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How To Respond When Your Cat’s Not Eating
CatsHealth

How To Respond When Your Cat’s Not Eating

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Aug 26, 2022

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Has your cat's food bowl been neglected over the last day? There are a few reasons why Chuckles might not be up to eating or is eating less than usual. For example, warmer weather sometimes makes cats reduce their food intake because they don't require as much energy to regulate their temperature. Sometimes cats are as picky as the penguins who refuse cheaper fish in aquariums going through hard times. And, occasionally, it's a lot more serious, and a medical emergency is to blame.

1

Cat anorexia

person feeding cat Nitiphonphat / Getty Images

Severe weight loss can cause a host of health issues, including liver failure in obese cats. If your cat isn't eating, you'll need to get to the bottom of the problem ASAP. Ask yourself whether it's refusing to eat or if they're trying to eat but can't for some unknown reason. A critical first step is discovering whether true, or pseudo-anorexia is at play. A vet appointment, including lab tests, X-rays, or other diagnostics, will help you confirm suspicions if you have any.

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2

Sickness

cat lies in front of bowls of food and water Larisa Stefanuyk / Getty Images

Pain or illness may be why your cat isn't eating. It could be anything from a toothache to an obstruction in their digestive system to nausea-causing motion sickness or a bout of food poisoning. Or perhaps the temporary side effects from a recent vaccine are at work. Look around your home or in the litterbox and mentally run through the last few days for other clues and information to relay to your vet.

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3

Anxiety

Ginger cat looking up and waiting for food Lightspruch / Getty Images

When cats are stressed, they lose their appetite. Understandable—it happens to humans too. So, what might cause your cat to feel anxious? If you go away for the weekend and get a sitter to feed your cat, the unfamiliar individual could make your cat wary. A change in routine or a new pet in the home competing for food or attention might also cause stress, as does boredom in an enrichment-poor environment. More research is required on the phenomenon, but 'whisker fatigue' might also put your cat off mealtimes. Whiskers are sensitive, and a deep bowl can overstimulate them. Try switching over to a shallow rounded bowl or a plate.

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4

Make schedule and utensil changes

cat in front of food and water bowls ozgurdonmaz / Getty Images

Avoid plastic bowls which can't be heated and can cause cat acne. Switching your cat's bowl location might help if it's too busy, warm, or cold where it usually sits. Try amending your feeding schedule to multiple small feedings and use dry food puzzles to satisfy some of your cat's hunting instincts.

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5

Make the food more appetizing

Hungry cat eats fresh natural food anastas_ / Getty Images

If your cat doesn't eat within half an hour of you placing a bowl of food down, put the food away and bring it out at the next mealtime to retain freshness. Cats love stanky foods, so stink up your pet's meals with cooked egg, fish oil, or the reserved liquid from cans of tuna if you're not using wet or canned commercial cat food. Nutritional yeast and onion and garlic-free chicken or turkey baby food can also zhuzh meals up. Don't present your cat with food unless you've made it slightly warm but not hot—this enhances the smell. Catnip is a winner too.

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6

Food rotation

cat eats food from his plate Osobystist / Getty Images

Consider whether you've changed your cat's diet too quickly. Perhaps you'd been feeding your cat food for humans and suddenly switched to cat food exclusively. Abrupt changes can lead to a drop in food consumption. Introduce new foods gradually by mixing them into everyday meals and slowly eliminate the old diet over a few weeks. You can switch between different cat food brands using the same method, which should keep food allergies at bay.

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7

Provide some company

person petting cat who is eating Chalabala / Getty Images

When cats start drinking milk from their moms, they're accompanied by littermates. So your social cat might find comfort in your presence during mealtimes. You can pet it while it chows down if it's keen, which might help it relax and eat. Be sure to observe your cat—some like peace and solitude during breakfast and dinner.

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8

Hand feeding

person feeding cat themacx / Getty Images

Your vet might suggest hand or syringe feeding. This method has a good chance of success if your cat trusts you. Hold it with its back against your belly and place soft canned food on the end of your index finger. Gently open its mouth and place the food on the roof of the mouth. Observe whether it licks and swallows the food and repeat the action.

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9

Supplements and feeding tubes

Scottish fold Cat with gold eyes takes a pill Iryna Imago / Getty Images

There are probiotics and tasty high-calorie gels that can do the trick. Or your vet may prescribe medication to stimulate your feline's appetite, including cyproheptadine, mirtazapine, steroids, or B12 injections. Desperate times call for desperate measures such as using a temporary feeding tube if the digestion system is functional, and intravenous feeding is the last resort.

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10

Pay attention

person giving her cat food bowl Jose Martinez Calderon / Getty Images

If you're an alert owner aware of your cat's eating patterns and moods, you'll quickly notice signs that something is wrong. A swift response can significantly improve the outcomes for your fur baby. Pay attention to your cat's dietary preferences, and don't starve your cat if it's not taking to a vet-approved diet. Consult your cat's healthcare provider for further guidance or when you're in doubt.

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