Man feeding his dog in kitchen

Tips for Choosing Food for Picky Cats and Dogs

Reading Time: 5 MIN

Choosing food for picky cats and dogs can be a challenging task for pet owners. Just like humans, our furry companions have their own unique tastes and dietary requirements. When faced with a picky eater, it’s essential to consider several factors to ensure they receive the nutrition they need. In this blog post, we’ll explore valuable tips for selecting food that appeals to picky pets and meets their nutritional needs.

Understanding Picky Eating Behavior

Picky eating behavior in cats and dogs can stem from a variety of factors, including taste preferences, sensitivities to certain ingredients, or simply a lack of interest in the food provided. Recognizing the signs of picky eating is crucial in addressing this issue effectively. These signs may include refusal to eat, selective eating (e.g., only consuming certain types of food), or displaying disinterest during meal times.

Non-food related reasons that a pet may not be eating their food can include:

  1. Stress or Anxiety: Pets, especially cats, can be sensitive to changes in their environment, leading to stress or anxiety that affects their appetite.
  2. Medical Issues: Underlying health conditions or dental problems can cause discomfort during eating, leading to reduced appetite.
  3. Environmental Factors: Loud noises, new surroundings, or the presence of other animals may distract pets from their meals.
  4. Boredom: Lack of mental stimulation or physical activity can lead to disinterest in food, particularly in highly intelligent or energetic breeds.
  5. Routine Changes: Alterations in feeding schedules or disruptions to established routines can impact a pet’s eating habits.
  6. Age-Related Changes: Aging pets may experience changes in their sense of taste or smell, affecting their willingness to eat.
  7. Emotional Bonding: Pets may refuse to eat if they are experiencing separation anxiety or are distressed due to the absence of their owner or companion.

Addressing these non-food related factors is crucial in understanding and addressing a pet’s eating habits effectively.

young beagle waits for food...has been blurred some so focus is on eyes and actual dog food.

Prioritizing Nutrition

When choosing food for picky pets, prioritizing nutrition is paramount. Look for high-quality, balanced recipes that provide essential nutrients such as protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Ensuring that the food meets the nutritional standards set by organizations like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) can provide assurance of its quality.

Ingredient Quality and Transparency

Examining the quality and transparency of ingredients is crucial in selecting the right food for picky pets. Opt for brands that prioritize wholesome, high-quality ingredients and have transparent labeling practices. Avoiding artificial additives, fillers, and by-products can contribute to the overall health and well-being of your pet. Additionally, being mindful of potential allergens and intolerances can help narrow down suitable options.

Hungry dog with sad eyes is waiting for feeding in home kitchen. Adorable yellow labrador retriever is holding dog bowl in his mouth.

Introducing Variety

Introducing variety into your pet’s diet can help alleviate picky eating tendencies. Mixing different flavors and textures, as well as rotating between various protein sources, can stimulate their palate and prevent mealtime monotony. However, gradual transitions between different foods are advisable to prevent digestive upsets.

Trying Meal Toppers

Adding meal toppers to your pet’s food can offer a range of benefits, from enhancing flavor and increasing mealtime interest to providing nutritional boosts. Toppers can improve digestion, aid in nutrient absorption, and may even help picky eaters consume more food. Additionally, they serve as a convenient way to introduce variety into your pet’s diet and can be particularly beneficial for pets with specific health needs, such as supporting heart health, skin and coat, and digestive health. Toppers also contribute to increased hydration and can add essential proteins to your pet’s meals, making them a versatile and valuable addition to their diet.

Golden Retriever eating

Considering Breed and Size-Specific Needs

Breed and size-specific nutritional requirements should also be taken into account when selecting food for picky pets. Large breed dogs, for instance, have different nutritional needs compared to small breed dogs, and these differences should be reflected in their diet. Similarly, specific breeds may be more prone to certain health issues, necessitating tailored dietary considerations. Read our blog Fueling Giants: The Best Dog Food for Large Breeds” to learn more about how to feed for specific breed sizes.

Seeking Limited Ingredient Formulas

For pets with sensitivities or food intolerances, limited ingredient formulas can be an ideal choice. These formulas feature simplified recipes with a minimal number of carefully selected ingredients, reducing the likelihood of triggering adverse reactions. They can be particularly beneficial for picky eaters with specific dietary sensitivities.

Brand Spotlight: Zignature

Zignature is a brand that stands out for its commitment to crafting premium pet food using high-quality ingredients. Their recipes are designed to cater to the nutritional needs of both cats and dogs, making them an ideal choice for discerning pet owners. Zignature offers a diverse range of protein options, including lamb, turkey, salmon, and duck, providing ample choices for picky eaters. Some dog food formulas contain a unique, single source protein, making these foods excellent for dogs with possible allergies or food sensitivities. Zignature never uses any chicken, chicken eggs, or chicken by-products in its food as chicken is one of the most common potential canine allergens. Zignature’s recipes are limited ingredient diets and contain no potatoes. With delicious protein choices like goat, venison, lamb, kangaroo, salmon, and catfish, your dog or puppy is sure to go wild for Zignature’s nature inspired formulas.

No More Table Scraps

Feeding pets table scraps can have adverse effects on their eating habits and overall health. Not only are table scraps often nutritionally inadequate and unbalanced for pets, but they can also contribute to obesity, begging behavior, and picky eating tendencies. When pets are regularly fed table scraps, they may develop a preference for human food over their own specially formulated pet food. This can lead to a reluctance to eat their regular meals, as they hold out for more desirable options. Furthermore, the introduction of rich and flavorful table scraps can dull a pet’s interest in their standard diet, making them less inclined to consume their designated food. Ultimately, the habit of feeding table scraps to pets can lead to picky eating behaviors and hamper their willingness to consume nutritionally complete and balanced pet food.

Examining Pet Food Labels

Carefully examining pet food labels is essential in making informed decisions. Look for clear, easy-to-understand ingredient lists that highlight the key components of the food. Pay attention to the guaranteed analysis, which provides information about the minimum percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture in the food. Additionally, understanding terms like “complete and balanced” can help ensure that the food meets your pet’s nutritional needs.

Hungry brown dog with empty bowl waiting for feeding, looking at camera, top view

Seeking Professional Guidance

Seeking advice from veterinarians or animal nutritionists can provide valuable insights into selecting the right food for picky pets. These professionals can offer personalized recommendations based on your pet’s specific needs, taking into consideration factors such as age, activity level, and any underlying health conditions.


Choosing food for picky cats and dogs requires careful consideration of their individual preferences, nutritional needs, and any specific sensitivities they may have. By prioritizing nutrition, ingredient quality, variety, and seeking professional guidance when needed, pet owners can navigate the challenge of catering to picky eaters effectively. With brands like Zignature offering a wide range of high-quality, limited ingredient food options, pet owners have access to premium pet food tailored to meet the needs of their picky pets.

Related Blogs

Follow us On Social

Leave a Reply

cute dog using lick mat for eating food slowly. snack mat, licking mat for cats and dogs, licking peanut butter

Slow Feeder Solutions

Reading Time: 6 MIN Mealtime for our furry companions can be a messy and frantic affair. Bowls are emptied in seconds, kibble scatters across

Read More »