Is your cat eating problems? Do you have cat eating problems? Are problems eating your cat? Let’s not get into an English lesson here, please. This is a serious subject.
We all joke about cats and their finicky eating habits, but it’s actually a major issue if your cat won’t eat. When an animal refuses to eat or doesn’t eat enough, the body begins to rely on stored fat cells and sends these to the liver to convert into energy. This is where the problem begins for cats, as their bodies don’t metabolise fat well at all and a buildup of fat in the liver prevents it from functioning normally. This is called hepatic lipidosis and if left untreated, the liver ultimately fails and cats can and do die from this.
Why Won’t My Cat Eat?
Many people believe ‘if my cat gets hungry enough, he’ll eat’, but not only is this untrue, it’s very dangerous. There are many reasons why your cat may have lost his appetite, including
- Illness – not feeling well is one of the major reasons your cat might be refusing food. Asthma cats, being prone to not feeling well, may stop eating if their asthma symptoms are flaring up or if there is a new trigger in their environment. The medical reasons for your cat not eating range from the very serious – kidney failure, parasites, pancreatitis, intestinal problems – to something as simple as a toothache.
- Recent vaccination – if your cat loses his appetite shortly after a routine vaccination, he may be having a reaction to the shots. Vaccines have saved many cat lives, but some do have side effects. Loss of appetite is a common side effect, but it is usually mild and temporary.
- Unfamiliar surroundings or travel – cats are creatures of habit, any disruption to their routine can upset their delicate little worlds. Some cats suffer from motion sickness when travelling, which can cause nausea and a refusal to eat.
- Finickiness or psychological issues – if kitty is not physically sick, then stress, depression or anxiety could be the reason he’s refusing to eat. Changes to your cat’s environment, new people, new medications or disruptions in familiar schedules can affect his emotional well-being and appetite. Or, your cat could just be a picky princess. Cats generally take a long time to adjust to a new type of food, so a recent change in diet could be the reason for the hunger strike.
How Much do Cats Eat?
Just like people, the amount of food cats eat varies from cat to cat. General recommendations range from 24-35 calories per pound of cat, so a healthy, active 8-pound cat will require 190-280 calories per day. The nutritional information on cat food packaging tends to be a bit useless, so chat to your vet about a healthy feeding regime for each stage of your cat’s life.
What to do if Your Cat is Not Eating
Go to the vet. Immediately. Do not assume that your cat will just start eating again when he’s hungry enough, there could be something majorly wrong. After a short time without adequate calories – a few days at most –
your cat’s body will begin to bombard its liver with fat cells, which could lead to liver failure.
Refusal to eat or loss of appetite is bad news for your cat, so a thorough check up at your vet is in order. Never starve your cat into eating a particular type of food, even if it was prescribed by your vet and do not force feed as this could lead to an aversion to food. Get kitty’s health checked out and once you’ve ruled out illness, here are a few things you could try:
- Make your cat really hungry – stop the free-feeding, never empty dry food bowl. If he doesn’t have access to a 24/7 buffet of kibble, he’ll be properly hungry at meal times.
- Play time before meal time – bring out the toys! (The cat toys, I mean). Make kitty do some exercise before food to stimulate the appetite.
- Try a different bowl – something that is large enough and shallow enough so that your cat’s whiskers don’t touch the side of the bowl when eating.
- Try something different – if you’re stuck on a particular brand of food for medical or other reasons, see if it comes in different flavours. Try switching to another brand that provides the same health benefits, but be aware that you need to transition kitty to a new food slowly over the course of a few days, to avoid stomach upsets and attitude problems.
- Keep your cat’s dishes clean – this is especially important if you’re feeding wet or raw food. Cats are driven by instinct to avoid eating bad meat, so kitty could be smelling something putrid in his bowl that makes him refuse his food.
- Heat it up – if you keep your cat’s food in the fridge, maybe it’s too cold for him. 5-10 seconds in the microwave will bring it back to room temperature and the smell may even turn kitty’s hunger back on.
When it comes to feeding a finicky cat, it’s important to remember to pick your battles, find something kitty likes and keep things interesting. If your cat is refusing to eat and there’s nothing medically wrong with him, be prepared to try a variety of different foods until you find something he likes…and be prepared to do it all again when he changes his mind!
Want to talk about your cat eating problems or your eating cat problems? Head to the comments below…