Thursday, October 7, 2010

Helping Finicky Pets Eat as Nature Intended

Many pet-parents struggle with finicky dogs or cats, coaxing them to eat what we put before them. But dogs and cats are not, by nature, finicky eaters. Their cousins in the wild eat their killed prey with gusto, most likely because they are ravenously hungry when such a dinner arrives. So how did this happen? How can pet-parents encourage their dogs and cats to eat what we know they should in order to be at their best health?

Countless conversations with pet-parents have revealed two basic types of food behavior that is perceive as “finicky.” The first is when a dog or cat does not eat all of the food given. The second behavior is when the pet eats very little and walks away, or worse, sniffs at the food but eats none of it.

Yet, in almost all cases, the pet-parents report the pet’s weight is good, or in many instances, they admit that their pets are actually overweight. How can this be when it appears the pets are not consuming enough food? Further questioning of pet-parents uncovered three common feeding habits that make a pet appear finicky. Read on to learn what they are, and how simple changes can help pets return to eating patterns more typical in nature.

Too Many Treats

Our society is obsessed with treating ourselves and, in many cases, our furry friends, too. Take a look at the treat section of a large pet store and it is no wonder we have so many obese pets. Treats are full of calories, often from fat and carbohydrates, and they are freely given to pets, often without the pet-parent knowing. Take, for example, the person who does not even own a pet, in line at the pet store to buy treats to feed to his neighbor’s dog!

The bottom line is that you need to know how many calories a day your pet needs, and how many it is getting. Follow the feeding guidelines on the food label and adjust portions down to account for calories from treats and other sources. Feeding treats or table scraps will put extra pounds on your pet and make him less hungry at mealtime, encouraging finicky behavior.

The Free-Fed Pet

Free-feeding is keeping a full bowl of food at all times and allowing pets to eat however much they want, whenever they want, 24/7. The dog or cat always has at least some food in just about every inch of its digestive tract, so he never feels hungry. This creates a pattern in which the pet never is enthusiastic about food so appears to be finicky. In almost in all cases, this practice also leads to obesity and the associated health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Pet-parents can take a tip from zoos, which have learned over the years the best practices for feeding canines and felines for their best health. These animals are never free-fed. In fact, many large cats in zoos are fasted once or twice a week and given only raw bones to chew on those occasions. To ensure a healthy appetite, feed two small portions a day, at least 8 hours apart. Be sure to decrease the amount if you are also feeding treats. This schedule allows the pet’s stomach to empty between meals and rest from the digestive work. It will also create a hungry sensation that will make your pet enthusiastic for the next meal.

Just Too Much Food

Not much needs to be said here. If pet-parents have never determined how many calories their pet needs each day, but instead are guessing, chances are the pet is getting way too much. One sure sign of overfeeding is a pet with constant loose stools or gas. This happens when the pet’s system is overloaded with so much food it cannot possibly digest it all properly.

This is particularly common with dry food. Kibble, if high-quality, should be seen as a “concentrate,” with less moisture to dilute the nutrients and calories. One cup of food, if rehydrated with all the moisture that once was in the raw meat, raw grains, fruits and vegetables used to create it, would have approximately 3-4 times the volume. It is an enormous amount nutrients and calories in a small portion, so pets need less kibble. Feeding too much, will always lead to certain mealtimes where your pet is just not interested in enthusiastically eating its food.

With a few adjustments by pet-parents, even finicky pets can become better eaters. Go to our Facebook page at to enjoy a video of Jack, a member of the Nature’s Logic family. He gets regular meals, in controlled portions, and treats on special occasions. Jack never misses a meal and eats each one as if there will be no tomorrow.

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