Cats love their food, and you probably find your cat is usually very good at eating every last piece. However, there are times when cats just won't eat, no matter what you do to encourage them. Is it the food causing the problem, or is it something else?
Factors Affecting Cats’ Eating Habits
Here are a few things that may be stopping your cat from eating:
- Fussiness: It’s true, cats are selective when it comes to what they will and will not eat. Often as an owner we misconstrue this as our cats being fussy without addressing why they’re not eating. Your cat has millions of smell (olfactory) sensors which play a big part in their food selection. The food’s texture can also impact your cat’s eating habits. Changes in texture (jelly vs. gravy) or smell could mean your cat stops eating.
- Old Food: Is the food past its best before date, damp, stale, too cold, or has been opened to the elements too long? Your cat will pick this up much faster than you because of their incredibly strong sense of smell. In some cases, this could upset their stomachs causing vomiting or diarrhoea.
- Illness: If your cat is sick, it may not be able to eat properly. Kidney disease, infections, intestinal problems and pancreatitis can all stop your cat from eating. If your cat stops eating for more than 24 hours (and doesn’t have pre-existing health issues), take your cat to the vet straight away so they can rule out illness.
- Dental Issues: If your cat has loose teeth, swollen gums, a sore or infected mouth, or a dental abscess, eating will be painful. The best way to check whether it is a dental problem is again, to take your cat to the vet and make sure.
- Other Food Sources: Some cats tend to roam and could be eating your neighbour's cat or dog food - or even getting into the trash. If your cat isn't eating, perhaps it has found an outside source of food - something you should swiftly put an end to.
- Variety: Cats predominantly select their food based on the smell and texture rather than taste. So again, if you have recently changed the variety or brand of food, this can impact your cat’s desire to eat.
Environmental Factors Affecting Cats’ Appetite
Did you know that a cat’s environment can affect its appetite as much as or even more than the points above? Here are a few environmental factors that may stop your cat from eating:
- Social Environment: Cats are territorial, and if too many cats are feeding from the same bowl it can lead to a hierarchical feeding structure. The dominant cats feed first, while the weaker ones eat last - or not at all if the food runs out. If you have a multi-cat household, we suggest feeding in separate parts of the house.
- Location Consistency: Constantly changing your cat’s feeding bowl location could make some cats stop eating. It is important to keep consistency in feeding location whenever possible to make your cat feel safe.
- Hygiene: Cats are notoriously clean, and a dirty feeding area can stop them from eating. Cats are very clean animals and something as simple putting their fresh food in a slightly dirty bowl can mean they may not eat. Try addressing this by washing or changing the food in the bowl, this usually helps with getting your cat to start eating again.