work :) thanks for the tips :)
    – Marijke
    Aug 8 '18 at 11:11

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