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What to do if Your Fussy Cat Stops Eating

Updated May 24, 2018.

Sometimes a cat stops eating . . . that’s when you need to know how to get a fussy cat to eat!

Cat owners often have to deal with the fickle nature of their feline friends, from hairballs to stress to litter box issues.

However, when most cat owners tick off the issues that they might expect to deal with when they bring their new cat home, trying to get their new cat to eat doesn't often seem like a major concern, although the cat might feel differently about this!

There are a lot of reasons that cats can be finicky or fussy when it comes to eating, especially if a cat that has spent most of his or her life being a good eater, and then suddenly started to change eating habits and no longer eats as much or as often.

If Your Cat Stops Eating, Rule Out any Medical Issues

When a cat stops eating, it's easy to just blame it on the cat being fussy or finicky, and often, that indeed is the case.

However, if the problem persists, it is vital to ensure that the cause of your cat not eating isn't due to any underlying medical issues.

A variety of illnesses can cause your cat to stop eating, and deserves prompt medical attention if your cat has gone over twenty-four hours without eating.

One reason a cat stops eating is a major issue that causes it to lose it's appetite, fatty liver disease, which needs immediate medical attention from your cat's veterinarian.

Once you rule out any medical issues that might be the cause, you can move on to examine other reasons that your cat might not want to eat.

Get the Right Food Dishes for Your Cat


Although there are tons of decorative and special kitty-themed food bowls on the market, they're just for show, and often a cat stops eating food from the bowl based on the design.

Cats aren't big on deep food bowls; it can cause whisker pain and fatigue when they are trying to get the food out of the bowl.

Instead, choose a shallow bowl or a dish for their food.

You can even opt for a more technologically advanced option like an interactive or automated food dispenser, which will not only help by potentially providing a better bowl experience, but it can help to regulate when and how much they eat.

Cats also don't like plastic food bowls, because of the offensive odors that they tend to give off.

So, get your cat a dish made of a different material.

Make Sure Your Cat's Bowls are Clean


Cleanliness is important.

Cats are known to be neat and like everything they come into contact with, such as their food dishes, to be clean, as well.

Make sure that your cat's bowls are cleaned on a regular basis (preferably everyday) and don't use any harsh smelling soaps or chemicals when cleaning.

Never add All of a Cat’s Medications to their Food

If a cat tastes something a little "off" about their food, they have a tendency to walk away from that food and think twice before eating it again.

While this might not bother some cats, the more finicky eaters will notice even the slightest taste change and might reject the food.

Check your Dry Food for Freshness


If you use a lot of dry cat food, such as for a household with multiple cats, you might just buy a larger bag of food because it costs significantly less, and you know it'll get eaten anyway.

However, dry food for cats, like food for humans (think cereal), can become stale quickly if the food isn't stored properly.

While it might be difficult to find an airtight container for that much cat food, try purchasing special bag clips, and store dry food in a dark, dry area so that it doesn't soak up moisture from the air and go stale.

Some cats stop eating because they don't like to eat food that doesn't taste the same or that has a texture different from what they are used to.

Check the Temperature of Your Cat’s Wet Food

Image attribution: CarsondelakeImage attribution: Carsondelake

If you feed your feline friend wet canned food, you may notice that he or she dives right in when the can is freshly opened, but if you provide some to your cat later, you might notice that he or she wants nothing to do with it after you've taken it out of the fridge.

When moist, canned cat food is placed in the refrigerator after opening.

That once delightful smell that draws your cat to the food becomes dull and not as interesting when chilled.

In order to combat this problem, buy smaller cans to match the amount of food your cat can eat in one sitting, or try popping the food into the microwave for a few seconds until it's warmed up to room temperature.

Give Your Cat His or Her Own Bowl (and some privacy)


Cats like to have their own area for eating, even if it means giving them their very own bowl.

If you have multiple cats in the home, it might even be a good idea to place their food bowls in different areas of the room to ensure that each cat has their own privacy.

Also, cats don't like to be watched when they eat, so try and feed them, and then back away!

Look into a Different Type of Food


Sometimes a cat stops eating for simple reasons, for example, your cat becoming bored by the same types of food every day.

If nothing else seems to work, try looking for another brand or flavor of food that might appeal to your kitty.

If he or she eats the food with no problem, you might have enticed their taste buds to try something new!

For more information, read:  Best Pet Food--The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Cats.

Your Cat doesn't have to go on being a Finicky Eater! 

If your cat stops eating and you've ruled out any medical issues (and dental issues), following the tips above, such as:

  • checking the freshness of your cat's food
  • making sure his or her dishes are clean
  • giving your cat the privacy that is needed for happy mealtimes

might help to narrow down and determine the cause of your cat's sudden finicky attitude toward their food.

If that doesn't seem to do the trick, talk to your cat's vet about any other options that might help, such as adding supplemental flavours and broths to your cat's food to help entice him or her to eat.

About the Guest Author

Emily Parker runs Catological, a blog dedicated to helping cat parents love their kitties better.  She has lived in both dog and cat homes, and is excited to introduce a new dog to her family (which includes 2 cats) in the coming year.

You can connect with Emily on Facebook and Twitter.

Coloring Book by Catalogical


More Cat Care Information You Might Find Helpful

Best Pet Food--The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Cats

Cat Health Information--How to Find the Resources You Need!

How to Choose A Veterinarian for Your Cat

What are Your Veterinary Questions?  Get Answers and Advice

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