Learn How to Entice Your Cat to Eat
It’s disconcerting when your favorite feline suddenly stops chowing down. Cats are notoriously picky eaters, and limited eating behavior can be triggered by many things, from the addition of a new pet to a major medical problem.
Eating full and regular meals is extremely important to your cat’s overall health, so it’s important to figure out why your kitty’s bowl isn’t being licked clean.
How to Tell if a Cat Isn’t Eating
In a single cat house, it’s obvious your kitty has stopped eating, but in a multi-pet household, it can be complex. In this scenario, you will need to separate the cats at mealtime.
In addition to a full bowl, a major warning sign that a cat is not eating is weight loss. When a cat stops eating, her body cannibalizes her muscle and fat for energy. Any sudden changes in appearance should be taken seriously. Your cat will also become lethargic and may sleep even longer than they already do.
When feeding cats, check to make sure you’re serving the correct portion. Many cats stop halfway through a meal simply because they’re full. Serving size varies from food to food, so be sure to review the feeding guidelines on the package.
Reasons Cats Stop Eating
“Cats can be very finicky!” says Dr. Laurie Coger, DVM, CVCP. Your cat may stop eating if it’s under stress. Anything new can be a big stressor for cats. A new house, a new baby or a new pet can all trigger a meltdown in your feline. Cats can also be stressed by temporary changes, like a houseguest, bad weather or even construction noise from outside.
Cats occasionally stop eating in protest of a food they don’t like. Some cats get tired of eating the same thing day after day and stop chowing down. If you’ve recently switched cat food, they may stop eating because the transition was too sudden or they simply don’t like the new flavor.
A change in presentation can also bother cats. A new food dish or a dirty bowl can trigger a food strike. Cats do not like eating in noisy, dirty locations, so do not place the food in a high-traffic area or close to the litter box. “They are especially sensitive to the smell—it can either stimulate their appetite or turn them off,” says Dr. Coger. Feeding cats something they’ll love each time is definitely a game of trial and error.
Additionally—and more seriously—not eating is a sign of every major disease in cats, from kidney failure to diabetes to heart disease.
“Fasting is very bad for cats, especially those who are overweight,” warns Dr. Coger. “Fasting causes fat deposits in the liver, a condition called hepatic lipidosis. This can lead to liver failure and death. So if your cat has not eaten for 36 to 48 hours, a visit to the veterinarian is indicated. Blood testing will likely be recommended to check on the liver and rule out other conditions.”
Many cats develop food sensitivities, such as upset stomach and skin issues, after a lifetime of eating food packed with corn, soy and other grain-based fillers. A freeze-dried raw cat food such as Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Dinner is a great option for cats with sensitivities. It is comprised of 98% farm-raised duck and goose meat, organs and bone.
If your cat is struggling with digestive issues, Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Cat Food is another great option. This cat food contains includes 98% free-range and grass-fed beef, organs, bones, and New Zealand green mussels. This food is high in protein and calories, which means you can feed smaller quantities per day—a great choice for cats who just can’t stomach a lot of food.
How to Encourage Your Cat to Eat
If medical issues have been ruled out, assess the cat’s eating environment. Is it too smelly? Too dirty? Too loud? Do other pets have easy access to the spot? Transfer the cat’s eating space to a quiet, clean, and protected location, and then consider switching foods.
What Do Cats Like to Eat?
If you cat is turning her nose up at everyday kibble, it’s time to explore healthier options. What do cats like to eat? Tasty, nutritious options packed with protein—not fillers like corn, soy or wheat.
“Cats also have definite preferences when it comes to the texture of the food. Overall, I think they prefer higher moisture foods, like those with gravies,” says. Dr. Coger. “This makes sense when you consider their natural diet—such as a mouse or a small bird—would be very moist.” Adding a wet food topper, such as Instinct by Nature’s Variety Healthy Cravings, can entice your cat to start chowing down. This savory chicken and gravy recipe adds moisture and flavor to your cat’s meal without any grains, gluten, artificial colors, artificial flavors or preservatives.
Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Goldie Lox and the 3 Fares Variety Pack Canned Cat Food is another healthy wet food option that can entice picky eaters. This variety pack contains a mix of flavors with ingredients that you can recognize when you open a can—white breast chicken, tuna, salmon and select beef cuts. The high moisture content of these cans help supplement water intake for cats that don’t drink enough water regularly.
If your cat enjoys both raw food and dry kibble, Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe is a delicious and nutritious option. This raw-infused recipe is a combination of high-protein dry food and freeze-dried raw meat bites, featuring an exotic blend of game bird protein from deboned chicken, duck and quail.
How to Introduce a New Food
Introducing a new food gradually minimizes the chances your cat will experience food aversion or an upset stomach from the switch. Introduce any new food slowly by mixing it with your furry friend’s current food for the first 7 to 10 days. Each day, decrease the amount of the old food and increase the portion of the new cat food.
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