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Healthy Cats

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What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

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What You Can Do

Whether your cat is sick, anxious, or just plain picky, remember that a complete refusal of food can have devastating consequences. So, even if you’re trying to make your cat eat a doctor-prescribed diet, never starve your cat into eating a certain type of food.

If illness is the reason your cat won’t eat, work with your veterinarian to design the best regimen for you and your pet. This may include a change in food type or consistency; some cats may be enticed to eat by offering canned foods when they are unwell. In more extreme cases, veterinarians may prescribe medicines that act as appetite stimulants or recommend syringe-feeding your cat a liquid diet. Or the vet may recommend placement of a feeding tube to ensure adequate nutrition.

When illness is not the culprit, there are things you can try to encourage your cat to eat.

You may have discovered that certain foods, such as liver or canned tuna, can act as appetite stimulants for certain cats. Remember to only offer these foods in small amounts. Large quantities may harm your pet by causing deficiencies or an overabundance of certain vitamins.

Instead of relying on people food, try encouraging your cat to eat commercial canned food. You may find that heating the food or mixing in fish oil, broth, or cooked egg could entice your picky cat to eat. If your cat still won’t eat, take the food away and provide fresh food later in the day. If the food is left to harden and become stale, your cat may learn to avoid it in the future.

If your cat has been eating human food exclusively, be sure to transition your pet over several weeks by mixing together your pet’s favorite people food with cat food. Over time, you should be able to change the ratio until your pet is eating only cat food.

Many experts recommend rotating your cat’s diet among different brands two to four times a year by using a similar technique. This practice may help reduce finickiness and also minimize the development of food allergies and intestinal problems.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on September 29, 2014
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