cat licking wet food from dish

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

You’ve just set down a bowl of fresh wet food for your beloved cat. You expect her to dig in with gusto, but instead, she only licks at it, seemingly ignoring the chunks.

It’s a puzzling sight that raises questions. Is she merely a fussy eater, or is there a deeper, psychological meaning behind this behavior?

Let’s explore this behavior further to make sure your cat gets the nutrition she needs. Here are ten reasons why your cat may only lick her wet cat food:

1. She Could Be a Picky Eater

It’s not unusual for cats to be particular about their meals. Your cat may be a gourmand at heart, taking delight in the taste of the gravy from her wet food but refusing to eat the whole meal.

She enjoys the flavors that come from the wet food but doesn’t consume the entire portion. This selective eating habit is a familiar phenomenon reported by many cat owners.

2. She Might Be Dehydrated

Cats often rely on their food for hydration, especially if they’re fed wet food every day. If your cat only licks her wet food, she might be attempting to derive as much moisture as possible from the meal.

This can be a sign of dehydration, a serious health concern. Make sure fresh water is always available, and if you notice other signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes or dry gums, bring your cat to the vet immediately.

3. She Might Not Like the Texture of the Wet Food

Not all cats appreciate the same food textures. The type of food you feed your cat can significantly affect her eating behavior.

Some cats might not enjoy wet cat food’s mushy or chunky texture, opting to lick the food instead of eating it. This allows her to savor the flavors without having to deal with the discomfort of an undesired texture.

4. She Might Be Getting Enough Nutrition From Dry Food or Treats

If your cat is presented with both wet and dry cat food daily, she might be receiving ample nutrition from the dry food or treats and merely enjoys the gravy from her wet food.

A diet consisting of dry cat kibble can be nutritionally complete, leading her to consume the dry food while merely enjoying the moist, flavorful parts of her wet food.

5. She May Be Stressed Out or Anxious, Affecting Her Appetite

Cats can be remarkably sensitive to changes in their environment, and stress or anxiety can greatly impact their appetite. In a stressful or unsettling situation, a cat may only lick her food instead of eating it.

If your cat isn’t consuming her food as usual and is only licking it, it could be a sign she’s feeling anxious or insecure, and a more comforting environment to eat might be required.

cat licking food from plate

6. She Could Have Dental Pain or Discomfort, Making It Difficult for Her to Chew

If your cat is experiencing dental discomfort, she may avoid chewing and instead lick her food. Problems such as gum disease, a tooth abscess, or oral inflammation can make chewing painful, and your cat might prefer to lick her food instead.

Regular check-ups with your vet can help identify these issues early, relieving your cat from potential discomfort and improving her eating habits.

7. She Could Have Digestive Problems

Some cats may have digestive issues that can cause discomfort when they consume their food. Conditions such as gastritis, constipation, or inflammatory bowel disease can make it difficult and uncomfortable for your cat to process her meals.

In these cases, your cat may choose to lick her wet food, thereby getting the taste and some nutritional benefits without further exacerbating her condition.

8. She May Have Lost Her Appetite Due to Underlying Health Issues

A significant change in eating habits, like if your cat is licking their food but not consuming it, could indicate underlying health issues. Diseases such as hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or diabetes can lead to a decreased appetite in cats.

If you notice such changes, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for a thorough check-up.

9. She Might Have Whisker Fatigue

Whisker fatigue is a somewhat lesser-known condition, but it is indeed real. Cat whiskers are highly sensitive, and if your cat’s food bowl is too deep or too small, it can lead to discomfort.

When a cat’s whiskers touch the sides of the bowl while eating, it can cause stress, making her opt to lick her food instead of eating it. Consider investing in wide, flat dishes to prevent this issue.

10. She Could Be Trying to Communicate Her Desire for a Change in Her Diet or Feeding Routine

Cats are not able to verbalize their wants and needs, but they do communicate through their behavior. If your cat is licking food but not eating it, she might be indicating her desire for a change in her diet or feeding routine.

Perhaps she’d prefer a different brand or type of cat food, or maybe she’s signaling that the temperature of the food isn’t to her liking. Some cats don’t like cold food, so if you’re serving your cat meals straight from the fridge, try letting it warm to room temperature first.


Remember, these are potential explanations, but any significant changes in your cat’s eating habits warrant a consultation with a vet. Your cat’s health should always be the priority, and a vet can provide a clear diagnosis and treatment plan if needed.

We’d love to hear about your personal experiences with your furry friends! Share your stories in the comments section below.

Does your cat have quirky eating habits too? We’re eager to hear all about it.

Also, don’t forget to share this article on your social media. You might just help another pet parent better understand their feline companion’s behavior.

Written by Tom Cashman

I have grown up with pets for almost fifty years. My family has strong ties to the animal shelter community in Chicago. Currently I have two cats: an orange tabby named Zelda, and a gray mixed named Zander. Like all of my pets, they were adopted from a local animal shelter. Pet Zone represents my passion for sharing with the pet community.

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