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My cat is 14 and has had some health troubles for a few years, off and on. We've mostly been able to manage it. But it has often resulted in needing to adjust his diet - either because what he is eating is making him sick, because he needs special food with specific stuff, or because he just flat decides he isn't going to eat something anymore (the fun one).

A little over a month ago he got a new problem after being good for awhile where he was throwing up a huge amount. After some checkups and lab work the vet was able to prescribe us a huge batch of medication to hopefully deal with the issue (various inflammation markers present, low levels of certain parameters, etc. - not really important here). As he started getting more sick he stopped eating as much, which isn't surprising. Now he's getting better, but eating even less and we can't quite figure out what to do.

He is definitely hungry and wants food, just not what we give him. The wet food he used to eat he has decided is out. We went through multiple new flavors, types, and brands and he tries them then decides he doesn't want them. We found one type of dry food he'll eat enough of to not completely starve, but not as much as he needs. Also after he got bladder stones years ago we switched away from dry food (or to prescription urinary dry food) on the vets recommendation, so a pure dry food (or even mostly dry food) diet isn't ideal if at all avoidable.

So backstory out of the way, to keep him from actively starving to death we gave him some tuna a few times over the last few weeks. I KNOW canned tuna isn't good for cats and can't be a long term thing, please don't spend time commenting to tell me that. He'll eat the tuna like a madman. But we try tuna based wet cat food and he almost doesn't touch it. Doesn't seem to matter the brand or the style (pate, chunks, etc).

Has anyone run into this situation (not just not eating, but the will eat tuna, won't touch tuna cat food) and if so did they find something the cat would eat? What is it about the normal tuna that the cat food doesn't give? Is there a cat food that will give him that?

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    try to limit your cats intake of tuna as heavy metals acumulate in the larger types of predatory fish. – trond hansen Jun 18 at 14:33
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I don't think I'm experienced enough to resolve your issue completely, but I may offer some useful insight regardless, while we would wait for someone wiser than me to answer - because I'm curious as well.

At first, it's my subjective opinion - but I wouldn't even dare criticizing you for feeding canned tuna in this situation at all, I would even praise you for doing so. As far as I know, in the context of food, cats are picky enough to be able to literally starve themselves if the food they have access to doesn't suit their fancy, so I'd say you're just improvising and doing what you currently have to do in order to save your cat from starvation.

As for the seemingly awkward duality of you cat's appetite in the context of different forms of tuna - again, since cats are picky eaters, even subtle differences and minuscule amounts of additional ingredients could turn them away from their favourite meals and cause repulsion. And tuna-flavored cat food has not just subtle, but actually a significant amount of various additives beyond tuna. I guess wet food, unlike kibbles, doesn't contain significant amounts of cereal grains - but it could contain for example cassia gum as a "technological" additive - a thickener, and it could be totally enough to turn your cat off this type of food.

Also, I'm just guessing but since wet cat foods are often mixed - for example, tuna and chicken - the combination of different types of meat could result in a weird, unfamiliar sensation on the picky cat's tongue, resulting in repulsion as well. It is not known how do cats exactly perceive tastes, but we know that they do it differently than humans - for instance, they are unable to taste sweetness, but unlike humans they taste ATP and are attracted to some amino acids - so it could be difficult to imagine, not to mention explain, how and why exactly does your issue exist.

What is more, it could just be the processing of that cat food itself that significantly alters tuna's taste or texture, and that may be the reason for discouraging your cat from consumption as well.

So I think it's not that the wet tuna-flavored food you're buying for your cat is missing something essential, but quite the opposite - I assume that from the point of view of your cat, it contains superfluous and unappetizing additives, unlike the much "cleaner" canned tuna which in comparison lacks these unfamiliar and weird tastes.

I don't really have a solution though; I could only suggest trying to prepare tuna based food yourself. What I mean is buying raw tuna meat - for example, a tuna loin (steak) and preparing it by cutting into small chunks and then boiling in water. I believe it could turn out to be tedious at least, but it would definitely be something I'd give a try if I were in your shoes.

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