Having a picky pet can be stressful, as you spend your time wondering if they’ll eat their dinner that day or whether they’ll suddenly decide they no longer like it.

You may have gone through several different foods, with limited success, so you’ve tried something else and within days your dog or cat has stopped eating it again.

Unfortunately, picky or fussy eaters are always a result of their feeders. Dogs and cats are never born fussy, but learn to be that way because they get rewarded for it e.g. they get fed a new, tastier food when they stop eating the old one.

Obviously, we only want the very best for our animals, so it worries us when they stop eating, and we want to correct the situation as quickly as possible. Cats, in particular, need to eat every day otherwise they can run into trouble with their kidneys, whereas dogs are the original feast and famine eaters, so can manage quite well without food for a day or two.

In short, letting your pet go without (providing they are not avoiding food for any medical reason), is the best way of training them out of their fussiness. Instead of finding them something else to eat, whether its additional treats, table scraps, or an altogether different diet, try to leave their current food down and wait for them to eat it.

When they learn it won’t be replaced with anything more appetising, they will soon tuck into it for fear of going without. Again, it is best not to leave the food down all day, as it removes the urgency or any sense of taking an opportunity to eat, but leave it down for a period of time only, and then get rid of it.

While this seems wasteful, you’ll soon find that your pet eats more readily, as they know the food is only down for a short time before it disappears.

You can also encourage your pet to eat by putting the food bowl in a happy place, where they feel most comfortable, and using soothing words and gentle petting. It can sometimes help to heat the food up a little, especially if it’s wet food that’s been refrigerated, as cats and dogs prefer to eat food at room temperature.

Although it can be tempting to give treats if you’re worried your pet is hungry, try to offer them only as rewards for training, rather than because you want them to eat. Dogs and cats will quickly pick up on this and avoid their food even more.

As always, if you’re worried about your pet’s appetite or reluctance to eat, consult your vet for advice. They may want to examine your pet and check for signs of illness. Usually illness isn’t the cause, however, and their fussiness is simply a learned behaviour, which needs to be unlearned.

If you have any advice on dealing with fussy eaters, please share it with our other readers by commenting below.

Written by: Hannah