Why does my cat always leave behind food, and refuse to eat it later when combined with new food?

I'm not overfeeding...

I'm not giving my cat more than she can eat, but rather she seems adamant to leave behind her food.

After several days, she will end up with an oversupply of left-overs.

Its not the bowl or comfort issues...

I initially researched it, and I thought perhaps she did not like her wiskers touching the side of the bowl -- hence she would not eat from the fringes of the bowl.

Perhaps she is spoiled...

That was not the case. I tried bunching her food together to the middle of the bowl and topping it off with a very small amount of new food, perhaps "tricking" her into thinking the whole pile was new.

She seems to reject anything that was previously a left-over, and there is no tricking her.

It seems likely she is sensing something by smell that I am not fully grasping.

She is possibly making health decisions, and her food is not good in her eyes...

The food is "Friskies" and I had switched to fish-based ingredients when I was told her poultry-based food was causing a rash that she had (I had been inspecting it's cause for a year or so)

The only thing I can surmise, based on what I know of my cat, is she is instinctively rejecting portions of her food based on her own sensitivities.

But how do I know for sure? Is this common cat behavior?

I'd like to stop wasting food as well as get to the bottom of this issue.

An extra note...

My wife and I have a cute little feud over this. She says I spoil her, whereas I think the cat is probably having a real problem I don't understand. Yet on that "spoiling" level, if I ever cook fish she is extremely interested in our meal and begs a great deal. Of course I feed her the fish!

Spoiled kitty? Malnourished kitty? Deranged kitty?

  • 1
    This is a bit off topic, but some sources say you should avoid feeding too much fish to cats, see e.g. littlebigcat.com/nutrition/why-fish-is-dangerous-for-cats
    – augurar
    Aug 12, 2015 at 8:03
  • @augurar Related Is it safe for my cat to eat fish
    – Zaralynda
    Jul 19, 2016 at 13:15
  • 3
    what you realy have to look for is the weight of your cat,does your cat loose weight or does your cat gain weight.if she looses weight you need to take her to the vet and if the weight is unchanged you over feed her if there is leftover food. Feb 28, 2019 at 5:30
  • My cat does the same thing. She’d just leave the rest there even if she were starving… it seems lol. She won’t eat until the bowl is filled to the top, always has to be filled to the top in order to eat.
    – Sommer
    Nov 4, 2021 at 12:48

3 Answers 3


The simplest explanation is that she is not hungry enough to eat all you give her. I don't follow the logic that she can eat that amount, therefore she must. Appetite levels can change, especially as a cat ages and activity drops. If the fish is less palatable, she might only be eating what she needs to, especially if she can beg tidbits at will.

Give her somewhat less and save the rest for the next meal. Only if she starts losing weight is there much real concern. Refrigerate the part-can until the next time.

  • 4
    I am inclined to agree. Feeding guidelines on food are patently ridiculous; I have never ever fed my animals the recommended amount because it is so ludicrously high. Keep dropping the amount of food until all of it is gone. If your cat is really hungry, they will eat. That being said, cats are picky eaters, so it is entirely possible that your cat doesn't like this food. Buy an assortment of small cans and keep trying to find something they like. Also, don't skimp on food; cheap food can mean large vet bills down the road. Jul 30, 2017 at 15:33

My cat, Rocky, 10.6 lbs., eats from an open, flat plate to avoid whisker fatigue. I understand that that can be painful if eating, or drinking, from a bowl.

Second, I feed my cat 1.4 oz., at a time for 3 small meals throughout the day. That equals 4.2 oz. of PMR raw meat. I don't feed him any less than 6-7 hours apart so he can develop an appetite.

When I go to bed, I do not get up to feed him. Yes, he can go that long without food. However, I choose to give him 1/4 cup of freeze Dried Raw to crunch on throughout the night.

Cats are intelligent, hardy little animals. And they know what they like and don't like. Does my cat have issues around food? Absolutely! He's the pickiest cat I know when it comes to food.

Try this: Which I have done prior to going Raw with Rocky. This works better with 3oz. cans but it works just as well with larger cans of cat food.

Serve at least 1 oz. to 1.4 oz. at meal time. Use a scale to measure. At the first sign of resistance, freeze the rest of that can, and open a different flavor that you know they've eaten before without resistance. Rotate the cans as needed. This way you don't waste much food.

Cats, like people, get tired of eating the same thing over and over again. When in the wild, they eat a variety of rodents, birds, lizards, etc. according to what they can find.They never say to themselves, "I think I will only hunt for a rabbit, or a mouse." They eat what Nature presents to them, and it's never the same thing day after day.

Some days I hit the jackpot and Rocky eats everything I give him. Other days, well, let's just say I am the one freaking out because he has barely eaten a thing.

It's the same with you. Some days you're just not hungry, or you don't know what you want to eat.

The most important thing I can say here, is watch your cat's weight. Weigh once a week or twice a month. Check their mouth for pale gums and/or dental issues. And lastly, watch the litter box. This will indicate how their digestive tract and kidneys are working.

I'm not a DVM or a Pet Nutritionist. I'm just here to share what I've learned with my cats over the years. I hope what I've shared here helps you with your fur babies.


For some cats, the answer is a constant supply of dry food and letting them decide for themselves how much they want. Others will gain weight given that opportunity.

Yes, wet food is better for them. It isn't always preferred by the cat. Mine loves the "gravy" foods, but will lick up all the gravy and leave any solids basically untouched; I've stopped trying to change her mind about that since she still has the dry available if she wants it.

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