Black cat staring out from bowl filled with dry food.

Cat Not Eating? 8 Things to Try When Your Cat Won’t Eat

Got a cat who won't eat on your hands? We've got a few suggestions to solve the issue of a cat not eating — and when to take a cat who’s not eating to the vet.
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My cat, Bella, has been driving me crazy. She’s decided that “I’m not gonna eat that!” is her new favorite game in the world. As food goes, Madame won’t have the chicken — that would be the super-premium raw frozen organic chicken, which she has eaten with gusto for months. Madame also won’t have the duck, because it’s too rich and makes her throw up. Instead, Madame would prefer the rabbit (which, naturally, costs about $8 more a bag than chicken or duck), or, if you please, some low-carb, grain-free pate. Ugh. Is your cat not eating? I know I’m not the only cat parent who has experienced a cat not eating, so here are some things to try when your cat won’t eat.

A tabby cat, lying down and sick.
Is your cat not eating? She might be sick or in pain. Photography by Eugene03/Thinkstock.

1. Make sure your cat not eating isn’t a sign that she’s sick

A cat not eating can be a sign that your cat is sick or pain, particularly if it continues for more than one meal. If this is the case, bring your cat to the vet.

2. If you’re committed to a specific cat food brand, try other flavors

If you have an ethical or medical reason you need to stay with a certain brand of food, see whether it comes in other flavors. Think about trying other brands that might provide the same medical or health benefit. Your cat might find the change refreshing.

3. Heat up the cat food

If you’ve kept your cat’s food in the refrigerator, five to 10 seconds in the microwave will heat it up to about body temperature, and the smell will become attractive to your cat. If you don’t have a microwave, try mixing some warm water into the food instead.

A fluffy white cat eating wet food off of a dish or bowl.
Cat won’t eat? Try adding a tempting treat to her food bowl. Photography ©RooIvan | Thinkstock.

4. Add something tasty to your cat’s food

Try sprinkling your finicky cat’s food with a tempting treat like bonito flakes or cat vitamin powder.

5. Keep your cat’s dishes and bowls clean

This is especially important if your cat eats canned or raw food because germs can start growing in scraps of leftover food and cause illness. A cat not eating might hate the smell of her dishes or food. Cats are instinctively driven to avoid consuming putrid-smelling meat. If you use plastic dishes, replace them with metal or ceramic because they’re easier to keep clean.

6. Try different cat dishes

A cat not eating might simply dislike his bowl. Some cats don’t like deep or narrow dishes because they constrict the whiskers. Flat-faced or brachycephalic cats such as Persians, Himalayans and Exotic Shorthairs should not be eating from plates or shallow bowls anyway.

7. Don’t hide medications in your cat’s food

Once upon a time, I ground a pill up and put it in my cat’s food. What I didn’t know was that the medicine was really bitter. My cat refused to touch it, and she never ate that particular brand and flavor of food again. Some medications come in flavors that appeal to cats, but they’re few and far between. Ask your vet before trying the powdered-pill-in-food trick.

8. Remember — choose your battles!

Is it really that important to you that your cat eats just one flavor of just one brand? Even if you love pizza, you’d get sick of it if you had to eat it every day for the rest of your life. This is the approach I’ve taken with Bella, and frankly, it’s what I should have done from the start. Cats need and deserve some variety in their diet, just like us.

Tell us: Is your cat not eating? What did you do when your cat wouldn’t eat? Please share your stories and tips for a cat who won’t eat in the comments!

Featured Image: Photography by aleg baranau / Shutterstock.

This piece was originally published in 2015. 

Read Next: We’re Feeding Cats Wrong — Ditch the Cat Food Bowls and Change the Schedules


218 thoughts on “Cat Not Eating? 8 Things to Try When Your Cat Won’t Eat”

  1. My cat likes to feel accompanied and cared for….. if Intake some kibbles out of the dish and put them on the counter, it’s suddenly like they are magical treats…. If Inpet her while she eats them, even better, and she will often keep eating out of the dish if Inam still petting her.
    Sometimes they just need the love, attention and mothering of this kind of interaction❤️🐱😻

  2. My cat’s favourite canned food is no longer being sold at the store so I ended up buying something similar for him to try. I mixed in a tiniest bit of the new food with the old one to tempt him into eating it but it hasn’t worked.
    I’ve recently taken him to the vet for his check up and am glad to report that he is doing very well. I am planning to order some of his old food online if he still refuses to eat but I am worried that it is no longer in production.
    What should I do if that is the case? My stores of the old food is depleting and I am worried that he will continue to hunger strike.

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