Cats are very communicative animals and do a good job telling their owners what they want, what they like, and what makes them unhappy.
A cat that refuses to eat tells its owner something is wrong with the food, and the cat doesn’t want to finish the meal. A hunger strike can be frustrating and especially dangerous for a cat.
Cats will ultimately starve themselves if they do not like their food.
A cat will refuse to eat if it is not getting the right balance of flavor, vitamins, and minerals needed to provide enough energy. Cats must eat within 48 hours, or their energy reserves will be depleted.
Adding a topper, vegetable broth, or fresh vegetables to your cat’s food can encourage a picky cat to eat its food.
Sometimes, a cat may feel frightened or too intimidated to finish a meal. New cats or the ones living with fellow animals may be too scared to eat their food.
In this instance, it is necessary to segregate the cat, especially for mealtimes.
Further, a cat may not eat its food because it is full of treats or the food is positioned too close to the litter box.
Resolve the situation by reducing the number of treats or relocating the food bowl to an area where the cat cannot smell the contents of the litter box.
What Are Signs My Cat Doesn’t Like Its Food?
Realizing your cat is not eating is not always obvious, especially in households with multiple cats or animals.
A diligent owner should pay attention to the signs that construe their cat is not eating.
A cat that isn’t eating can quickly become sick and decline in health, so it is imperative to keep your cat eating.
Some signs that your cat isn’t eating include:
- Full Bowl – The apparent signs of leftover food after feeding your cat can indicate that your cat isn’t eating or simply taking a few bites before walking away. Some cats can graze throughout the day, so watching how much your cat eats throughout a 24-hour period is essential.
- Low Energy – If a cat doesn’t get enough food, it won’t have enough energy to play and exercise throughout the day. If you notice your cat’s energy level suddenly decreases, it may be a sign your cat isn’t getting enough minerals and vitamins from its daily meals.
- Treats – Between mealtimes, your cat may be meowing and howling for treats. Your cat is trying to tell you it is hungry but doesn’t like the type of food you are feeding it.
- Weight Loss – Cats do not weigh much, to begin with, so any weight loss in a cat is significant. If your cat looks drastically thinner, it may be a sign that it isn’t eating enough food to keep it healthy.
What Else Can Make My Cat Not Eat?
A cat that doesn’t like the type of food you are feeding will eventually starve itself unless you are quick to change your cat’s diet.
There are other reasons why a cat may not eat, which are easily remedied. Your cat may not want to eat because:
- Your cat is afraid. – A cat in a new environment or has new animal family members too frightened to eat. Loud noises, different smells, and a new company can quickly scare a cat and force it to leave its food and refuse to eat.
- Your cat may be full of treats. – Too many daily treats could spoil your cat’s appetite for healthy and nutritious food. Please limit the daily treats until your cat eats its entire dinner portion.
- Your cat’s litter is too close. Cats with litter trays too close to their food usually turn their noses up at dinner. Smelly litter or dirty litter can be problematic. Try to keep your cat’s food bowl away from the litter box, or, at a minimum, keep your cat’s little clean and odor-free.
- Your cat may feel competition from other animals. – Your cat may refuse to eat because it is uncomfortable with other animals in your house. Although cats are highly social by nature, they can feel intimidated when eating. If your cat is too anxious to eat its food around other cats in the house, try to segregate your cat and its food until it can eat a complete meal alone safely.
How Can I Get My Cat to Eat?
It can be frustrating if you have a cat refusing to eat. Food strikes can happen with New cats or cats who no longer like your dinner options.
If you notice your cat is suddenly turning up its nose at dinner, you can try to:
- Vet – Ask your vet for help. Vets are well-versed in cat behaviors and can often diagnose why your cat isn’t eating. They may also be able to diagnose an underlying medical condition preventing your cat from eating.
- No Treats – Your cat may not be eating because it is full from eating too many treats. If you notice your cat refuses to eat dinner but is happy to take a treat, try to decrease the number of treats you give, especially before dinner.
- Routine – Cats love to have a routine and a schedule to follow. Your cat might not be eating because you feed it at different times daily. Set a specific breakfast and dinner time to improve your cat’s eating habits.
- Switch Foods – It may just be that your cat doesn’t like the type of food you are offering. If your cat refuses to eat, try offering a different brand or a different kind of food. You can provide your cat with kibble, canned, raw, wet, or freeze-dried food.
- Toppers – Several toppers are available for cats that add flavor to an otherwise dull kibble meal. You can try to add a topper to your cat’s food to encourage it to eat. Toppers are packed with healthy protein, so they are usually a safe and healthy addition to your cat’s meal.
- Praise – Watch your cat eat its meal, and the moment your cat finishes, be sure to offer plenty of praise. You may reward your cat with a treat once the dinner bowl is cleaned. Praising your cat enforces good behavior and encourages it to finish its food every night.
What Can I Give My Cat in an Emergency?
If your cat has not been eating for days, you may have to resort to emergency tactics to get your cat to eat. A cat will starve itself if it is unhappy with its meal options.
Ensuring your cat eats is particularly important for senior cats or cats with underlying medical conditions.
Some tricks to get a picky cat to eat include:
- Broth – Try to soak your cat’s kibble food with either no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth. The broth will help soften the food but give the kibble a better flavor, which most cats have difficulty resisting.
- Vegetables – Try to add vegetables to your cat’s kibble mixture. You can use either fresh or frozen vegetables that are water-based. Acceptable vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or lettuce.
- Eggs – Making your cat scrambled eggs for dinner s a great way to get your cat to eat. Be sure to make dry eggs without adding milk or butter. The eggs are high in protein, so even one egg will provide plenty of calories to sustain a picky cat refusing to eat.
What Is a Good Diet For a Cat?
Your cat may be turning its nose up at the food you offer because it is not the right blend to keep your cat healthy.
Cats understand their bodies need balanced nutrition with the right minerals and vitamins. They seek out foods and treats that supplement these daily needs.
A cat needs a healthy diet that is packed full of protein. The food should be high in moisture to prevent digestive and urinary issues and below in carbohydrates.
A balanced diet will have about 52% protein, 36% fat, and only 12% carbohydrates.
Although adopting a “vegetarian” diet for your cat may be popular, this is highly unhealthy and detrimental to these carnivores who need plenty of protein to keep their bodies fueled.
Should cats eat wet canned food often?
There is plenty of debate about the proper diet for cats. Many veterinarians support a diet including canned and wet foods, while other veterinarians view canned food as a special treat.
It turns out that some canned food can be healthy for your cat.
Traditional canned food contains plenty of moisture, especially for male cats, which can suffer from urinary tract infections, kidney stones, or diabetes.
Can I give my cat human food?
Cats require a balanced diet to keep them healthy and give them the right vitamins and minerals. These animals need mostly protein in their diet to stay healthy.
Giving a cat “human” food occasionally to encourage healthy behaviors is perfectly acceptable.
Cooked chicken, beef, turkey, and small portions of deli meat are fine to give your cat. Be sure to prepare and cook each meat because raw meats could cause your cat digestive distress.
Our team is composed of pet care professionals, veterinarians, and pet owners. To date, we’ve conducted thousands of hours of research to publish the most accurate pet information.
Most of the writers on our site are vets with 10+ years of clinical experience, ranging from small practice, to equine practice, academia, and surgery. Our goal is to help every pet owner get the information they seek about their dear companions.
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