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When cats stop eating, for whatever reason, we must help them get food into their system or they will develop a serious liver condition called hepatic lipidosis.
Lack of appetite can be a temporary thing caused by a reaction to a medical procedure, medication or a variety of environmental reasons. Most cats start eating on their own once they feel better. However, if it's been more than 24 hours since your cat last ate, you need to step in and try to convince him to eat.
How To Get A Cat To Start Eating Again
Here are a few methods shared by TCS members, trying to get a cat to re-gain his appetite. You are racing against the clock here,: If it's been 48 hours since Kitty last ate, contact your vet immediately.
1. Check the food
Cats will stop feeding if their food is spoiled or not fresh enough. Whether you feed dry, canned or homemade, make sure the food is fresh and not spoiled.
2. Make changes in feeding arrangements
If you feel this is a behavioral issue, possibly triggered by fear from another cat, try separating the cats while feeding, changing the location of feeding and even switching to a different dish. Your aim is to help the cat break the association between eating and the source of the perceived threat.
3. Give the cat anything he likes
Now is the time to bring out the cat treats and speciality food. They don't have to be store-bought but they should be tasty and have a strong tempting scent. Now isn't the time to insist on high-quality cat food. It may be "junk food" but as long as it's not harmful to cats, everything is "kosher" when trying to get a cat to eat again.
Here are some things our members say worked for them -
- Chicken or beef flavored baby food - make sure it doesn't contain any garlic or onions
- Tuna in water
- Sardines (make sure there are no bones)
- Chicken or turkey
- Rich kitten food
- Fish, tuna or BBQ flavored canned wet food
4. Try Hills Prescription Diet A D Critical Care Canned Food.
This is the canned food veterinarians often use in the clinic to test for lack of appetite. Not only do most cats find it irresistible, it is also very high in calories which is what your cat needs at this point. This type of food is usually available through veterinary clinics but you have a cat that goes on occasional hunger strikes, it's a good idea to stock up on this food.
5. Start him off
Sometimes a taste of delicious food is all it takes to "remind" a cat of eating. Use one of the comfort foods described above but don't just leave it in the food dish. Use your finger to offer the food close to the cat's mouth and if that doesn't work, try to rub some on his gums. You can also place some food on the cat's paw, and hopefully he'll lick it off from there.
6. Feed with a syringe
If previous measures fail, it's time to take a more proactive approach. Place pureed wet canned food in a syringe (without the needle!). Test to make sure the consistency can be easily squeezed out of the syringe and if needs be, dilute with some water. Don't dilute too much as you want to get as much of the nutrients in a single dose. You may want to wrap kitty up, burrito-style and you definitely need to have towels ready nearby because it could be messy. Try to keep this routine as peaceful and relaxed as possible by preparing everything you need in advance and staying calm and supportive throughout the process.
Feeding through a feeding tube
If all homemade techniques fail, you should contact your vet ASAP. Your vet may recommend using a feeding tube. Do not panic - this is a fairly common practice and it's not as bad as it sounds.
The tube is inserted by the veterinarian usually through the cat's neck. It is held in place by sutures and external bandages. It may look scary but it can actually be a very good solution for getting nutrients into a cat without causing too much stress. Your veterinarian will provide extensive guidance about using the tube and you should contact them asap if there are any problems.
Remember: When A Cat Stops Eating - It's a Medical Emergency
When cats stop eating for more than 24 hours, you have to help them start eating again. When a cat has not eaten for 48 hours or more, this is a medical emergency and you need to contact your vet immediately.
If you have more tips to share, use the comments section below but please do not post questions there. If you have any questions about your cat, or would like to share your situation, we are here for you at the cat health forum.