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Causes and Solutions for a Cat That Won’t Eat

Causes and Solutions for a Cat That Won’t Eat

By Lisa Smith

Unlike canines, cats seldom look up to their caregivers as the center of security and safety. They will cuddle, sleep or eat when they want.  It is what we love about our feline companions. But it can also be a danger. 

A cat could have an eating disorder, and the owner could easily mistake it for independence. But, that should not be the case for pet professionals. As a pet professional, you should notice a cat with an eating disorder and advise the owner or act appropriately. 

Typical Eating Habits for Cats

Cats living in the wild can tell us a lot about what our pets at home like and what they do not like. For starters, all cats are obligate carnivores—they must eat meat. Most cats in the wild are also solitary animals. They will hunt solo and eat alone at undisturbed (often hidden) locations. Cats in the wild do not like sharing food with other cats. Only a mother cat would share food with her offspring. Cats also like to eat their prey while it is fresh. Thus, the temperature and moisture levels are crucial. 

Our feline companions behave a lot like their cousins in the wild. Their eating habits are determined by instinct and learning. Domestic cats prefer their food to be:

Cats also like to play with their food. It is a crucial enrichment activity that keeps them mentally alert. 

The food quantity varies with the cat’s age. Kittens will eat more food per pound of bodyweight than adult cats. Concerning the frequency, kittens also eat more frequently than adult cats. However, as they cross the one-year mark (and are free of health issues), an adult cat can live comfortably with one feeding per day. 

If a cat won’t eat, check if something is off the norm. If the food or feeding conditions are not what a cat likes, adjust accordingly or advise the owner. However, if the feeding routines and food quality are what the cat typically enjoys, the cat could have a deeper problem. 

Why a Cat May Not Eat

A cat could stop eating due to health issues, psychological issues or changes in the environment. Some cats are just finicky or dislike the food. 

Some of the health issues include: 

A cat can also abstain from eating due to psychological and food issues such as:

When to Be Concerned

It is easy to tell a malnourished cat from one that is well-fed but occasionally misses a meal. Some prominent symptoms include severe weight loss, sustained poor appetite, lethargy, depression and anemia. Other signs include frequent diarrhea and vomiting. If a cat exhibits a combination of these symptoms, it should be checked by a vet. Cats need to continue eating, even if the animal is obese. If a cat goes for a prolonged period without eating, it could experience irreversible complications which could be fatal.

What to Do For a Cat That Won’t Eat

Treatment for loss of appetite in cats depends on the cause. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a vet. After examination, the vet could recommend medical interventions such as antibiotics, nausea medication, fluid therapy, surgery, a diet change or appetite boosters. 

If the cat is healthy but won’t eat due to other reasons, these tips could help:

Cat owners count on trusted pet professionals for informed opinions on many issues. A wild guess on why a cat’s eating behavior has changed, what caused it and suggested treatment could hurt your reputation and business. Treatments for not eating in cats vary depending on the underlying cause. If the feeding happens within the cat’s preferred parameters and there is still an issue getting the cat to eat, consult a vet. The vet will check if there is an underlying health issue and recommend the appropriate treatment.