How To Feed A Cat Who Won’t Eat

Cats who don’t eat daily quickly become anorexic and are at risk for hepatic lipidosis, a life-threatening liver disease. Any cat who is not eating should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as a cat who doesn’t eat may develop life-threatening complications in less than 24 hours.

If your cat, for no apparent reason, fails to eat for 24-36 hours, even in the face of normal water consumption, an examination by a veterinarian is recommended.

The vet can determine the cause of the anorexia and the amount your cat should be eating. It may be necessary to force-feed such cats; be prepared for a messy job. If you still can’t get your anorexic cat to eat after a day of trying, immediately take her to the veterinarian before complications occur.

Reasons Why Your Cat Won’t Eat
in cats It’s important to know that your cat is not, not-eating simply to be difficult or because they’re just picky. A cat might stop eating for any number of reasons, varying from pain or discomfort (learn: how to tell if your cat is in pain) to the type of bowl you’re feeding them with or where it’s placed. There could also be medical reasons:

  • Urinary obstruction
  • Digestive obstruction
  • Constipation
  • Upper respiratory infection (“kitty cold”)
  • Kidney disease
  • Stress or a change within your home
  • Dental/tooth pain: broken tooth, abscessed tooth root, oral tumor, tooth resorption
  • Pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas)

Catching these things early often results in a better prognosis, as well as easier, less expensive treatment. And this is especially the case in cats that are a bit more “plump” then they should be, as fat cats that stop getting enough calories are at higher risk of developing a serious form of liver dysfunction (hepatic lipidosis) as a result of their decreased calorie intake.

Truth is, there’s typically a medical reason for a cat not eating. And, as you can see from the list above, some of those medical reasons can be quite serious. If your cat isn’t eating their normal amount and continues this behavior for more than two meals, it’s time for a trip to the vet.

How to Get Your Cat to Eat
there are many potential reasons for a cat to refuse food, here are some simple tricks you can try to tempt their appetite:

  • Add a little bit of warmed, low-sodium chicken broth to your food, whether it’s kibble or canned. (Avoid broths containing onions, onion powder, chives, or garlic — as these can be toxic to cats.) Mix Native Pet’s Bone Broth powder with water as a pet-safe way to add broth to their food, or sprinkle this broth flavored food topper on their food.
  • Gently warm the food in the microwave or with warm water (don’t make it too hot!)
  • Give them some meat baby food
  • Add some water from a can of tuna or anchovies to their food
  • Give them some canned/wet food (the stinkier the better — try seafood varieties)
  • Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on their food. The salty, cheesy flavor is often enough to pique a cat’s interest and appetite. You can get the “green tube,” or opt for the individual packets.
  • Sprinkle some nutritional yeast powder onto their food; it’s got a nutty, cheesy flavor that many cats go absolutely crazy for. An added bonus is that it’s rich in B vitamins! (Don’t confuse brewer’s yeast with nutritional yeast — they’re very nearly the same thing, but not exactly.
  • Brewer’s yeast often has a bitter taste, which many cats may not like.)

If these tricks fail, or if your cat refuses more than two meals, it’s time to go to the vet for evaluation and care.

The tricks above are truly a short-term fix. If your cat starts eating after using one of the tricks, then you can possibly chalk it up to an upset stomach that will pass, a change in the weather, or something non-threatening. However, if your cat isn’t eating their normal amount for a significant period of time, anything over one day (even less if they have certain pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or obesity), then it’s imperative that you seek out hands-on veterinary evaluation. After all, something very serious could be causing your cat’s hunger strike and delay can make matters significantly worse.

RELATED: How To Take Care Of A new kitten?

Try Enticing First
You may be able to coax a cat to eat by slightly warming some canned cat food before offering it to your pet. When the food is heated it gives off enticing odors that may make it more appealing. Offer the warmed food to your cat on your finger. If she won’t eat it from there, wipe the food onto her lips where she naturally will lick it off. As with all types of hand-feeding or force-feeding, be patient, and take your time. Be gentle and avoid stressing your pet.

Getting Ready to Feed
A sick cat may be so lethargic that she is unable to resist your efforts, but most of the time your cat will not appreciate being force-fed no matter how hungry she gets. She may fight, bite, and scratch. It’s best to take precautions to protect both yourself and the cat. When you are ready to feed her, wrap your pet snugly in a thick towel, leaving nothing but her head exposed. Make certain she can’t get a foot out from the top or bottom and hold her securely on your lap so she feels safe.

Meal Balls
Before you force-feed your cat, seek your veterinarian’s counsel. If she concurs this is the best course of action, take a bit of canned cat food from a 3-ounce can and shape it into a ball the size of a small marble. Put it into the cat’s mouth as you would a pill, toward the back of her tongue. Hold her mouth closed to give her time to swallow. Repeat the process. Don’t be surprised if a lot of it ends up on you, the towel, the cat, or the floor. Remain calm throughout the process to avoid stressing your cat. Too much stress can make your cat’s eating problem worse.

Syringe Feeding
Create a meal base from pureed baby food meat with no additives; especially avoid garlic, which can lead to an upset stomach. Put some meat in a bowl and add a squeeze of high-calorie nutritional paste — available from any veterinarian and at some pet shops and feed stores — or some corn syrup. Mix it together well and add enough water to make the mixture runny. Draw the mixture into a large syringe and gently squirt it into your cat’s mouth a little bit at a time. Be sure to give your cat time to swallow so she doesn’t aspirate it, which can lead to pneumonia.