Dogs may hold the record for the most intelligent and playful of all common household pets. But the title for the most curious and fussy pet goes to cats.
Cats are undeniably the pickiest eaters of all pets ever domesticated by mankind. These animals can be highly unpredictable when it comes to developing cravings for or aversions to certain foods. Even foods that cats typically adore, such as beef and poultry, could suddenly become a turn-off.
But one common unusual eating behavior observed by most cat owners is that where a cat licks wet food but doesn’t eat it. As a concerned pet parent, this might get you wondering if there’s something inherently wrong with the food.
And like any cat owner in your situation, you may find yourself asking, ‘why is my cat just licking her food instead of eating the chunks therein?’
Numerous factors could make your cat lick the sauce from her food and ignore the chunks. The most likely reason is that the animal doesn’t like the food. Some cats will also refuse to eat their food and only lick the jelly if they’re not hungry. The behavior could also stem from a mouth injury or tooth problem.
As a loving and responsible pet parent, it’s upon you to get to the bottom of the issue and uncover why your cat only prefers to lick the gravy and ignore the chunks.
This post highlights all the possible reasons your cat might be licking his wet food but not eating it. Other common areas the article shall cover include what you can do to restore your cat’s love for wet food.
Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Licks Food But Doesn’t Eat It
One of the commonly reported issues by pet parents is, ‘my cat only licks sauce from wet food and ignore the chunks but eats dry food without issues, could there be a problem with him?’
Now, it’s not unusual to find out that your adorable kitto is displaying all signs of a healthy cat except for his eating habits. The animal sleeps for the better part of his day then spends the rest of his waking hours playing, prowling, hunting, and grooming. He also seems to eat and drink fairly well. The only problem is that the cat only licks gravy from wet food but completely ignores the chunks.
There shouldn’t be any cause for alarm if this unusual eating habit only happens occasionally. But if the behavior repeats itself abnormally more frequent, you may start to wonder, why does my cat only wants to eat broth?
The following are common reasons why cats prefer licking gravy off their wet food and ignoring the chunks;
1. Dislike for the Food
The main reason your cat only licks the sauce off wet food is that the animal dislikes his food.
Numerous factors could make your cat develop a dislike for his food. Common ones include;
a. Unpalatable Flavor
Cats are obligate carnivores. Their diet should comprise at least 85% animal protein and about 5% of unrefined animal-derived fats, with the other essential nutrients making up the remaining 10%.
Since cats are used to eating animal-based foods, they’ve instinctively developed a taste for animal flavors. Your feline friend will likely enjoy a diet with tuna, beefy, or poultry flavors than those with vegetable or fruity tastes.
b. Flavor Fatigue
Cats may prefer meat-based flavors to plant-based ones. But that doesn’t mean your kitto will be comfortable eating tuna-flavored foods all his life. Feeding a cat one specific flavor for an abnormally long duration could result in flavor fatigue.
When a cat develops flavor fatigue, he may no longer enjoy the taste and smell of his food. That’s despite the fact that these foods might actually contain the animal’s favorite flavors.
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c. Unpleasant Smell
Smell and taste are the primary aspects of flavor. However, food can still smell differently than it tastes.
A cat may ignore the chunks in his food and only choose to lick the gravy if the animal picks up an unpleasant smell. Common smells that cats find repulsive include peppery and pungent smells.
d. Unpleasant Texture
Bizarre as it may sound, cats care so much about the texture of their food. Texture preferences vary from one cat to another. While some cats will prefer minced foods, others love foods containing lots of gravy. Some cats may also have preferences for chunky bites.
You may need to study your cat carefully to know the kind of food texture that catches his fancy. Otherwise, feeding your cat food of an unpleasant texture may only cause the animal to ignore, not only the chunk but also the gravy.
2. Change of Food
We’ve just mentioned that cats prefer having their flavors changed often enough. But experimenting with different cat foods too frequently might trigger food aversions.
Remember that cats are creatures of habit. If you must introduce new foods to your feline friend, it’s best to take it slow.
3. Change of Routine
Another possible answer to the question – why does my cat lick his food but doesn’t eat – is that you’ve recently changed routines. The routine change could range from something as subtle as switching your cat’s feeding hours or feeding spots, to major changes like moving homes.
Since cats are habitual creatures, these changes may impact their eating habits one way or another. One of the possible implications is that your cat could choose to lick gravy off his wet food and ignore the chunkier bits of the food.
4. Potential Toxins in the Food
Cats and dogs are instinctively wired to detect certain compounds in food that could make them sick. In fact, in some cultures around the world, cat owners suspecting food poisoning will throw small pieces of the suspicious food to their feline friends before eating it. If the cat sniffs the food but abandons it, then the food is likely poisoned.
While we wouldn’t recommend adopting that approach, it’s important to understand that cats will generally avoid foods they deem potentially toxic. And the toxins may range from common spices like onion and garlic to top cat poisons like detergents and antifreeze.
5. Unpleasant Experiences with the Food
Cats have an incredibly retentive memory. Your cat may ignore his food and only lick the gravy if he has had unpleasant interactions with the food before.
Common previous adverse experiences that could cause a cat to avoid eating his food include;
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Food allergies, such as lactose intolerance
6. Underlying Medical Condition
Some cats will avoid eating their wet food and only lick the sauce if they’ve had negative interactions with the food before. Others will display the same behavior if they’re presently suffering from certain underlying diseases.
Examples of ailments that could interfere with your cat’s eating habits include stress and anxiety, intestinal blockage, and upper respiratory infection.
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7. Broken or Damaged Teeth
Broken, damaged, or sore teeth is one of the main reasons older cats only eat gravy and ignore chunkier bits of their food. However, cats of any age can suffer teeth-related problems.
Cats are wise enough to tell that broken or damaged teeth make it difficult to chew their food. So, instead of swallowing the huge chunks whole and risking choking, the animals would rather lick the sauce off their wet food.
Sometimes, the teeth may be alright but the cat could be having a mouth injury.
8. The Cat Is Not Hungry
It could happen that your cat likes the smell and taste of his food. He may also seem to enjoy the moisture in it.
But if the cat only licks the sauce and ignores the chunk, then the animal is likely not hungry. That’s the cat’s way of saying, ‘hey, I love this food but wish it was served to me much earlier.’
9. The Cat Is Thirsty
Another likely reason your cat only licks the jelly off food is that he’s thirsty but not necessarily hungry. Obviously, this is a problem for cats that don’t drink enough water.
Gravy looks more like water than the chunkier pieces. So, a cat may lick it with the hope that he quenches his thirst for water.
10. Late Introduction of Wet Food
A cat that has been consuming dry foods all his life will definitely become fussy about eating wet cat food for the first time.
The animal may choose to only lick the gravy or ignore the food altogether.
11. Preference Issue
We already alluded to cat preferences with regard to food texture. Those preferences apply to wet and dry foods in general.
Some cats would rather have dry than wet cat food, and vice versa. Others would be comfortable alternating between dry and wet foods. It all comes down to your cat’s preferences.
12. Problems with the Bowl
Most pet parents pay careful attention to the quality of food they serve their furry friends but overlook the importance of choosing a suitable feeding bowl. But the wrong choice of a feeding dish can cause your cat to simply lick his wet food instead of eating the chunks.
For instance, a deep feeding dish may irritate your cat’s whiskers, causing the animal to abandon his food.
Is It Normal to Find A Cat Only Licking Wet Food But Still Asks For It
It’s not uncommon to find a cat owner wondering, ’my cat loves wet food but only licks the sauce and leaves the meat, is this normal?’
It’s perfectly normal for cats to lick wet food and not necessarily eat the chunky bits. This behavior is not always an indication that something is amiss with the food or the cat. As we did mention at the beginning, cats can be picky eaters. Even a cat that has always enjoyed wet food may suddenly develop aversions for the same food.
Now that a cat licking his wet food is normal, is the behavior okay?
The answer to this question can be a yes or no, depending on the main considerations.
Wet cat food is incredibly rehydrating. Therefore, cats that do not drink enough may benefit from licking the gravy off their wet food.
On the flip side, only licking the sauce from wet food may not provide the cat with all the nutrients he requires. Besides, it might only lead to undue wastage. There’s nothing useful you can do with the remaining chunks except to chuck them into the trash. This may reflect unfavorably on your finances in the long run. That’s especially considering how expensive high-quality wet pet food can be.
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Should I switch wet cat food with dry food then?
Veterinary officers recommend consistently alternating between wet and dry cat food. However, it’s not good for cats to eat only dry food. It’s worse if your cat doesn’t drink enough. Dry food can lead to dehydration and constipation. The food may also be laced with potentially harmful chemicals, including preservatives like salt and artificial food colorings.
Perhaps you’ve always wondered, my cat only eats dry food, is that ok?
It’s not good for cats to eat only dry foods as the animal may suffer chronic dehydration or constipation, in addition to ingesting common harmful chemicals in dry cat food.
If you must feed your cat dry food, ensure the animal drinks enough water in between. Even so, try to alternate between dry and wet cat food frequently enough.
How Do I Make My Cats Eat Their Wet Food Instead Of Licking The Juices?
After highlighting the numerous reasons that could cause your cat to lick gravy off wet food and ignore the chunks, you’re probably now wondering – ‘my picky cat only likes to lick the gravy from his wet food, what should I do?’
The first step in solving the problem of cat licking juices off their wet food instead of consuming the chunks is to understand when the problem began. That may help you determine its underlying cause. For instance, if your cat began licking his wet food after getting him a new feeding bowl, the problem could be with the bowl.
Besides knowing when the problem began, try to understand when it’s most intense. The intensity of the behavior will vary depending on your cat’s dislike for the food.
You may also want to switch things a bit and see how it goes. A cat licking his wet food because the food contains certain flavors will likely quit the habit if you switch the flavors.
Last but not least, watch out for any side effects. Does the cat vomit or have diarrhea soon after licking gravy off his food? Does he develop allergic reactions? If yes, then the food in question could be injurious to your cat’s health.
After settling with the above factors, the next step is to adopt the right solution. The most important thing to note here is that the solution to the problem of cats only licking their wet food will depend on the underlying cause.
But if you’re in doubt, you can implement one or more of the following tips;
1. Introduce Your Cat to Wet Food Early Enough
Cats should be introduced to wet food as soon as they’re weaned.
In fact, weaning is typically done using wet food.
A cat that has been consuming wet food all his life should have no problem with this type of food.
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2. Change the Food
There are several aspects of wet cat food that you can change to make your cat love it more. Common ones include flavor, smell, and texture.
If it comes down to it, change the entire brand. The good news is that there are numerous cat foods for cats that only like the gravy which you can try out. Examples include Purina Beyond Grain Free, Tiki Cat Savory Broth, and Rachael Ray Nutrish Purrfect Broths.
Each of these products is formulated with pet-safe ingredients. They’re also free from ingredients known to cause intolerance in cats, including grain, corn, soy, wheat.
3. Go Slow On Routine Changes
We did mention that cats are habitual creatures. A seemingly subtle routine change is sometimes all it takes to throw them off balance.
So, it’s important to go slow on routine changes.
That’s especially true for changes that affect your cat’s diet and feeding routine, such as trying new flavors or new feeding spots.
4. Warm the Food
Cats, as with most carnivores, prefer their food warm.
No matter how appealing wet food may look, your cat will abandon the food if it’s freezing cold.
Besides, warming food helps enhance its flavor and aroma. That only makes it more palatable to your kitto.
5. Serve Small Portions at a Time
Not only are cats picky eaters. They also tend to consume smaller food portions compared to pets of similar sizes.
Therefore, remember to serve your feline friend wet food that he can finish in one sitting.
Note that the high moisture content in wet food has a high filling effect. That means your cat will consume relatively lower portions of wet food than dry food.
6. Lure Your Cat With Treats
This tip is as easy as placing a few treats near your cat’s food bowl containing wet food. The cat may smell the food and at least take a few bites.
If this trick doesn’t work, you might consider serving wet food to the cat from your hands. Although not the most hygienic approach, this method will make the cat smell the food and possibly eat it.
7. Take Your Cat for a Checkup
If all the above strategies fail, the best course of action would be to book an appointment with your vet.
The vet will examine the cat and establish if the animal has a broken tooth, cracked jaw, or any underlying disease causing him to only lick his wet food.
Remember to carry some food portions so the vet can also test it for potentially harmful ingredients like garlic.
So, Why Does My Cat Only Lick His Food?
Numerous reasons could cause your cat to only lick his food. And while the habit is not abnormal, it could make your cat malnourished or lead to undue food wastage on your part.
Fortunately, there are equally numerous tips to implement to make your cat eat his wet food well instead of just licking the gravy off it.
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