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Home > Cats > My Cat Is Only Eating Treats: 3 Vet Approved Reasons, Risks & Resolutions

My Cat Is Only Eating Treats: 3 Vet Approved Reasons, Risks & Resolutions

calico cat having treats

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats are notoriously picky eaters. If you’ve had cats in your life, you’ve most likely experienced this. You’ll go buy particular cat food, normally very expensive, only to watch your cat turn their nose up and walk away without even trying it. While it’s annoying, this behavior is part of life with cats. However, when your cat starts to avoid food altogether and is only focusing on their treats, this can be a bit alarming, even for veteran cat owners.

There are several reasons your cat may be eating their treats and nothing else. Perhaps, like us humans, they enjoy the taste of their treats since they are equivalent to our junk food. Then again, there could be more serious issues behind this change in behavior. Let’s take a deeper look below and help you determine what’s happening with your kitty.


The 3 Common Reasons Your Cat Only Wants to Eats Treats

While there are several reasons your cat is only eating treats, understanding each one can help you better determine what’s taking place with your feline friend. Let’s take a look at these reasons below so you can pinpoint what is up with your feline friend.

maine coon cat eating treats outside
Image Credit: Nikola Cedikova, Shutterstock

1. Dislike of Their Food

Cats can be very picky. You may be providing them with the same dry food they’ve always enjoyed but something has changed and now they dislike it. This could be a small formula change the company hasn’t promoted, a difference in texture, or even a change in the aroma of the food. Remember, your cat’s senses are far more advanced than yours. They can pick up on the most subtle change and determine the food is no longer their go-to.

2. Losing Their Appetite

Treats are tastier than regular cat food. If your cat’s overall appetite is decreasing, it may prefer the treats to kibble. Cats can have days where they simply aren’t into eating, but a prolonged loss of appetite can be concerning. Several medical conditions can lead your cat to lose its appetite. If this continues or you notice other signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or weight loss you should schedule your kitty a visit with the veterinarian for a checkup.

3. Treats Taste Better

Not only are cats picky, but they are also the kings and queens of getting their way. If your cat enjoys their treats, or you’ve switched to an overly scrumptious brand, it may cause your cat to push its food to the side in hopes of conning you into providing more of the good stuff.


Is Only Eating Treats Dangerous for My Cat?

Unfortunately, when a cat only eats treats, serious problems can arise. Like most animals, cats need certain nutrients to be healthy. This means they need a balanced diet of protein, fats, and carbs. The cat food you buy at the store or online is designed to meet your cat’s needs. While your cat may be more drawn to particular brands due to the taste, most on the market follow guidelines to ensure your cat’s dietary requirements, however, the quality does vary. Treats are not held to the same standards. Treats are a compliment to your cat’s diet and are not intended to be a primary source of nutrition.

There are also medical concerns associated with your cat only eating treats. If a cat avoids food or eats sparingly for several days it can contract hepatic lipidosis. This disease is also known as fatty liver syndrome. When cats aren’t eating, their bodies will attempt to digest their own fat to provide them with the nutrition they need. This results in an excessive amount of fat mobilized to the liver. Since the liver is unable to process it all, the fat accumulates within the liver cells, disturbing its shape and functionality.. This disease is most often found in overweight cats but can affect any cat that isn’t eating properly. In most cases, lengthy hospitalizations are required since this disease is difficult to treat. The condition is likely to be fatal if not treated on time.

Person giving treats to a cat
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

How Do I Resolve the Issue?

Of course, if your cat is only eating treats, you’re going to be concerned. In an attempt to resolve the issue, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Most likely, your vet will want to perform blood work or a few lab tests to ensure there is nothing wrong with your cat medically. If there is a problem, seek treatment immediately. If your cat is in good health, then it’s time to look at the food itself.

Cat food brands change things from time to time. If that’s the situation you’re facing, it may be best to find another brand. Before you do this, however, make sure to check the expiration date on your current food to see if it has gone bad. Also, check for staleness or odd smells. If any issues are present, try a fresh bag of food before you start the adventure of finding a new brand. You may also want to consider adding wet food or cooked, unseasoned meat to the food to entice your cat. Once they taste their favorite again, they may get back on schedule with eating. Then again, they may only eat the garnish and wait for their treats. We recommend that you either completely stop offering treats for a while or figure out a way to only offer treats as a reward for eating their food first. Do this even if they only take a few mouthfuls at the beginning; you can work your way toward gradually increasing this amount.


Final Thoughts

It’s clear to see that a cat that only eats treats isn’t getting everything it needs nutritionally. If your cat is avoiding their food and waiting for you to offer treats, you need to act quickly to rectify the issue. Whether it’s something medical, a change to the food’s formula, an out-of-date bag, or a behavior issue, getting to the bottom of things is the only option that you have.

Featured Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

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