Healthy and Appealing Cat Food Toppers

Cats can be finicky eaters, but the nutritional benefits of toppers are well worth the training effort.

Some will only eat one trusted food; while others may be open to a variety of foods but are unwilling to try anything new. This pickiness has a purpose; the cat who won’t eat a strange or different food is the one who is less likely to get sick from eating spoiled food.

This can be difficult for cat owners if you wish to introduce a new food—or even add a nutritional supplement or treat to your cat’s food. Teaching your cat to eat new things is well worth the effort, as it can be important for your cat’s health. Not only may his favorite food change, go off the market, or be made with a new recipe, but a varied diet is always good.

Introduce Anything New Slowly

You can introduce the new food (chicken broth for example) by putting a teaspoon of the broth in a separate bowl by the side of your cat’s normal meal. The first day your cat may pretend the broth isn’t there. That’s okay; throw it away and do this again the next day.

By day three or four your cat may take a lick or two or even drink it all. That’s great! Now add a few bits of shredded chicken to it and repeat the process.

Anything you add to your cat’s diet, as a topper or treat, should not exceed 10% of the day’s calories. Not only will this help ensure that the nutritional balance of their primary food isn’t upset (think of the vitamin and mineral balance, for example), but you can avoid creating a weight problem.

Chicken Broth: The Easiest Addition for Cats

Although beef broth and turkey broth are also good foods, chicken broth seems to be most appealing to many cats.

Make sure you look for a broth with just chicken and water as ingredients or primary ingredients. Some commercial broths contain a number of different ingredients and your cat shouldn’t have: including salt, garlic, other seasonings, and a number of different preservatives.

If you’d like to make your own broth, put leftover chicken bones with some bits of meat in a slow cooker. Cover with water and cook for six hours. Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer to get all of the bone bits out. Cool the broth right away. You can fill a silicone mold (ice cube size molds are great), freeze these, and then store them in the freezer. Pull one out at a time for your cat’s meals. The broth can be served alone, warmed but not hot, as a meal topper or in between meals as a treat.

Meat Treats

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are meat-eaters. Therefore, some of the meal toppers your cat may like best will be meat.

If you cook a dinner with chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, or other meats, set aside a few tiny pieces of cooked meat. When you are done eating, dice them into small pieces. Then shred them finely. Sprinkle a pinch over your cat’s food as a topper next mealtime. A pinch is all that’s needed; too much too often can be too many calories.

If you have fish for dinner you can do the same thing. Salmon, whitefish, trout, or other fish all appeal to most cats. Again, a tiny bit of shredded meat is a good topper.

Be cautious when offering tuna. Tuna can be addictive to cats; so much so they will refuse other foods and wait for the tuna. Some shredded tuna every once in a while is fine, but not any more than every few weeks. Use other meats or toppers on a more regular basis.

Puréed Veggies Are Great

Although cats are meat eaters, some plant foods are good nutrition. These foods do need to be cooked, however, so that a cat’s digestive system can utilize the nutrition. Raw plant foods tend to go through the digestive tract unused. The vegetables can be steamed, baked, slow-cooked, or even cooked in an instant cooker; so long as they’re cooked.

You can use foods that you’re cooking for yourself or your family; just set aside a few small pieces for your cat before the food is seasoned. A couple of small pieces of sweet potato, some green beans, squash, or pumpkin would each be fine.

Put the cooked vegetables in a food processor and puree the food until it’s smooth with no chunks. Refrigerate and offer to your cat as a topper. Just a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon is fine.

Commercial Supplements

There are many commercial supplements for cats available, but most experts say that if the cat is healthy and eating a good diet, these supplements aren’t necessary. If you have any questions at all, talk to your veterinarian.

The Honest Kitchen makes a few additions perfect for many cats, from broth pour overs to herbal supplements. These are especially helpful for cats if their feces are loose, softer than normal, or particularly smelly. Perfect Form is an herbal digestive supplement made from slippery elm, fennel, papaya, pumpkin seed, and plantain; all foods known to be beneficial for the digestive tract. It is safe for both kittens and cats.

Make Changes Slowly

Make any changes, even good ones, slowly. Slow changes allow your cat time to accept the new food (and changes) mentally and emotionally, but slow changes give the cat’s body time to adapt as well.

We may think 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin puree is a minute amount of food—but to your cat, that can be a lot of fiber. Too much can affect the digestive system in a variety of ways; not all good! So make changes slowly.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

Everything You Need to Know about Dog Costumes