Cat not eating: Why and How to Trick Your Cat to Eat

It is a running joke that cats are gods and expect us to treat them as such. Catering to our pet cats’ every whim is what we are apparently made to do. However, when it comes to food and your cat’s diet, it can turn into a serious issue if your cat is refusing to eat. 

In this article we cover why your cat is not eating, how to get your cat to eat and more!

cat not eating
Photo by MIKHAIL VASILYEV on Unsplash

Is it dangerous if your cat is not eating?

Your cat not eating is dangerous. This is because dear kitty must rely on its fat reserves for energy if it does not eat enough. Fat must be processed by the liver before it can be stored and used for fuel. This step of the process requires sufficient protein. 

As a proper cat diet is made up of majority proteins, your cat not eating will soon exhaust enough protein supplies to cause the liver to become overwhelmed by all the fat. A dangerous condition known as hepatic lipidosis can develop, which can lead to liver failure and cat fatalities. 

Hepatic lipidosis is also often referred to as fatty liver disease or fatty liver syndrome. 

If your cat stops eating, it is often an indicator of illness. Consult your vet immediately if you notice a change in your cat’s eating habits. 

Why your cat is not eating

The most common reason for your cat losing its appetite or not eating is usually due to illness. However, there may be something else that is affecting your cat so it is best to monitor it closely. If your cat still has not eaten anything after a day, call your vet immediately. 

Reasons your cat is not eating include: 

1. Illness

As stated above, illness is the most common reason for your pet to suddenly stop eating. There may be a number of different illnesses such as, but not limited to, kidney failure, pancreatitis, intestinal problems and cancer. However, it may in fact be something simple such as a toothache that has caused your cat to lose its appetite. 

2. Recent vaccination

If your cat has recently been to the vet for one of its routine vaccinations, you may notice your cat’s loss of appetite shortly after. Although vaccines save lives for millions of animals, it still can have side effects, in this case, it may stop eating. This side effect is usually temporary or mild. 

3. Psychological issues

If your cat is not physically sick, anxiety or depression could be a cause of your cat not eating. Has there been a recent change to the household such as the introduction of a newborn baby or a new animal? Maybe there has been a change in the familiar schedules. All these could cause your cat anxiety and thus, stop eating. 

4. Picky and finicky cat

Your cat could just be a picky eater. Cats take a long time to adjust to a new type of food or diet, which could be a cause for the loss of appetite. 

5. Unfamiliar surroundings

Many cats are creatures of habit. There might be a change in surroundings which has thrown off your cat, leading to it not eating. If you have travelled recently with your cat, that could be a cause too as some pets can experience motion sickness when travelling, which can lead to nausea thereby refusal to eat. 

6. Food issues 

Cats are obviously very particular creatures. Food issues such as a change of food flavour or shape or texture, can lead it to rebel and refuse to eat. If your cat won’t eat wet food or dry food, the problem may be with the food. Switching it up may be key to getting your cat to eat. 

Your cat may also refuse food when you’re switching from dry to wet cat food. This is especially if it's been having dry food for a long time. If you are indeed trying to transition your cat, do ensure that it does not go too long without food. 

7. Old age

As cats age, their metabolism will slow down. This is particularly so in older cats so if you see your elderly cat eating less, this may be a reason.

Reasons why your kitten is not eating 

Kittens and adult cats are different when it comes to food. You have to adjust accordingly. Kittens are normally weaned between 6 and 8 weeks old and may not immediately take to solid food immediately.

The following reasons may be why your kitten is not eating: 

1. Kitten may still be learning what they like to eat

As kittens transition to solid food, they are exposed to different food of different tastes and textures. Your kitten may not know what they prefer yet. 

Try to make the food as appetizing as possible as your kitten’s appetite is driven by its sense of smell. Warm up the food as it increases its appeal and aroma. 

Sometimes it is just a matter of offering different kinds of food. Try everything - wet food, fresh food, dry food, triangular kibble, round kibble - and eventually you will stumble upon something your kitten loves.

2. Kitten may have upper respiratory infection

Upper respiratory infections are actually quite common in kittens. It will cause a decrease in appetite due to nasal congestion, fever or fatigue. 

As your kitten is driven by how the food smells, having a stuffy nose makes it hard for it to smell the food, therefore stop eating. Make sure to entice it better with food that has strong aromas such as wet but warm food. 

Call your vet if you suspect your kitten has an upper respiratory infection. Sometimes antibiotics are needed to resolve this infection. Other symptoms of this infection include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny eye
  • Runny nose

  • 3. Kitten might have eaten something they shouldn’t have

    Kittens have been known to eat things like string, hair ties, ribbons, plastic grass, tinsel and so on. These small objects can get stuck in their stomach or small intestines. 

    If your kitten has a loss of appetite accompanied by vomiting, your kitten may have eaten something they shouldn’t have. Call your veterinarian immediately as sometimes surgery is needed to remove the item. 

    4. Kitten may be intimidated by other animals

    If you have other pets at home, your kitten may be intimidated by them, especially when it comes to mealtime. Give your kitten a safe space away from other animals so that it will not be bothered or chased when it comes to eating time.  

    How long can a cat go without eating?

    Just like humans, cats can go longer without food than water. Your cat can survive about two weeks, give or take, without eating but survive only three days without drinking water. 

    However, the longer your cat goes without proper food and nutrition, the weaker it becomes and may even develop fatal diseases. Do seek medical treatment immediately

    How to get your cat to eat? 

    Here are a few ways to get your cat to eat or stimulate its appetite: 

    • Give them some wet cat food. PetCubes offers a wide range of raw cat food specially formulated for your cat’s nutritional needs. It has a powerful aroma as it is raw! The stronger the aroma, the better! 
    • Offer fresh cat food. Fresh cat food has been known to entice your cat to eat.
    • Warm the food up in the microwave or with warm water. Not too hot that it burns your cat’s tongue though.
    • Sprinkle meal toppers on the cat food. Additional delicious flavours can pique a cat’s interest in food Add some warmed broth to your cat’s food. Petcubes’ Bone Broth Dr. is a good option. 

    The above tricks are just short-term fixes. If your cat starts eating after using one of the above tricks, you can just chalk up your cat not eating to an upset stomach or something non life threatening. 

    When to contact your vet if your cat is not eating?

    Bring your cat to the veterinarian immediately if you observe your cat has not eaten for one to two days. We cannot stress this enough. Adult cats, especially cats that are overweight, can develop hepatic lipidosis which is why prompt action is crucial. 

    If your cat stops eating and has the following symptoms, immediate medical attention is required: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing

    What about a cat who is not drinking water?

    If your cat’s food intake is normal, your cat should be getting sufficient water. If and when you think your cat is not drinking water, you can always try a kitty water fountain as cats prefer moving water to still water. The noise of running water actually attracts the cat to drink from the fountain. 

    One thing to take into consideration if you are worried about your cat not drinking enough water is food change. If you recently changed its diet to incorporate more food that is higher in moisture content, your cat may drink less water from its bowl. This is because your cat is getting sufficient water from its food already. 


    If you notice your cat not eating for prolonged periods of time, call your veterinarian immediately. The sooner you determine the cause, the sooner your cat will be back to normal. It is dangerous for your cat to stop eating as it may lead to fatty liver disease.