Cat Eating Problems (And The Different Ways You Could Read That)

Sparrow Eating Problems - Cat Eating Problems

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.Sparrow Photobomb - Cat Eating Problems
  • 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.Food Bowl - Cat Eating Problems
  • 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…

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  1. Is your cat eating problems? Ha! Amazing lead-in to a great post by the way.

    We have three of the furry little buggers, and yep, all different eating habits and picky little preferences – you’re right, we DO have kibble available all the time, that needs to stop asap! Thanks for the tip

    1. Thanks Kegan!

      Three cats…geez, that sounds like a handful. Not sure I could handle it, knowing my luck they’d all be asthmatic, too. I think I’ll stick with just one, he’s enough trouble on his own.

      Be prepared for some complaining if you stop the all day buffet suddenly, you might want to decrease the amount slowly over a few days. Good luck!

  2. Wow, I didn’t know cats could have some many different types of eating problems. I thought the only thing you had to worry about was just hairballs, but yes there is a lot of good information here. Make your cat really hungry, Playtime before meal time, and Heat it up? I never knew cats needed their food heated up. I guess they are a little like people.

  3. Thanks for sharing! Our cat is getting old so she does sometimes leave behind a lot of food and not eat for days. But then there would be days when she will finish her food straight away. We think it may just be that she is getting old. Otherwise she seems normal. But after reading your post I will have a bit more think about the reason, maybe she is a bit distressed.

    1. Hi Daniel, not eating for days sounds concerning, have you had her checked out at the vet? There could be something wrong…or, as you say, maybe she’s just getting old and even more fussy. Keep an eye on her…good luck!

  4. Thanks for your detailed post on this subject because I’ve been having problems getting my cat to eat properly. She seems to be very picky and sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I’ve never heated up her food before, so I may try that and make sure she’s more hungry.
    Appreciate all your suggestions. 🙂

    1. Thanks Grace, make sure your cat is not sick first! Maybe a visit to the vet is in order if she’s off her food.
      Good luck!

  5. Don’t have cats but I see the similarities with dogs! Getting a new puppy soon so would see if these tips can apply!


    1. Hi Ravi, cats and dogs are actually very different, but the same common sense applies. Puppies are fun…all the best!

  6. Hi,
    This is really weird, but……..
    My cat Cleo is licking plastic stuff! She also is over-grooming to the point of losing fur.
    She licks plastic grocery bags, a hard plastic ice tea maker, a shower curtain, & different
    plastic containers & bags. I don’t think she is actually eating the above, just licking like crazy.
    Normally she is laid back, and nothing new is in the house that might upset her.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      that does sound weird, but…cats are weird creatures. If she’s licking herself in the same spots (where she’s losing fur) there could be a problem there, like a skin irritation or even back pain. Have her checked out at the vet to rule out anything medical. Cats spend 30-40% of their days grooming but losing fur is a problem. Once you’ve ruled out anything medical, then look for things that could be stressing your cat – the licking plastic kinda makes me think she’s having some psychological issues. Even the tiniest things can upset cats, they’re delicate creatures. Make sure you’re sticking to a routine with her feeding, play time and interactions with her humans. Check that you haven’t changed or moved anything in her world, and then…I’d suggest a lot of focused TLC.
      Good luck!

  7. Hello Shirley, first of all, Sparrow is a cutie! A great article about cats eating habits! My Willie had some issues awhile back, when he was eating hard food on regular basis. He started to have trouble urinating, and even took his discomfort up in our living room to try to urinate, and would dribble a little out at a time. Also he was quite chubby. After a trip to the vet, and a clean bill of health, we started to feed him soft food on the advice of the vet. He lost weight, started urinating normal again, now all is good. Sometimes cats have stress issues, as well as food sensitivities, and we just need to keep an eye on them. Again, a really great article, thank you!

    1. Hi Eric, yeah I’m pretty fond of the little cutie! Cats are strange, fussy creatures, aren’t they? You’re right about having to keep an eye on them, they tend to hide their discomfort and cause themselves bigger issues. I’m glad your Willie is doing well after all that. Thanks for stopping by.

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