My cat won't eat, what could be the problem and what should I do?

cat won't eat

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia simply means a loss of appetite but this can be an indicator of serious underlying disease.  Your cat will be diagnosed with anorexia if he changes his eating habits and consistently refuses to eat.  If your cat is showing signs of anorexia or his appetite has increased or decreased from normal you should consult your vet.

Why won't my cat eat?

There are many possible causes that can lead to your cat losing his appetite.  For example, many diseases, such as cat flu and kidney or liver problems can cause them to eat less or stop eating altogether. Dental problems, pain and internal obstructions will also cause your cat to lose their appetite.  In some cases, there is a behavioural reason your cat has lost his appetite such as stress.


Your vet will ask you about your cat’s recent medical history and whether you have noticed any other signs, such as weight loss or vomiting.  It is important to try and work out if your cat is hungry but not managing to eat for some reason (in these cases they will show interest in food and sometimes attempt to eat, but then give up or sometimes run backwards) or if they have no interest in food.   It is likely your vet will need to run some tests, for example blood tests to check for disease. 


This will depend on the underlying reason your cat has lost his appetite.  If he has dental disease and sore teeth, he made need some teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.  If your cat is anorexic due to disease, treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

It is important to get your cat eating again as soon as possible.  Some cats that suffer from anorexia go on to develop hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome), a serious complication that can be fatal.

If your vet has advised you to tempt your cat to eat, here are some tips:

  • Warm the food up
  • Offer strong smelling foods such as tuna or sardines
  • Try different brands of pet food
  • Try hand feeding and check that his nose is clean (the smell of the food helps to stimulate their appetite).

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not
a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a
guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment
immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are
closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more
about what to do in an out of hours emergency.