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HOME Meowing Questions Why Do Cats Never Finish Their Food?

Why Do Cats Never Finish Their Food?

Cats can be pretty forceful when it’s time to eat. Since they’ll do whatever they can to bring to your attention that they’re hungry, why don’t they ever finish their food?

Cats typically don’t finish their food despite how hungry a cat might be, because they eat much less in one sitting than we provide, and their small stomachs fill quickly. Aside from that, not liking the type of food, the food being left out for too long, or even health issues could be alternative causes.

This is one of the many areas where cats and dogs part ways. Most breeds of dogs will eat as much as they can, especially if there is more than one dog in the house, and food is a race to see who gets more.

Cats don’t get concerned about who’s going to get more or packing themselves full of food till they can’t eat another bite. They’ll eat till they’re content, then walk away to clean themselves just before a nap.

Cats’ Eyes can be Bigger than their Stomach

cat looking for its food in the bowl

Cats can come running as soon as they hear the pop of a can of cat food, or the ruffling sounds of a bag of dry food. After being conditioned that those sounds mean food, it doesn’t even have to be cat food for them to get excited about it.

Try opening a can of soup, beans, or vegetables, with a cat around. Chances are it’ll be doing anything it can to see what’s in the can if it’s even a little hungry. They’ll act like they’re starving even if they’ve just eaten- or there’s food still in their bowl!

Cats can get excited to try something that they feel is interesting and tasty. If they’re already full they’ll still want to check it out even if it’s just for a taste. After their curiosity is satisfied, they’ll move along with the rest of their day.

Cats don’t have to be starving for them to act like they’re starving. You know that your cat ate before bed, but when you wake up the cat is going nuts for some food. You feed it, and it leaves a large portion in the bowl.

What the cat can truly hold down is far less than what they’ll portray.

A Cat’s Stomach

cat's digestive anatomy

To give a better perspective about why cats don’t usually finish their food, let’s examine the cat’s stomach. (image credits: www.exploringnature.org)

An average-sized cat’s stomach is rarely larger than a golf ball, and can only hold 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of food at any given time. If we compare that to how much food we’re filling up their bowl with, it’s no wonder they never finish their food.

Even if we were to grind up their food to replicate a digested form, most of us would probably be shocked at how little food 2 tablespoons looks like. Cats who do wind up eating too much wind up throwing it back up, as there’s just no place to put it.

The Cat May Not Be Happy with the Food

fussy cat

Somehow, people may tend to adhere to the “rules for me but not for thee” mindset when it comes to our pets. What I mean is, sometimes we don’t think about and their food the same way that we think of our own.

This is more toward dry food than canned.

If it takes us too long to eat a bag of chips, we’ll toss it because the chips went stale. However, we’ll still make a cat eat food that has been opened quite a while ago, and wonder why it only eats a small portion of it at a time.

And there is always the possibility that the cat isn’t too crazy about the food in the first place. Just like us, they prefer certain kinds or brands of food over others. Some cats only like canned food, and will turn their nose up at dry. The opposite can be true but less often.

This can happen with a brand change or a change of a food’s flavor that you purchased from the same brand. Every person has their own set of likes and dislikes when it comes to food. For some reason, we can be slow to realize that animals have their own set of tastes when it comes to food.

Health Issues Can Impact a Cat’s Diet

sick cat

If it seems that your cat isn’t only leaving food behind, but is noticeably eating much less than normal, it’s time to determine whether something is going on health-wise.

A trip to the vet would save you a lot of trial and error as it relates to trying to figure out if there’s something wrong. But this should be after you’ve made sure that the food isn’t the issue.

There is one thing that may fly under the radar initially and can cause your cat to not eat its food properly. That would be a urinary tract infection.

Cats who are suffering from this kind of infection changes several different behaviors. Among which is their potty habits, mainly where they urinate. They tend to urinate in odd places that they wouldn’t normally go.

sick cat with collar

It is not uncommon for a cat who is suffering from a urinary tract infection to squat into its bowl. If the infection is bad enough, it would be a small amount; small enough that we wouldn’t notice in passing.

After which the cat may still eat some of the food from the bowl that isn’t saturated, but it won’t be much at all. This can give the appearance of the cat not eating properly, when in reality it contaminated its own food, and won’t eat it.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. There is a slew of health-related reasons that would cause a cat to reduce the quantity of food eaten, or even causes all-out refusal to eat. At the slightest sign of your cat not eating the way that it typically should, a visit to the vet could save its life.

Final Thoughts

cat and unfinished food

Cats never finish their food because of the amount of food that we give them when the cat is healthy. When we switch up their food, it can cause them to eat more or much less.

Keeping tabs on the age of opened bags of dry food is also helpful to ensure that the cat isn’t being forced to eat food that is our equivalent to stale food. When all else fails, give the vet a call and bring your cat in for a visit to cancel out any problems that might be going unseen.