HEALTH & CARE

How to Get Cat to Eat: No More Hunger Strikes

cat not eating
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

Cat parents like you are familiar with this scenario: a cat smells and licks the food prepared for him only to walk away seconds later. We’re sure that you’ve experienced this before. Cats, after all, are notorious for being picky eaters. This raises the question of how to get cat to eat.

Feeding a cat can be quite a challenge especially if he is having certain health problems. But bear in mind that feeding a cat, even the fussiest one you know, is not mission impossible at all.

In this post, we will discuss some of the possible reasons why your cat is not eating his food. Then we will share with you some expert advice on how to get your cat to eat. By the time you’re done reading this post, you should have a lot of ideas to try in getting your finicky pet to eat.

Why Won’t Your Cat Eat?

kitten not eating

Here’s a fact that would surprise you: cats are not the choosy eaters we think they are. According to research, cats are open to trying anything edible. In fact, they can eat up to 20 meals a day when they are in the wild.

Cats are also known to be opportunistic feeders that can hunt small prey like birds, bugs, and mice. So, if you are finding feeding your cat difficult, then something is wrong with him.

The following are some possible medical reasons why your cat is having a hard time building up an appetite:

  • Pain associated with eating. Just like us humans, cats may not be eating because chewing is painful. Dental problems are the obvious reason. Your cat might have a toothache. It is also possible that the cat has a fractured jaw. Spine problems may also make it difficult to maintain his posture while he eats. These medical reasons may explain why your cat would instinctively avoid eating even it if means starving.

  • Digestive-related concerns. Digestive health problems may also cause your cat to feel sick and thus avoid eating. The cat may have ingested a foreign object. Or the cat may be constipated.

  • Serious illness. Certain conditions may lead to loss of appetite. Examples include kidney failure, intestinal problems, pancreatitis, and even cancer.

  • Changes in diet. Cats take days or maybe even weeks to adjust to new food, so be patient if you are introducing a new diet to your cat. For example, you may be trying to start your cat on a wet diet, but cats that are used to being fed with dry food may not recognize wet food as something edible.

  • Environment changes. Did you just move to a new house? Then it can be the reason for your cat’s sudden lack of interest in eating. Simple changes in the environment such as the addition of a new family member or the introduction of a new pet can affect your cat’s appetite. And even the placement of the food bowl may scare him away.

  • Recent vaccination. Another common reason for cats to suddenly lose appetite is vaccination. Veterinarians say that loss of appetite is a normal, secondary side effect of a vaccination. It would take around 48 to 72 hours after vaccination for the cat to regain his appetite.

  • You can also check the condition of the food you are giving to your pet. Like humans, cats won’t like it if the food given to them is cold or stale.

See Also: How Long Can Cats Go Without Food

How to Get a Sick Cat to Eat

feeding a sick cat

How would you know that your cat is sick and that this is the reason behind his lack of appetite? Investigate first and ascertain the possible cause of his aversion to food. Is it because of environmental or routine changes? Did he recently receive a vaccine? Is the food you’re giving him lately cold or stale?

If you answered ‘no’ to these questions, then there’s the likelihood that your cat is feeling under the weather. Bring your whiskered pal to a veterinarian to determine what’s bugging him. Ask, too, if you should proceed with your plans to make your sick cat eat.

You may also try to look into the cat’s teeth as he may be having dental problems. Damaged tooth or sore gums could explain why he’s not eating. If you notice that his gums are swollen or his breath is unpleasant, then schedule a trip to the vet.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

If you’ve determined that your cat is indeed sick, to support your pet’s nutritional needs, here’s the answer to the question how to get a sick cat to eat:

  • It’s critical that you encourage him to eat by offering small amounts of food. Offer him a spoonful of food one at a time. If he doesn’t bite or chew wit, don’t be deterred. Give You should also do this regularly as you can.

  • You can also try to tempt your pet to try something new by giving him something appetizing. Some of the treats that you can give him include canned food with a strong scent like tuna. Place a small amount on a plate then warm it. If your cat is still uninterested, you can add some ingredients to make it more interesting like fish oil, tuna juice, or chicken broth.

  • Some gentle persuasion may also do the trick. Using your finger or teaspoon, smear some food on his mouth. You can also grab a few biscuits and place it near him. This may enable him to smell the food, and perhaps he would start licking them.

  • While you are it, give your pet a gentle stroke or rub around the cheeks. You can also provide him with reassuring words once in a while. Do these things in moderation, though, because you don’t want him to get used to eating while you are around. Moreover, don’t force-feed him as cats hate it.

In case none of these tricks do the job, your vet may be able to give an appetite stimulant to solve the problem of how to get cat to eat dry food. There’s also the likelihood that the vet would recommend the use of a feeding tube.

Regardless of the trick you would try, it is important to see the vet right away the moment you’ve concluded that sickness is the main reason why your pet is not eating. The last thing you want to happen is for your cat to starve and lose out on important nutrients.

How to Get a Cat with Pancreatitis to Eat

feeding a cat

One of the more severe illnesses that can cause a cat to lose his appetite is pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a serious health condition with two known symptoms: lack of appetite and lethargy. This occurs when the pancreas, a small organ located between the small intestine and the stomach, becomes inflamed.

Treatment includes pain relief, fluid therapy, medication to control vomiting, and getting the feline to eat again. Cats with pancreatitis who don’t eat for a few days could develop hepatic lipidosis—a life-threatening disease. This underlines the importance of making a cat stricken with the said disease to eat again, and here’s how to get a cat with pancreatitis to eat:

Step #1: Make Sure the Food is Suitable

The foods you are to give to a cat with pancreatitis should be easy to digest. Cats with pancreatitis should have a low-fat diet as low-fat foods are less likely to irritate their stomachs. This type of cat food is also easier for cats to digest. Moderation is important, so keep an eye on the amount of low-fat food you give to your pet.

Canned or wet food is a good choice because digesting it would require less work for the cat’s recovering digestive system. Canned food is also rich in protein and meat, which would give the recovering cat the nutrients he needs. Give canned food rich in ingredients like chicken and turkey as these are easy to digest and are nutrient-rich.

See Also: How to Make Homemade Cat Food

Step #2: Start Slow

Start with small portions, especially if your cat was treated in the hospital. You don’t want to overwhelm his digestive system with lots of food. Instead, ease him back into his regular feeding schedule by offering him small portions.

Monitor his behavior; if he doesn’t show any adverse reaction, then increase the serving size. What’s important here is to slowly reintroduce food while at the same time eliminating or reducing the risks of vomiting that may affect his digestive system.

Step #3: Rehydrate

Hydration is important for cats with pancreatitis. One of the integral aspects of treating a cat with pancreatitis is hydration therapy, so you should make your cat drink more water or eat more wet food.

Ensure he gets lots of access to clean water by getting a mechanical bowl that circulates water (more commonly known as a cat water fountain). It can help him stay hydrated which is critical to his recovery, and once he feels better, he will automatically eat more.

See Also: DIY Cat Water Fountain

How to Get a Cat to Eat Wet Food

kitten eating wet food

As we’ve mentioned, if your cat is sick, wet food is the better option as compared to dry food because it is easier to digest, can rehydrate the cat at the same time, and is rich in nutrients. However, what should you do if your cat refuses to eat wet food? The question how to get cat to eat wet food is one that often comes up.

On the surface, wet food appears to be appealing to our feline friends. Canned food, after all, has the meat and flavor to entice our whiskered pets. But this is not the case especially if you are training your cat to transition from eating dry food to wet food.

Your pet may be used to the texture and flavor of dry food, making it difficult for him to appreciate wet food.

Patience is important in teaching your cat to transition from dry to wet food. It can take several weeks, and at times, even months for a cat to learn how to eat dry food. You may even need to try different flavors of dry food before discovering the canned food containing the same flavor that he likes.

Don’t worry about giving him low-quality canned food, as you can focus on the nutritional value of the wet food later on. The goal now is to make him eat wet food.

  • Find wet food with a similar flavor to the dry food that your cat enjoys. For example, get a salmon-flavored wet food if he likes eating dry food of that type. Mix a small amount of the wet food with the dry food. Doing so could help your cat get used to eating wet food.

  • Avoid free feeding him. Make him hungry so that he’d be forced to at least try the wet food. This works best when you’re at work because you won’t feel guilty about making your pet go hungry. Remember that hunger would prompt even the pickiest cat to try new food.

  • When you get home, pour the wet food into a bowl and leave it on the floor for a maximum of 20 minutes. If he still doesn’t eat, pick it up and place it in the refrigerator. Don’t throw it away because you would still be giving it to him later on.

  • You can also try changing his food bowl. Keep in mind that the whiskers of felines are sensitive, thus, using a wide and shallow bowl could enable him to eat the wet food without his whiskers bumping on the side. It’s also recommended that you serve the wet food on a saucer or a small plate.

  • Further, tease your cat into eating the wet food by heating it up for a few seconds in the microwave. The food should not be hot, but bringing it to body temperature would enhance its smell and make it more appetizing for your whiskered pal.

Other Tips and Tricks

playing with cat

Here are some extra pointers you should also remember when feeding a finicky cat:

  • Play with your pet before feeding him. Exercise can stimulate his appetite so bring out his favorite bouncy ball for some playtime.

  • Certain foods are known to be appealing to cats like chicken and tuna. You can also add grated cheddar cheese or even tuna juice to make the food appealing to your pet.

  • Rotate the kinds of foods you are offering to your cat. Variety is the spice of life, even for our feline friends.

  • Avoid competition with other pets by feeding your cat out of sight of the other animals you are taking care of.

Wrap Up

cat eating

Now you know the best ways to get a cat to eat. Investigate first why your cat is not eating so you would have an idea on the best way to deal with his lack of appetite.

Do you know other ways to get a cat to eat? Please share your experience with us in the comments section below! You can also try making a delicious cat cake to entice your cat into eating.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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