I probably spend way more money than I should on cat food. I buy what I think is good stuff, because I believe that good diet helps lesson the chance of health problems down the road. Without talking about specific brand names (because we probably all have our own ideas about what is and isn’t good cat food), my cats eat a pretty healthy and tasty diet. But when my orange boy Chester went into a funk last year (grieving his buddy Karma, who had passed on), I suddenly was faced with a cat who turned up his nose at food he used to love.

At first, I tried to shift him to other good brands (or at least brands I believed were good). But this quickly got very expensive. I’d buy the little cans, which are always more pricey per unit. He might be interested at first, but would eventually decide, “Nawwww, I don’t like this food, either!”

Forcing myself to lower my standards slightly, I bought him a can of something that you can find in any grocery store.

He loved it. To this day, I can reliably count on him scarfing up this kind of food faster and with more enthusiasm than anything else. To his credit, he does love the good dry food that I feed all the cats.

But I did not want Chester eating this canned “junk food” forever. I hoped to get him through his grieving period, and then wean him off the junk food and back on to better stuff. Here is what I tried:

1. I gave Chester good food at room temperature

A veterinarian once told me that if a cat needs to be tempted to eat food, it’s best to present it at room temperature. Particularly if a cat has issues in his mouth (infected tooth or oral pain for some reason), apparently canned food at room temperature will hurt the cat less than hot or cold food. A microwave can be used to bring cold food to room temperature.

Did it work for Chester? Maybe. We don’t have a microwave, but if he has to eat good food, he’s most interested in food at room temperature. This ties in closely with the next point

2. I gave Chester a freshly opened can of good food

I think ALL cats love a freshly opened can of cat food. It’s at room temp, and it’s just the moistness and juiciness that they seem to prefer. This did work well for Chester, but the problem is that I buy the 14 oz. cans of cat food. That means that there’s a lot of fresh cat food to get through once the cans are opened, and obviously, the tiny cans are not as good a deal economically. Fortunately, I have several other cats who love canned food and don’t seem to care if the can was just opened or not. Still, it can get a little confusing with a fussy cat; trying to always provide “fresh” food.

3. I gave him good food first thing in the morning, when all the cats seem to be most hungry

This works well. My cats seem to be less fussy in the morning and will rip into anything. They’ve fasted for eight hours or more and they are hungry! I give any medications in food in the morning too, to get it done and to make sure that food gets eaten.

4. I sprinkled stuff on the food that was supposed to be tempting for cats

There are healthy treats and supplements that taste good and can be sprinkled over cat food. Sometimes these things can make the food more tempting. This has worked for me, but I don’t always have these treats on hand.

If desperate, I mixed in the junk food with the good food (small amounts of each) so that the presence of the junk food might tempt Chester to eat the entire mixture. This worked, sometimes, depending upon how discerning Chester was acting. There’s no rhyme or reason to his method.

Was I able to get Chester off junk food? Sort of. Chester, for quite a while, seemed to be eating more and more of the good canned food and less of the canned junk food. But recently, he has become fussy again and again eats the junk food with much more abandon. I use the morning trick often. I can count on him to eat the good stuff in the morning, especially if it is fresh from a newly opened can.

Have you had a cat get fixated on food that you really don’t want him to eat forever? What did you do? We could all benefit from suggestions, so share your thoughts!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.