Cats are very sensitive to the texture, shape, odour and taste of food and if they were not exposed to different food types and flavours when kittens this can make them fussy later in life. However, the temperature of the food and even the environment, season or storage conditions can also affect their food preferences.
KEEPING FOOD FRESH
Cats will usually avoid moist food that has been left to dry out in the sun, so offering smaller amounts of fresh food that can be consumed immediately is preferred rather than filling the bowl up. If this isn’t possible, then some automatic cat feeders now have lids that only open when the cat approaches and ice packs to keep food cool.
It can be tempting to swap to dry food during the summer so you can leave food out all day without attracting flies or drying out. However, even dry food will start to go off if left exposed for too long. Cats which are not used to dry food may not drink enough, causing urinary tract problems. Encouraging fluid intake in the summer is important and can be done by soaking dry food, using water fountains and experimenting with different types (and the position) of water bowls.
Don’t worry too much if your cat seems to eat less in the warm weather. Studies have shown that this is normal and they will eat 15% more food in the winter than the summer. This is thought to be because of the increase in energy they expend in the colder months trying to keep warm.
Buying larger bags may seem more economical but the food will not be as fresh towards the end of the bag, meaning the cat is more likely to refuse it.
STORING FOOD IN THE SUMMER
If you feed dry cat food it is very important that it is stored in a cool (but dry) place, out of direct sunlight and in winter away from radiators. The temperature in the room or cupboard should remain stable. It’s not uncommon for owners to store cat food in the boiler cupboard but the constant changes in temperature from hot to cold can cause the food to go off and eventually develop mould.
Once a bag of dry food has been opened it should be used as quickly as possible to remain fresh. Buying larger bags may seem more economical but the food will not be as fresh towards the end of the bag, meaning the cat is more likely to refuse it. Smaller bags can be a useful way of preventing a storage mite infestation too; important if you have a cat with sensitive skin.
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REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Hand, Thatcher, Remillard, Roudebush & Novotny (2010)Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition. Mark Morris Institute.