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9 reasons your pet’s a fussy eater & how to fix it

It’s hard not to worry when your pet stops eating or eats less than usual. Here are the 9 most common reasons why. Some might surprise you. Find out which one applies to your pet, and how to fix their fussy eating habits...

ginger tabby cat licking lips


1: They’ve trained us!

Maybe they weren’t as hungry one day, and left food behind. You got worried and offered them something new. Maybe a yummy treat instead. They still aren’t hungry, but the novelty of something new or a high-fat treat, means they ate that instead.

A lightbulb turns on in your clever pet’s brain, ‘If I don’t eat, I get a treat!’ Sometimes a pet that didn’t start out fussy, becomes picky because we’ve accidentally trained them to be. They stubbornly refuse to eat, knowing you’ll give in and feed them a treat. They’ve trained us! Like kids being too full for dinner but finding room for dessert.

Changing what you feed all the time - or feeding treats, scraps or leftovers when they won’t eat their main meal - can actually train them to become a fussy eater.


If they’re otherwise happy and healthy, it won’t do them any harm to miss a meal or two. Leave food down for about 30 minutes maximum, then remove it (whether eaten or not). Try again next mealtime when they’re hungrier. Help re-train your pets. Don’t give in to their stubbornness by offering treats or different food when they don’t eat their meal.

There’s normally no cause for concern unless a pet goes more than 48 hours without eating anything (their main food, treats, scraps, nothing), in which case something else might be wrong and a visit to the Vet may be needed.

2: One is not enough

This is a catch for cat owners more than dog owners. We find feeding a single-protein food can sometimes cause some cats to stop eating anything except that protein source! This is one we commonly hear when cats are fed tinned food with one meat source.


Instead, look for a food like Nutrience that includes a variety of protein sources in every bag. Even Nutrience Grain Free Oceanfish – which has no land-based protein – still includes salmon, herring, cod, flounder and more for variety. Unless you need to for allergy reasons, feeding a multi-protein food for cats is recommended. 

3: Stress

Pets can react to stress by not eating. Common when you first adopt a pet, or there’s been a big change in your pet’s environment. Maybe you’ve moved house, had a group of friends over, a new person has moved in, a second pet’s joined the family, or fireworks have them scared.

What makes pets anxious can vary, but a common reaction is to skip a meal or two. As long as your pet is otherwise okay, just pick the leftover food back up and try again next mealtime.

But, if you react by going out and buying a new food, it could encourage fussy eating habits or digestive upsets. Even if you entice them to eat the same food they always have, when you add stress to the mix, it can cause digestive upsets like vomiting or loose stools.


Help your pet adjust to change. Keep them in the same routine as best you can. Same mealtimes, same person feeding, same place you feed, same food. If they’re too anxious to eat, skip a meal. If it’s been more than 48 hours without food intake however, there could be something else going on, so a Vet check could be a good idea. 

top down view of dog eating pieces of kibble scattered across a wooden floor

4: Calories from elsewhere

If you get asked what you feed your pet, you might answer Nutrience (hopefully), but whatever your pet’s main food is, many of us forget to take treats into account.

Treats can make up a surprising amount of your pet’s calorie intake, as can scraps and leftovers. Even treats small-in-size can be high in fat. If your pet used to love their food, and nothing else has changed - have a think about what else you might be feeding that’s filling them up instead. Also consider if other members of your household or neighbours might be doubling up on meals, or giving too many treats, scraps or leftovers.


Check no-one’s double feeding. Then cut back on the treats, scraps and leftovers, or replace them with lower-fat options. Save their main food as their primary source of calories. If they are filling up on treats or leftovers, you may risk nutritional deficiencies or imbalances over time. Most of their diet should be made up of a complete and balanced diet to avoid health concerns. 

5: You IMPROVED their diet

Yes, improved! When you upgrade your pet to a better-quality food like Nutrience, it will have more meat and fewer fillers. More animal protein means more energy in every meal. That means you need to feed less.

If you feed the same, or more, you may find they begin to leave food in their bowl because they’re full! If you keep feeding the same amount as their old food, it can also cause weight gain. The move to a new food can also mean pets temporarily eat too much, then sometimes miss a meal or two as their body catches up.


First check the feeding guide on the bag. Then make sure to slowly transition off their old food onto their new food. Over 7 days is ideal. Feed a little more of the new food, and less of the old in each meal. Their first full meal of their new food should be around day 8.

If you find your pet starts to gain weight overtime on the new food, even if you’re feeding what the bag says, your pet likely needs fewer calories. Feed less than what the feeding guide says and increase their exercise if you can. 

6: They’re sick

We all hope this isn’t the reason, but something non-food related can also be the cause of fussy eating. If your pet’s eating habits or appetite have changed only recently or suddenly, and that’s not normal for them, it may be due to illness.


A vet check should be organised as soon as possible, especially if not eating is combined with other signs of illness, such as vomiting, loose stools or lethargy, or if they haven’t eaten anything at all for more than 48 hours.  

Small black and tan chihuahua cross sitting on the lap of a person wearing a white shirt and watch

7: They’re just not big eaters

Some pets just have a small appetite. They’re snackers not scoffers. Grazing on their food over the day. This one’s more common with the little guys, like toy breed dogs. Remember they have tiny tummies. Make sure you’re not fulling up that little stomach with treats, snacks and leftovers. Leave them room for a healthy breakfast and dinner.


Take your pet’s size into account. Reduce treats. Give them attention in other forms like play, praise and pats. Save room in their stomach. Keep an eye on their overall food intake by not constantly topping up their bowl also. Plus remember even kibble can lose its appeal if left out all the time. Put less in the bowl and let it go empty between meals. 

8: Something’s changed  

Not quite as dramatic as reason #2 (stress or anxiety), but some pets simply don’t like change. Even the smallest change can result in fussy eating for some. Changing their food can cause them to turn up their nose. Some pets won’t eat at the ‘wrong’ time, in the ‘wrong’ place, or from the ‘wrong’ bowl. Some refuse to eat even if the ‘wrong’ person feeds them!


Have a think about what you may have changed that could be the cause and go back to the routine, and the food, they’re used to. If you know the cause but can’t remedy it straight away, missing a meal might be needed so they eat next meal-time when hunger overtakes their dislike of what had to change. Remember that 48 hour guide. If they refuse to eat, even their treats, for more than 48 hours then a Vet visit may be needed. 

9. Not enough meat

What you feed can cause fussy eating habits. Some pets will eat any food just because it’s new. But then ‘go off their food’ after a while and you have to change it. Again. And again. This is common with supermarket quality food. Especially those that add flavours to mask what’s lacking. At first that will get pets eating. Once they get over the novelty of the new food, they stop eating because it simply isn’t meeting their nutritional needs - and the new food cycle continues.

Your pet is trying to tell you they need more meat!

Most low-quality foods have less animal protein. Lower quality protein sources such as vegetable protein. More carbohydrates and other filler ingredients.


Upgrade your pet’s diet to Nutrience of course! Nutrience is complete and balanced to meet all their nutritional requirements. High in meat and other animal protein like eggs. With no fillers and no artifical flavours.

Only what they need, nothing they don’t.

Shop the range

Nutrience comes in 3 ranges. Original, Grain Free and Subzero right at the top. For fussy eaters, the extra meat in Subzero is a favourite. Nutrience Subzero combines a complete & balanced kibble rich in animal-protein, PLUS Nutriboost raw, freeze-dried chunks of meat. Choose your range to find out more...

Nutrience Subzero for Dogs >

Nutrience Subzero for Cats >

Nutrience Grain Free for Dogs >

Nutrience Grain Free for Cats >  

Nutrience Original for Dogs >

Nutrience Original for Cats >