Feeding your cat seems simple, but it can be a bit complicated. Cats are known for being finicky eaters. If your cat is picky and doesn’t want to eat their food, the temperature may be the issue. 

Do cats prefer their food warm or cold?

Does your cat turn their nose up at their food? Are you concerned that feeding them cold food could harm them? Cats typically prefer their food warm for a few reasons. 

Temperature of Prey

Cats are closer to their wild ancestors than our other favorite companion, dogs. Dogs have changed in some respects to be better human companions, but cats retain more of their instincts. 

Cats are carnivores, and will only eat prey in the wild. They kill the prey, and then eat it. This means that the prey, having recently been killed, is still slightly warm. 

It’s their instinct to eat warm food, because that’s what they eat in the wild. It’s rare to see a cat scavenging or eating food that wasn’t recently killed. 

Smell and Taste

Cats have a heightened sense of smell and taste. They can actually taste and smell the difference between cold and warm food, particularly wet food. 

When it’s cold, it has less of a smell and taste. This can make it unappetizing or at the least, not as appealing as it is when it’s warm. 

Depending on how picky your cat is, they may refuse food that is cold. Some cats would choose to go hungry rather than eat food that they don’t like. 

Room Temperature Food

Cats will typically eat food that is room temperature. If you open a can of room temperature wet food, this is fine to feed your cat without warming. However, if the food has been in the refrigerator, you will need to warm it. 

When it comes to dry food, it’s already at room temperature. There’s usually no need to heat it. 

Microwaving Food

When you need to heat your cat’s food, your first instinct may be to heat it in the microwave. However, this isn’t the best way to heat the food. 

Heating food in the microwave can actually destroy the nutrients your cat needs. 

However, there’s another reason to avoid it. It changes the chemical structure of the fats within the food. This makes it harder for your cat to digest. Even worse, these changes can make your cat sick over time. 

Cats can develop pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas from a diet high in sugar or fat. The changes in fats when microwaves can also cause pancreatitis if fed to your cat on a regular basis. 

Lastly, burns can easily occur. You’ve probably experienced hot spots in your microwaved food. You may have even burned your mouth, expecting it to be at an appropriate temperature. 

This can also happen to your cat. If you heat food in the microwave, be sure to stir it thoroughly and check the temperature before serving. However, it’s much better to avoid it completely. 

People Food

If you feed your cat people food, you may be wondering if this should be warmed as well. It really depends on the cat.

Feeding them chicken or ham straight from the refrigerator is usually ok. They are usually excited enough about receiving the food to not concern themselves with the temp. 

As long as their digestive system can handle it, a small amount of cold people food should be fine. 

How to Heat Wet Food

The right way to heat hot food is with hot water. You can place it on a saucer with hot water beneath it. You can put it in a water-tight container and place this in a bowl of hot water.

You can also add a bit of hot water to the food. This can provide a little extra hydration as well as heat up their food. Be sure to mix the food well, and check the temperature before serving. 

The last option is to simply let the food sit at room temperature before feeding. However, you shouldn’t let it sit too long. Wet food can not be left out for more than 4 hours.

Avoiding Heating Food

Perhaps you are very busy when it’s meal time, and heating your cat’s food is a bit too much hassle. Particularly if the microwave is off limits, it does take a little effort. 

There are a few ways to avoid needing to heat your cats’ food. The simplest way is to purchase individual serving sizes. There are many pouches and cans that are designed to be a single serving. Since it only needs to be refrigerated after opening, this eliminates the need to keep it cold. 

The other option is to feed your cat dry food. Some cats are fine with dry food, while others strongly prefer wet food. Dry food shouldn’t require heating. However, if you or your cat prefer it warm, you can add a little warm water or broth to the food. 

Is warm or cold food healthier for cats?

It’s important to feed your cat  a healthy diet, and temperature can play a role in this. 

Some cats have no problem eating cold food, while others will refuse it if it isn’t warm. As long as your cat is eating the food and not having digestive issues, either way is fine. If they refuse it or get stomach upset after eating, you’ll need to warm it up. 

Warm food is what your cat would eat in the wild. It’s what their stomach is designed to handle. So warm food can be easier on their system. 

However, heating cold food in the microwave is not the healthiest option either. The healthiest way to feed your cat is room temperature or slightly warm food, but not heated up in the microwave. 

Should I warm up my cat’s wet food?

Warm food is generally more appealing to cats and easier to digest. However, it really comes down to the preferences of you and your cat. 

What if My Cat Likes Cold Food?

Some cats prefer their food cold. If this is the case, there’s no reason to heat it up. Some cats simply aren’t picky about their food, and will eat it either way. Others will refuse to eat the food warm, to their owners’ surprise. 

Digestive Issues

The most common issue with cold food is the cat vomiting after eating. Because their digestive system is designed for warm food, cold food can irritate their stomach. 

When this occurs, the cat’s brain decides that it shouldn’t be in there, causing them to vomit it up. This is a mechanism shared by all mammals, including humans. 

When you eat too much or eat something toxic, your body will typically vomit it up. Your cat’s body does this as well. In this case, it’s an over reaction. Cold food won’t harm your cat, but it can trigger the digestive defense mechanism. 

Food Storage

It’s important to store your cat’s food properly. Dry and unopened wet food should be stored in a dry place with a moderate temperature. If it’s too hot or too cold, it can impact the nutrients in the food. The temperature should be between 50-80 degrees. It should be fine in your home, but use caution when storing it in your garage. 

Dry food can be left out for 24 hours. After this, it’s best to toss it because the oxygen exposure begins to break down the fats. 

When it comes to wet food, it hsould not be left out for more than 4 hours. Once it is at room temperature, it will begin to grow bacteria. 

If you didn’t use an entire can, you’ll need to store it in the fridge. It’s best to cover it with plastic wrap or a pet food can lid. Dispose of the wet food in your cat’s bowl after 4 hours as well. 

Can cold food make cats sick?

Cold food won’t make your cat sick. It can cause them to vomit, but this is simply stomach irritation. They are not actually ill. 

Cat Not Eating

The biggest concern with feeding your cat food is them not eating or keeping the food down. If your cat doesn’t eat, you will probably worry. You may have heard, “They will eat when they are hungry”. However, this isn’t always true. 

Cats bodies are not designed to go without food. Humans and dogs can go for a few days without eating without serious consequences. Our bodies begin to burn fat stores. This isn’t ideal, but it can keep the body going for a day or two when neccessary. 

However, cats bodies can quickly shut down in this situation. They begin to burn their fat stores, just as we do. The high concentration of fat can overwhelm their liver. This can cause liver failure, which can lead to death. 

Getting Your Cat To Eat

If your cat isn’t eating, try warming their food. Your cat may simply not like cold food. If you warm your cat’s food and they don’t eat, try feeding them their food cold. Most cats prefer warm food, but some cats will only eat it cold. 

If your cat still doesn’t eat, you’ll need to try other options. One option is to try a different food. You can try a different type of food, like switching from dry to wet food. You can also try different flavors of wet or dry food. 

If your cat needs more encouragement, try adding a topper. These should be tasty and nutritious. There are many store bought toppers available today. 

You can also make your own topper. Fish oil is one option. Use it in moderation by placing a small amount on their food. You can also add chicken or beef broth to their food. Be sure that it doesn’t contain extra salt, onions, or garlic, because these aren’t good for your cat. 

Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.