Please refrain from becoming angry with your cat when he turns up his nose at the food you just went to a lot of trouble to put down for him. It's not his fault... and he's not really being finicky!
To understand this annoying and frustrating behavior, we must realize where cats came from, and what they've evolved into.
In the times before humans allowed animals into their lives and homes as pets, they were completely on their own, to survive in the ways that Nature provided, with instincts, aided by the chemical processes of their own physiologies. These things are beyond their own control to change.
Dogs, presumed to have evolved from wolves, needed to live in packs and always had to compete for any morsels, just to survive, no matter what it was or how it tasted. This may be why they don't seem very discriminating in their tastes.
Cats did not come from that background. They were typically more solitary and prey could be finished later, at the next meal. This could explain why cats don't "wolf" down their food and can easily walk away from their food bowls, knowing they can simply come back later to finish it.
But what about the "finicky" part? Cats will eat one food more readily than another. That's the part where their chemical makeup comes into play. For one thing, cats don't have the four basic taste groups that we have. They can taste salty, bitter and sour. But they have no ability to detect sweet.
So if your cat seems to like ice cream, for example, it's not because it's sweet, which is why we like it. Your cat likes it because of other factors, namely, the fat content, the fact that it's cold (interesting to some cats) and may have an unusual texture they also find interesting.
Since they needed to locate prey to eat, they were equipped with the abilities to hear small animal sounds, smell their scents, and detect the slightest movements out of the corner of an eye.
Thus, it may be said that cats do have a more discriminating taste than dogs, since they do have some preferences. It is up to us to help locate and provide the flavors they like. Concentrate on tastes such as fish or poultry, interesting textures, and strong aromas. Try mixing some canned or wet food in with or beside their dry food. Also, while some cats may enjoy the cold of ice cream, they mostly like their food to be slightly warmer than room temperature, you know, like the body temperature of prey.
If someone made a dry food that crackled when it got wet (you could call it Kitty Krispies!), you can be sure a cat would run over to inspect it immediately. If it smelled good, and it was warm or moved a tiny bit, they would eat it! You can't offer boring, tasteless food with a bad smell and then accuse the cat of being picky.
Dr. Peters is a retired health professional who established an animal shelter in 2002.
For help with cat problems, visit http://www.theproblemcat.com