10 Reasons Your Cat Is Not Eating And How To Stimulate Their Appetite

When Max ignores his bowl of food, you might dismiss it as mere fussiness. Is your cat not eating?

As a pet parent, it’s essential to know that cats are creatures of habit. They thrive on routine. The slightest change in their environment can trigger stress and a loss of appetite.

If you’re worried because your cat doesn’t want to eat, here’s what you should know.

Why Has My Cat Stopped Eating?

Cats can be finicky at times, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your pet’s behavior. We can think of two possible causes: It could be a food-related issue or a medical issue.

If your cat acts normal and is perfectly healthy, you can assume a feeding problem.

However, you should start worrying if your cat:

  • Refuses to eat within 24 hours
  • Shows other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness

In such cases, a quick trip to the vet is necessary. The earlier you can get your cat examined, the better it will be for his health and well-being.

10 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Not Eating

Here’s a list of causes that may explain the change in your cat’s appetite:

10 Reasons For Cat Not Eating

1. Food flavor and aroma

Have you been feeding dear Max with tastier and aromatic treats?

That may explain his sudden loss of interest in his meals. Some cats will stay loyal to their food until they try something new that appeals to their taste buds.

Study shows that cats also use their smell to select food. If they are attracted to a particular odor, they will consume the food even if it’s less tasty [1].

2. Shape and material of food bowl

There is a right and a wrong way to feed cats.

What many people are not aware of is that some cat breeds have individual food bowl preferences. Eating can be challenging for flat-faced kitties like the Persians, Munchkins, and Himalayans.

So, make sure to choose a dish with a shallow, wide opening. This will accommodate your cat’s head and avoid touching his whiskers which are sensitive, by the way!

When it comes to material, most vets recommend ceramic. Plastic bowls cause acne and harbor bacteria over time.

3. Stale food

Cats are less likely to eat if their food is old. The warm, sunny weather causes moisture to build-up in dry cat food.

Don’t throw away the original food packaging because they are designed to keep the food fresh. Also, avoid exposing the food to air for long periods. Keep it away from sunlight.

4. Teeth problems

Dental problems are common in cats, and they cause pain [2].

For example, a cat with gingivitis has red and swollen gums. Gingivitis can also be accompanied by mouth sores. Your cat will stop eating due to the discomfort. He may prefer soft foods [2].

5. Upper respiratory infection

Is Max sneezing? Does he have a runny nose, swollen eyes, and fever?

An upper respiratory problem could explain why your cat isn’t eating much. Upper respiratory tract infection affects most cats in shelters and multi-cat households [3].

If the infection has spread to your cat’s lungs, he will have difficulty breathing. [4]. Prevention entails minimizing stress and keeping your cat’s vaccinations up-to-date.

6. Changes in their environment

Even tiny changes can make Max go crazy and lose appetite:

  • You relocated and brought Max along.
  • You just had a baby.
  • There’s a new cat in the household.
  • You changed his feeding schedule.
  • His food bowl was moved to a different location.

A 2011 study revealed that unusual external events cause a healthy cat to display sickness behaviors. Your vet may ask about environmental disruptions during assessment [5].

7. A recent vaccination

Routine vaccinations. They help keep Max happy and protected from bacteria and viruses. Staying on schedule is essential.

But there’s the other side of the coin:

Some cats experience untoward allergic reactions to shots. They will display a marked loss of appetite. Other symptoms include reduced activity, slight fever, and vomiting.

If Max’s appetite doesn’t return within a day, please call the vet right away.

8. Gastrointestinal (GI) problems

There are different digestive issues you should be aware of, such as blockage, ulcers, colitis, and gastroenteritis. GI disorders disrupt food absorption and can make your cat very sick [6].

Affected cats show other symptoms aside from loss of appetite. Severe dehydration can happen. You need to rush your pet to the vet if he develops diarrhea and vomits.

9. Urinary blockage

Urinary obstruction is an uncommon health problem, but it usually occurs in male cats. Alongside anorexia, pay attention to your cat’s regular peeing habits.

Do you notice anything different? Does he try to urinate in the litter box but no urine or only little urine comes out? Is the urine cloudy, dark, or bloody?

Please know that urinary obstruction is an emergency case. If not managed right away, it can result in kidney failure or death.

10. Old age

Did you know that when cats reach their geriatric years, their sense of smell and taste diminish? Not just that, they also start to lose their energy to chew food.

If you have a senior cat at home, it’s essential to weigh him regularly to check that he is at a healthy weight.

How Can I Stimulate My Cat’s Appetite?

Getting Max to eat again is easier if you are aware of the underlying problem. Assuming that you already went to the vet and have a good idea of your cat’s condition, here are some tips

How To Stimulate Cats Apetite

1. Offer some warm canned food.

Here’s what to feed a cat that won’t eat:

Wet canned food appeals to cats that feel unwell. Seafood varieties have a stronger smell which cats are attracted to.

Warming your cat’s food makes it more palatable, especially to older cats. If your cat has a dental problem, warming his canned food will also make it easier to digest.

2. Administer an appetite stimulant.

Your vet may prescribe an appetite stimulant such as mirtazapine. It’s a therapeutic option for behavioral problems but is also used to increase appetite [7].

Karo syrup or honey is another option to increase appetite. It also stabilizes blood sugar levels of cats whose blood sugar levels have dropped due to a lack of appetite.

Place a drop on your cat’s tongue or rub it on his gums. It should make your cat want to eat again.

Many pet parents also swear by catnip, a plant that’s known to increase a cat’s desire to eat. Catnip contains an active compound called Nepetalactone. Nepetalactone stimulates a cat’s sensory neurons [8].

Last but not least is CBD oil. CBD oil does not only bring back your cat’s appetite, but it also relieves any cat anxiety and pain.

You can administer it directly or mix it into your pet’s canned food.

3. Make your cat feel comfortable.

Create a stress-free environment for Max. Once you’ve identified his stressors, you can do the following:

  • Give him some space where he can retreat when he feels stressed out.
  • Stick to a consistent feeding schedule.
  • If you’re bringing in a guest or new family member, allow for a gradual interaction.
  • Do not force your cat.
  • Feed him in a quiet and distraction-free area.

4. Help clear your cat’s nose of discharges.

A cat with a stuffy nose will not want to eat.

Help him breathe easier and be able to smell his food by placing a humidifier in the room. This will loosen his mucus. Let fresh air into your home as well. Encourage your cat to drink more fluids.

5. Provide fresh and high-quality cat food.

Check that your pet’s food is not spoiled and stored properly, away from sunlight. When choosing cat food, avoid those that contain chemical preservatives and corn meal as fillers.

Since cats like clean bowls, place your pet’s bowl away from the litter tray. Make sure that it is odor-free.

When Should You Take Your Cat To A Vet?

A sudden lack of interest in food can signify illness. Unlike dogs and humans, cats cannot really go long without food. If he does not eat within 24 hours, you should be alarmed. Your cat’s liver deteriorates when starved.

Look closely for other symptoms or changes in his behavior that indicate illness. If you are in doubt, schedule an appointment with the vet.

Take-Home Message

Finicky or not, your cat deserves your very best. Better safe than sorry! Provided that he isn’t ill or has already been checked by the vet, follow one or more of the strategies we discussed. Most importantly, stay patient with your pet.


  1. Hullár I et al. Factors influencing the food preference of cats. 2001 August – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11686790
  2. Cornell University. Feline Dental Disease. – https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-dental-disease
  3. WebMD. Upper Respiratory Infection in Cats. – https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/upper-respiratory-infection-cats#1
  4. Cornell University. Respiratory Infections. – https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/respiratory-infections
  5. Ohio State University. Even healthy cats act sick when their routine is disrupted. 2011 January 4 – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110103110357.htm
  6. Defarges A et al. Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines in Cats. – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/digestive-disorders-of-cats/disorders-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-cats
  7. Cornell University. FDA Approves Appetite Stimulant for Cats. – https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/cat-health-news/fda-approves-appetite-stimulant-cats
  8. Scientific American. How Does Catnip Work Its Magic on Cats? 2007 May 29 – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-how-does-catnip-work-on-cats/

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