My cat seems hungry but won’t eat – what do I do?

We’re all big pet lovers here at Closer Pets, and we like nothing more than being able to bring you closer to your pet.

Whether that’s by providing innovative award-winning pet products to help make life a little easier or by using our experience to answer important questions, like the question of your cat seeming to be hungry but not eating.

We see this question asked a lot online from doting pet owners and the answers aren’t always obvious – or correct. That’s why we’ve put this post together to offer some guidance from those who have been there!

Naturally, we want our furry friends to enjoy life to the fullest and that includes enjoying a nice dinner every day! So using our combined experience, we’ve put our most helpful advice in one place. 

First things first, a cat not eating much every now and then is nothing to worry about. In fact, that’s normal behaviour. But missing several meals in a row is something completely different and requires a little investigation on your part.

In this blog, you can find clear, reliable advice on what to do if your moggy isn’t drinking or eating.

How long can cats go without food?

Cats can go several days without food, but of course we really wouldn’t want them to. We want them to be happy and healthy and have the energy to play and enjoy life.

And they aren’t going to do that if they are hungry and their belly is rumbling!

A cat not eating much and missing a meal here and there is perfectly normal. We must remember that regular mealtimes are a human habit, not an animal one. Cats have adjusted to our schedules as they learned to put up with us, but there’s no such thing as a regular dinnertime in the wild!

That said, if your cat usually eats the same amount at the same time every day and then becomes lethargic and is suddenly not eating, it’s definitely worth looking into.

Why won’t your cat eat?

There can be lots of reasons for a cat not eating. It could be down to a lack of hunger or a change of food, activity levels, their environment or routine. It could also be for medical reasons.

In any case, we would suggest checking all the things you can do at home to get your cat eating again. Then, if nothing changes, take your feline friend to be checked by a vet. You can’t be too careful!

Not hungry

Sometimes your cat just might not be hungry – it happens to us all occasionally! Sometimes we eat a particularly large breakfast and don’t feel like lunch or we just aren’t hungry for one reason or another.

Change of food

Have you changed your cat’s food recently? Switched brands or flavours? Switched them from wet to dry food?

Even though most of us wouldn’t want to eat the same thing for every meal, our furry family members are different. Any small change in food can cause them to stop eating.

Playing or moving less

Does your cat play with you as much as they used to? Do they go out hunting or wandering as much? Are they getting older or recovering from an operation?

All these things can suppress their appetite, which can be a cause of your cat not eating much.

Change in environment

Have you moved the cat bowl? Rearranged the room in which they eat? Redecorated? Laid new carpet or flooring?

Environmental changes can upset your cat’s routine enough for them to skip meals.

Change in routine

Are you working more or different hours? Are you unable to feed your cat at the same time each day?

Our cats are sensitive to any change in routine and environment, which can put them off their food. A cat not drinking or eating could just be because you upset their timetable!

Automatic cat feeders and microchip cat feeders can give your cat access to food if your routine has changed and if you’re not around for your cat’s regular feeding times.

A medical condition

Another reason that may be why your cat won’t eat is an underlying medical condition, which could be anything from a toothache to an infection or something more serious. If in doubt, take your cat to the vet just to make sure.

How to encourage a cat to eat

Encouraging a cat to eat can be as easy as undoing the change you made. Or, if you’ve got a slightly more stubborn pet, it can require more patience.

If you made a small change such as moving their cat bowl or changing the brand of food you feed them, undoing it should get them eating again.

If you redecorated and changed the flooring or something else, you’ll need to reintroduce them to feeding time, walk them through the change and make them comfortable with it.

Another idea is to change how you feed them. Admittedly, it may seem counterintuitive to begin with, but it can work. 

You could try:

Free feeding – Free feeding is where you leave complete dry food out for your cat to graze as they please. If your cat’s habits have changed and they aren’t hungry at mealtimes, perhaps letting them come and go as they please will work.

Leaving a large portion of food for your cat to graze on all day does have its downsides though, because cats won’t necessarily regulate themselves in a healthy way. This could cause them to get sick or even gain weight.

That’s why we suggest feeding your pet ‘little and often’ scheduled meals.

Set meal times – If your cat has always been a grazer, sometimes establishing mealtimes and making them learn to expect dinner at a certain time can work. 

You can do this with an automated pet feeder from Closer Pets, which allows you to set the times your feeder dispenses the food and can help put your cat on a regular feeding schedule.

Combination feeding – If your cat’s lifestyle is changing, a combination of grazing and mealtimes may suit them best. 

Another way to achieve a combination feeding schedule is to use the MiBowl Automatic Microchip Pet Feeder from Closer Pets, which only allows access to paired cats via their implanted microchip or a Closer Pets Electronic I.D. Disc, which comes included as standard.

This method would be a good solution in allowing your cat to graze when they’re hungry, but still provides them with supervised meals to ensure they’re eating everything they need.

Helping your cat to eat

Some cats are more sensitive than others and, surprising as it may seem for a hunter, they can react negatively to changes.

Of course, we want our feline friends to have a happy life and a healthy, regular diet is a key part of that.

If your cat won’t eat, investigate your cat’s lifestyle and identify anything that has changed. Revert any changes where possible to see if your cat eats again.

If not, make a different change and introduce your cat to their new schedule. Over time, it can help them to overcome whatever put them off eating in the first place and support them in creating a new habit. Be mindful that it will take patience though.

Finally, be as thorough as you can with set mealtimes, but don’t leave your cat hungry for too long. If they miss too many dinners, it’s important to take them to a vet and get a professional opinion. Your cat will thank you for it!