Cats can be notoriously finicky about their food, so pretty much every cat owner will, at some point, experience his or her cat turning its nose up at perfectly good food. You might be tempted to just shrug your shoulders and wait for your cat to start eating again on his own, but when a cat stops eating, it’s a serious issue.
Often, when a cat stops eating, it’s because he’s in pain or sick. Sometimes, cats will stop eating due to stress, or simply because they’re tired of the flavor or variety of food you’re offering. No matter what the reason for your cat not eating, a refusal to eat can, in and of itself, be a medical emergency for your cat, even if the reason your cat stopped eating in the first place wasn’t medical. Here’s what to do to whet your cat’s appetite.
Here’s What To Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat
Try to Make the Food More Appealing
If you put out cat food and your cat refuses it, your first step should be to try and make it more appealing. There are several strategies you can use for this. Often, convincing your cat to taste the food can change his mind about not eating it – if you’re feeding wet food, you can do this by dabbing a small amount on your cat’s nose or the side of his mouth. He’ll lick it off, and the taste may convince him to eat the rest.
Cats find food appealing based on how good it smells to them, so enhancing the smell of your cat’s food can encourage him to eat it. If you’re feeding wet food, you can do this by warming up in the microwave for ten seconds or so – don’t do it much longer than that, or your cat could burn his mouth trying to eat.
If you’re feeding dry food, you could improve the smell and make it more interesting by pouring the juice from a can of tuna over it – this will entice most cats. If you don’t have tuna, try chicken or beef broth. You can also sprinkle a teaspoon of nutritional yeast over your cat’s food – it’s high in the B vitamins cats need, and most cats love the taste. In a pinch, mixing your cat’s dry kibble with a little warm water might even work.
Rule Out Medical Problems
If you’ve tried making your cat’s food more appealing and he’s still not eating, it’s time to call the vet. You need to rule out the possibility of injury or illness right away, because a mere 24 hours of your cat not eating could cause fatty liver disease, a serious problem.
While it’s important to have your cat examined by a vet immediately to determine his reasons for not eating, you shouldn’t panic. Medical reasons for food refusal in cats aren’t always serious. Often, something as simple as an upper respiratory infection can cause a cat to refuse food.
Address Causes of Stress
If your vet finds nothing wrong with your cat, the cause of his refusal to eat could be stress-related. Have there been any major changes in your household? Moving house, getting a new pet, having a new baby, moving in a new roommate, or going out of town could stress your cat out enough to make him stop eating. But cats can also get stressed out for reasons that aren’t obvious to their owners, so don’t rule out stress even if everything has remained pretty much the same. Your cat could be put off by a new food dish, for example, or he could be revolted by the smell of old food in the dish or, conversely, by the smell of the soap you used to wash it.
Try using a pheromone spray to ease your cat’s discomfort. Move his food dish to a quiet place where he won’t be disturbed by other pets, children, or foot traffic. If you have multiple cats, try feeding separately – your recalcitrant cat could be simply intimidated by the presence of another cat while he’s trying to eat. Wash your cat’s food dish and rinse it thoroughly. You might even try using a different dish or a plate instead.
Switch Up the Food
If your cat still won’t eat, try offering him a different flavor or variety of cat food. If you normally feed wet food, offer some kibble, and vice versa. If you have to feed a specific brand for health reasons, see if there’s a different flavor; otherwise, grab a different brand of food or a different flavor of the same brand. Some cats like eating the same brand and flavor of food every day, but most need a little variety.
Consider a Feeding Tube
If you’ve tried everything else and your cat still won’t eat, your vet may recommend a feeding tube. While a feeding tube sounds scary, it may be the only way to get food into your cat, and it may be necessary if your cat won’t eat on his own. Once your cat is eating on his own again, your vet will probably be able to remove the feeding tube, but you should start using some of the above-mentioned strategies to keep your cat interested in his food and prevent the need for a feeding tube again.
If your cat’s not eating, you need to take action fast. Not eating can cause serious medical issues for your cat, even if the cause of his reluctance to eat isn’t medical. But usually, you can encourage a cat to eat again without veterinary intervention – and that’s good news for parents of finicky cats everywhere.
Has your cat ever stopped eating? What worked for you to get your cat to eat again?
*This post contains collaborative content.