Some cats will sprint across the house at the mere sound of kibble meeting bowl, while others require a 47-course tasting menu before deigning to eat their dinner.

Picky eating can be common among kitties, but understanding the root of fussy feeding can be the key to unlocking their appetites. Read on for four reasons cats become finicky — and how you can help.

1. They don’t feel well.

First, rule out any potential medical issues with your veterinarian. Oral health issues, for example, can make eating foods like kibble painful or uncomfortable for your cat. If you notice picky eating paired with weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea, a trip to the vet is definitely in order.

2. They just want to mix it up.

Some cats will greet the same can of Chicken & Gravy with voracious approval for the rest of their nine lives. Other cats crave more variety. It all goes back to their wild sides.

Cats living apart from humans tend to be hunters, which makes them accustomed to diversity in their diets. Try a variety pack or mixing up flavors and textures the next time you’re in the cat food aisle.

3. They need a challenge.

As your cat snoozes peacefully on your pillow, it’s easy to forget that her great-great-great-etc. grandparents were jungle cats accustomed to working like crazy just for dinner. The active pursuit of food is instinctive for cats, and sometimes what looks like picky eating is just boredom.

Cats love a challenge, and a great way to appeal to your cat's desire for physical and mental stimulation during feeding is through the use of a puzzle feeder. From ball-shaped toys that release bits of kibble to toys with hidden food stashes, puzzle feeders take many forms. You can even try making one of these simple DIY feeders!

4. They’re holding out on you.

If you think you’re one step ahead of your cat, think again. Sometimes a picky eater is just holding out for something better.

If your cat refuses food and you immediately sweep away the offending kibble for a replacement — or even worse, table scraps — you’re effectively teaching your cat, “Hey, if I act like a brat, I’ll just get something better!”

In cases like this, the best course of action is to pick a routine and stick to it. Feed your cat twice a day, and don’t keep the kibble bowl constantly full. It sounds like a no-brainer, but a hungry cat is much more likely to eat!

Pleasing a picky cat can seem like a puzzle, but with a bit of experimentation, you’re sure to discover that missing piece to your own kitty’s appetite.