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How To Get a Cat To Eat | 7 Easy Tips and Tricks

What do you do when your feline companion suddenly stops eating? He no longer enjoys his favorite treats and pulls his nose up to a tasty meaty meal.

Cat parents know that these furry friends are notoriously picky, especially when it comes to food, and not knowing why they refuse to eat can cause anxiety and stress.

Feeding your beloved furball can often become a challenging task, especially if he may be experiencing health problems or is a picky eater. But with a few tips and tricks, getting him to eat won’t be that hard after all.

Here are some reasons why your cat might not be eating and also some ways to get him back on track.

cat stares at small bowl with dry food


How to Get a Cat To Eat: Reasons Your Cat Might Have Stopped

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not the picky eaters that we perceive them to be. They are considered to be opportunistic hunters, meaning that they prey on any small insect and animal they set their sights on. This can lead to them having up to 10-15 meals a day in the wild.

So, what may be common causes for your furball to stop eating at home?

grey cat about to eat from a small bowl how to get a cat to eat

1. His Diet Has Changed

You’ve recently spotted a new kind of wet food in the supermarket aisle and decided to give it a try. Surely, your feline friend will love the tasty protein-packed treat and he will thank you for it, right? That may be the problem.

Cats get used to certain kinds of food and may refuse anything else. Being used to the best dry food but then presented with wet food, or visa versa, can cause confusion. He may not recognize the strange substance as something edible.

It may take a few weeks for him to get used to the change in his diet, and patience is very important. Slowly introducing him to it will be the best way to get him to eat.

cat in suitcase with cat food and bowl

2. The Environment Has Changed

Changes to the household that may seem simple to us can be very stressful for the cat. A new addition to the family, introducing a new pet, or even something as small as moving the food bowl can cause him to suffer a sudden loss of appetite.

In time, he will get adjusted to the new changes and feel comfortable enough to eat. Patience is the key.

Foxy cat near bowls with food at home

3. Food Quality

Not unlike their human friends, cats are sensitive to food quality. They have very sensitive noses and a sudden dislike of food might be an indication that the food might be past the expiry date.

Cats may dislike food that is cold or stale. But this can easily be avoided. Remember to check if the packaging is well-sealed and always check the expiry date before purchasing the food.

Remember to throw out unrefrigerated wet food after 4 hours of being in a dish and dry food as soon as the cat shows an aversion.

Cute cat near bowl with food at home

4. Possible Health Aspects

The best way to determine whether or not your cat is suffering from a medical issue is by paying a visit to the vet’s office. But to give you an idea of what the vet might be looking for, here’s a list of medical reasons why your cat has stopped eating.

This is not a diagnosis, so make sure to visit a veterinary office if you’re concerned.

  • Toothache
  • Tummy discomfort and pain
  • Urinary obstruction
  • A cold
  • Stress
  • A recent vaccination

Try and eliminate any common health problems before trying to get your cat to eat. Eating will be unbearable if your feline friend is suffering from a toothache. Get advice from your local vet before attempting any feeding strategies.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heart

Tips On How To Get A Cat To Eat 

As mentioned, there are multiple common reasons why your cat might stop eating. Getting Furball interested in food, however, may pose a problem if done incorrectly.

Here are some easy to follow tips to trick your whiskered friend into eating.

1. Playtime Before Meal Time 

Try to whip out his favorite toy before you plan on feeding him. A bouncy, busy cat will work up an appetite. A rolling ball or mysterious flying feather will get him excited.

Try to play for a good few minutes before offering him a meaty meal in his favorite bowl.

cute kitten playing with colourful toy

2. Heat Up Wet Food

If your cat has problems eating, try and pop his favorite healthy wet food in the microwave for a few seconds. The house will fill up with a yummy chicken scent, which might get him curious.

Just like their human parents, cats are stimulated by smells. It will spark their hunger and have them running into the kitchen in no time. Just remember not to overheat the food, which may result in burns. A low yet slightly warm temperature will be perfect.

Cat tries to steal food from the table

3. Never Free Feed Your Cat 

Try to stick to a specific eating schedule for your cat. Avoid overfeeding him by leaving dry food in his bowl. Having him hungry at mealtimes is the best way to ensure that your fluffy friend will eat.

If there is any leftover food, refrigerate it after a maximum of 20 minutes of being outside. This includes dry food. Keeping the food fresh is a key aspect of keeping your cat safe and healthy.

Lazy Cat Eating Big Bowl of Food

4. The Right Bowl

Your cat’s whiskers are a very sensitive part of their bodies. It’s important for your cat to be able to eat without hitting or touching their whiskers on the rim of a bowl.

Reduce his discomfort by switching out his round, deep bowl for a wide-rimmed, shallow saucer. Eating wet food is harder than eating dry food, so an open and flat saucer or plate will be especially handy during a wet food treat.

hungry cat eating from the food bowl

5. Rotate His Food Selection, But Not Too Much

Offering your cat a variety of wet and dry food will keep him interested. Switching up the flavors and consistency of the food every-once-in-a-while will spice up his meal times.

If your cat has ever shown an aversion to new wet food, try and stick to a flavor that is familiar to him. If he is known to love chicken-flavored dry food, find similar flavored wet food and slowly introduce it to him.

Mix up a small amount of wet food along with his dry food to get him adjusted to the new texture.

Pro Tip – Never change a food type cold-turkey. Always be patient and slowly introduce your furry minion to the change.

cat in picnic basket with food

6. Try Wetting The Food – Literally

Adding a splash of chicken broth or tuna juice to the bowl will perk his nose up. Cats are known to enjoy a smelly tuna meal and adding subtracting these smells to food they show no interest in, may help them open up the idea of trying it.

cat staring at just opened can of wet food

7. Positive Praise

Cats love to feel accepted and praised by their parents and you can use this to train your cat. Try and show physical affection towards him once he has done anything you deem to be positive.

An extra stroke or a special petting session after feedings will show him that you approve of his actions. He will start to look forward to mealtimes because of the affection you show afterward.

cat purring while being stroked

Final Thoughts On Getting Your Cat To Eat

Now you should have an understanding of why your cat would suffer a loss of appetite and how you can counter that.

Getting a cat to eat is not as difficult as it sounds – once you have investigated the reasons why he might have stopped eating and eliminated any medical causes.

Cat and dog looking for meat in the refrigerator

Remember that patience and space is key when it comes to your whiskered friends.

cat up close about to eat a tin of cat food

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Tuesday 28th of February 2023

Hi - our 2 sibling cats aged 15 have some tummy issues and need to eat small meals every 5 hrs or so or they vomit. They also only like wet food grain free etc. due to sensitive teeth. We have tried an overnight feeder with cold pack so we can sleep thru the night but one of the cats refuses cold food. Is there any softer kibble we can try? We have looked everywhere for some but all are pretty hard. We thought maybe we could add some water to it to soften it but afraid to leave it out overnight without a cold pack. Any suggestions? We’ve tried raw but they don’t like it. Thank you!!!

Amanda OBrien

Wednesday 1st of March 2023

Hi Jaymee - why don't you ask your vet? they will be best able to help you with how to get your cats to eat. Best of luck! Amanda

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