What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

When you have a cat there are basic aspects of their wellbeing we look for to check they are OK. Are they pooping? Peeing? Eating? When one of those basic actions changes or stops, it rings alarm bells. 

The good news is, you’ve noticed and you’re ready to take action. It could be a simple fix, or it may require a speedy visit to the vets, let’s take a closer look at the topic so that you know what to do to get your kitty the right help: 

Why Won’t My Cat Eat? You’re Right To Be Concerned

If you have noticed your cat is not eating you are right to be concerned, it’s really serious when kitties stop eating anything. It can actually be very dangerous for cats when they stop eating. 

When a cat stops eating they use fat reserves for energy, a process supported by the liver which requires enough protein to work properly. If a cat loses weight really quickly through stopping eating they quickly use up all the protein they have and the liver then struggles to cope with the fat it is processing and a deadly condition called hepatic lipidosis can develop, which could cause liver failure. 

For this reason it is very important that you contact your vet as soon as you notice your cat is not eating, or their appetite has changed enough to suggest there is a problem. This isn’t a situation you can hesitate with because cats can become very ill very quickly when they stop eating. 

So, if your cat won’t eat and you’re trying to troubleshoot – why my cat won’t eat – the very first step is to speak to the vet and take it from there. 

Reasons A Cat Won’t Eat

There are multiple reasons that a cat won’t eat, some of which are more serious than others. Let’s take a closer look:


Loss of appetite for a cat suggests there is something seriously wrong. There are multiple illnesses that can cause a cat to stop eating altogether including; kidney issues, tummy problems, cancer, infections and pancreatic issues. Your cat could also have an issue with their teeth which is causing them to avoid food. 


An injury that may have occurred without you seeing could be causing your cat to stop eating. They may have internal damage, damage to the mouth or jaw or even an injury causing pain that then causes them not to eat. 


Your cat’s inoculations could cause a reaction such as swelling in the injection site or a reduced appetite. It can happen and although you need to still check in with your vet to see how long to wait before taking further action, the chances are this is only a temporary side effect that will correct itself. 

Mental Health

Cats can suffer from stress, anxiety and depression and it could well be the reason the cat won’t eat. They could be bored, stressed from another cat in the neighbourhood, or a new pet or child in the house.


Cats can respond to changes by not eating. If you have suddenly changed them over to the best cat food you could find, they might simply be a bit jarred by that, which is why it is a good idea to transition them to a new food slowly.

Cats can also become jarred by any travel, a move to a new house or even time in a cattery. They might even lose their appetite because you’re feeding them a bit earlier than usual. Cats are very strong animals but they can be very sensitive to change. 

Being Finicky

Cats are well known for being finicky creatures. That is why you just know you’ll tell the sitter their favourite food is a fishy jelly type and they hate gravy, only to be told all they ate during their stay was meaty gravy food. Or, you buy them a catnip toy because they went wild for it last time, and the moment it’s excitedly passed to them, they look at it with dismay and then look at you as though you just passed them a turd. 

Sometimes a cat won’t eat wet food or their usual dry food because they have simply decided that it no longer lives up to their expectations. They will go for another food, though, which is key to telling that this is the issue and nothing else is going on. 

What To Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

If you are worried and thinking – ‘my cat won’t eat, what do I do?’ Don’t worry, there are various things you can do. 

First Things First

It is so important to check with the vet first to make sure the reason your cat is refusing food is not because of an illness or another issue. Leaving it too long before checking can have awful consequences for your furry friend, so it is always worth checking their health first before trying anything else. 

Avoid “That’s All You’re Having” Feeding

Although it can be tempting to offer your cat a better food for them and simply leave it out until they eat it, it isn’t worth starving them over this issue. Do encourage them to try the new food slowly, along with their usual food as well, but if they don’t take to it, try something else. You could make your cat really unwell by trying to force them onto a new diet. 

My Cat Won’t Eat Dry Food

If the issue is that your cat isn’t consuming dry food, but happily eats lots of wet food, don’t worry. Your cat may just prefer wet food which is actually really good for their kidneys and ensures they are getting lots of fluid.

A cat shouldn’t only ever have dry food anyway, and all vet recommended dry foods suggest it is provided in combination with wet food as well. If your cat appears to be struggling to eat dry food, however, it is probably a dental issue so you should speak to your vet. If you’re thinking ‘my cat won’t eat but will drink water’ this could also be a dental issue, although excessive thirst can also indicate renal problems so again, a call to the vet is needed. 

My Cat Won’t Eat Or Drink And Is Lethargic

If you’re searching ‘my cat won’t eat or drink or move’ or something similar, you need to get to the vet right away. Are you experiencing issues with your cat’s appetite in addition to symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Persistent meowing
  • Signs of injury
  • Drooling
  • Discharge from the eyes, mouth, nose, genitals or anus
  • Aggression (when they aren’t usually aggressive)

If you are, you must get in contact with a vet right away as your cat likely needs medical attention really quickly. 

Work With Your New Cat

If your adopted cat won’t eat then the chances are they are simply uncomfortable and anxious. If they have been checked over by the vet, it is now up to you to make them feel comfortable enough to eat.

If the kitty is feral, this Kitten Lady video has some great tips on helping them to become friendly. This Jackson Galaxy video is also really helpful on helping a shy or scared cat feel comfortable. 

Eventually, your new kitty should become comfortable and eat, it just may take some time. Whilst they adjust it could help to give them a safe box or hiding place where they might feel able to eat in peace because they feel safe. 

Boost The Lifestyle Of Your Cat

If the suspected reason your cat isn’t eating is because they are depressed or feeling anxious, it is a good idea to boost their lifestyle to see if this helps. Get them more places to hide and explore, like cat trees. 

It is also a good idea to play with them more, enrich their environment and generally give them more security, fun and stimulation. Studies tell us that playing with a cat for fifteen minutes adds an hour onto their life! By playing with them for an hour a day you give them lots of exercise, excitement and stimulation. 

With a little more happiness your cat will hopefully come around and start eating more again. 
Your Cat Will Find Their Appetite In No Time

With our guidance above you can feel a little better about curing your kitties lack of appetite. Usually, getting them attention from a vet really quickly is key. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to an animal’s health, isn’t it?

Soon enough, with the right treatment and adjustments, your kitty can start to feel better, get their appetite back, and tuck into food and a great life with you once again.

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