cat won't eat

Why Won’t My Cat Eat?

Normally, cats eat voraciously. So, if your cat stopped eating then it’s a cause for concern. Unusual behavior in cats should always be investigated and diagnosed, because the problem could be a serious one.

Why won’t my cat eat? Anorexia in cats can be caused by illness or a recent vaccination, or psychological issues. If your cat won’t eat, consider changing its routine to eat earlier or later. Alternatively, try offering your cat different cat food. If your cat still won’t eat, take it to a vet and they can identify why.

Below are our tips on getting a cat to eat, and lots of info on why they may go off their food. So, read on!

Why Is My Cat Not Eating?

Generally, as soon as your cat hears you filling up the food bowl you’ll see them come running. But if your cat has started to become apathetic when it comes to their meals its time to start thinking of how things might be done differently. If your cat won’t eat, it could be fixed by something as simple as placing the food bowl in a different spot, or one of many medical conditions which could be behind a cat not eating.

You may hear a lot of people saying that cats are fussy eaters, so it can be easy to dismiss the problem as just atypical of a cat’s behavior, but never overlook a change to your cat’s appetite. Just like us, when cats don’t eat enough they will use their fat reserves for energy. This energy will have to be processed by the liver, for this to happen, your cat will need an adequate supply of protein from their meals. Naturally, when your cat depends on their fat stores they will incur a rapid weight loss, then protein stores will soon become exhausted. Eventually your cat’s liver will become overwhelmed by processing the fat. Not surprisingly this can lead to liver failure. A cat not eating will inevitably lead to a more serious health issue.

If there have been no changes to your home environment or what you are feeding your cat, a change in appetite can often indicate illness. So, if you’ve done what you can at home to encourage your cat to maintain a healthy diet consult your vet. Do not ignore the problem.

Why Your Cat Won’t Eat: Getting to the Root of the Cause


There are a myriad of conditions which could explain why your cat won’t eat. The causes aren’t always serious, so it’s important not to panic as soon as your cat starts to exhibit signs of a decreased appetite. It could be as simple as they’re feeling a little under the weather (it happens to us all) or they may have toothache.

Other causes of loss of appetite in cats include:

You’ll find information about those specific illnesses under the links. Diabetes is also a possibility, which has been the subject of extensive scientific study. If your cat is displaying any other symptoms alongside their lack of appetites such as vomiting or lethargy, contact your vet immediately for a diagnosis. An experienced vet has seen every potential cause of a cat not eating, and will know how best to proceed.


cat won't eat
Vaccinations are sometimes necessary, but can mean that your can won’t eat for a while afterwards. Image from the US Navy

If you have recently taken your cat for a vaccination, it is not uncommon for your cat to feel a little under the weather. They may not seem like themselves immediately afterwards. Any trip to the vets can be distressing for a cat, however, when they are receiving their vaccinations, adverse reactions are always a possibility. This should never be used as a reason not to vaccinate your cat. Vaccinations have saved millions of cats lives by protecting your cat from preventable diseases. Typically, a loss of appetite will only last for one or two days after the injection. If you notice that the problem lasts longer contact your vet for further advice.

Changes in Environment May Mean A Cat Won’t Eat

Cats like routine. So, even the smallest change in the home can disrupt their appetite. Obvious causes of stress which will result in a lack of appetite include travel or your cat finding themselves in unfamiliar surroundings if you move home. Sometimes, travel for your cat is unavoidable, so it’s best to be prepared for your cat to experience motion sickness, whether they are travelling by car, train or plane. The side effects should only last a few days if they are still refusing to eat after two days contact your vet.

Psychological Issues May Mean A Cat Won’t Eat

Psychological issues will generally be diagnosed after environmental changes and illness have been ruled out as causes by your vet. This will usually occur after a series of blood tests. All animals are susceptible to depression, stress or anxiety. They can even suffer from anorexia. These conditions are generally brought on after environmental changes such as the introduction of another cat into your home. Yet even changes to your and your family’s routines can disturb cats. For example, if you get a new job and start to work different hours.

Whilst it is easy to say that cats need a strict routine to follow, sometimes life gets in the way. However minimal disruption will ensure that your cat is never too hesitant to head to their food bowl. Always remember that it takes a while for your cat to adjust to a new diet or type of food. Give them time to adjust, and take note of your cat’s preferences. When they’re in a routine they seem happier with, stick to it!

What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

Making an appointment with a vet costs money even when there’s nothing wrong. It is therefore understandable that you’ll want to get to the root of the problem of your cat’s appetite loss at home. Here are some handy tips to try and get your cat to get back to the food bowl.

Consider Their Eating Routine

A cat’s appetite can be disrupted by the movement of their food bowl. They may even dislike the bowl itself. The presence of people or animals whilst they are eating can be off-putting, too. Whilst it doesn’t seem likely that your cat will be fussy about the bowl they eat from, the material of the bowl may be a major factor in whether or not your cat takes to it. Most vets advise you use either stainless steel or ceramic bowls for feeding. Try to avoid feeding your cat from a plastic bowl as these tend to be more unhygienic and some cats have allergies to the plastic which will result in them developing acne.

Also, make sure that your cat’s food bowl is cleaned and rinsed thoroughly at least once daily. You wouldn’t eat from the same plate or bowl twice, your cat shouldn’t be expected to either! The best size of bowls to opt for are bowls which will contain one meal-sized serving of food.

If you’re away from home a lot, consider an automatic feeder. Free-feeding isn’t always the best option for your cat. Cats should always be fed in multiple servings daily. A lack of routine might mean a cat will not eat.

Try a New Food When A Cat Won’t Eat

cat won't eat
A constant supply of ill-advised snacks may explain why your cat won’t eat. Image from Flickr

Your vet may prescribe you a specially formulated trial diet to help you. However, if you’d like to try appeasing your cat’s appetite at home there are multiple ways to go about this. Some cats, especially younger cats can develop bad eating habits. This usually happens when you treat your cat to one too many treats, or start to feed them ‘human food’. It’s nice to treat your cat, however, this can quickly lead to serious issues including obesity. Cats will learn that if they hold out for food which tastes better than kibble, it will eventually arrive! If this has already happened, it’s time to change the bad behavior. A cat will not eat regular meals if they’re always getting scraps from your table.

Addressing Bad Behavior When A Cat Won’t Eat

Stick to a scheduled feeding routine for your cat, ensure that everyone in your household is aware of this routine. You’ll want to serve your cat small meals throughout the day. Cats tend to prefer to graze rather than gorge themselves on big meals. You’ll need to ensure that you’re feeding your cat safe and nutritious food consistently. Any changes to your cat’s diet can cause a dietary upset. For the best transition, mix your cat’s old food with the new flavor or brand.

Some cats only like to eat wet food and their attitudes towards dry food is unlikely to change. However, by combining wet and dry food you may be able to convince your cat to give dry food a try. Whatever you do, remain positive and patient and refrain from giving extra attention at meal times. If you make a big deal out of the situation then this may lead to your cat enjoying the extra attention at meal times. So, stay well away from their feeding area and ensure that your cat eats alone in a quiet and safe place. If they don’t eat the food after a short period of time, take away the food. This will further reinforce your cats feeding routine.

Worst Case Scenario When A Cat Won’t Eat: Head to the Vet

If you’ve tried everything at home and your cat still isn’t keen to head to the food bowl, contact your vet. This is especially important if your cat is of advanced age. If your cat is no longer eating or drinking, the worst case scenario is that your cat may be facing a severe decline in their health. When it comes to cats reaching their natural end, every cat’s experience is different. For some, the symptoms may have started to manifest over the course of a few months. With other cats, it’s over a course of a few days. Your primary role in this occasion is to provide the maximum amount of care and comfort.

Everyone has different views on euthanasia, and you may experience a lot of guilt whatever decision you make. However, your vet will always provide you with the best advice based on the individualistic needs and circumstances of your cat’s health. Other signs that the worst may be happening are if your cat starts hiding, appears confused or starts to lose weight suddenly. However, it is worth remembering that this is the absolute worst case scenario. If you have any concerns, contact your vet to put your mind at ease. They will help you to ensure that your cat is getting the best possible care.