Sometimes, following the generic cat feeding guide or choosing what is recommended to be the best cat food is not enough to get your cat to eat. Is your cat on a hunger strike, or are they sick? Could they have an upset stomach or are they just a picky eater? It can be worrying when your cat is not getting enough nutrition and losing too much weight. Keep reading to learn some great tips and tricks from WHISKAS on how to encourage a kitten or cat to eat.

What is the best appetite stimulant for cats?

Stress-free locations

An important factor that could be keeping your cat from eating is stress. Environmental factors such as moving to a new home, a sudden change in owner, loud noises, abrupt changes to diet, additional pets in the home or sudden removal of play toys can cause your cat stress. Actively identifying potential stress factors and working to improve or eliminate them can help your cat regain their appetite.

Smelly foods

If you’re not already following the WHISKAS cat feeding guide, try swapping two dry food portions during the day with portions of wet cat food. Most cats love seafood varieties, like tuna in jelly cat food pouches, which have pungent smell that can stimulate a cat’s appetite. You can also try pouring a little water from a tuna can or jar of anchovies into your cat’s food bowl, if you have some in your cupboard. Just be sure to avoid tuna canned in oil, because oil is not healthy for your cat.

You can also heighten the smell of cat food by gently warming it up in the microwave (add a little water to dry food beforehand), but be careful not to make it too hot.

Also, be mindful that cats do not like all smelly foods. If you haven’t properly cleaned your cat’s food bowl with soap and water before feeding them, the old food smells could be putting them off.

Healthy cat treats

Another common issue to consider is hairballs. Cats build up hairballs in their intestines and sometimes need help getting them out of their system before they feel comfortable eating their regular food. Feeding cats anti-hairball cat treats can help reduce hairballs and move them out of their digestive tracts quicker.

When the best cat food or treats you can buy don’t seem to cut it for your cat, book an appointment with a vet to see if prescription appetite stimulants are necessary.

How to get a kitten to eat

Newborn kittens will instinctively eat with a caring mother around and should be left in peace with their mother to nurse. If a kitten is having trouble getting enough milk, consult a vet immediately.

When it comes to getting a kitten to eat from a food bowl at about two months old, you can start by serving cat milk in a bowl. Never give cats normal cow milk, as it contains too much lactose and can cause upset tummies, especially for a kitten’s stomach. Place the bowl down in a quiet place and let your kitten sniff it and become familiarise themselves with it. Encourage your kitten to eat from it by dipping the tip of your finger in the milk and slowly putting it in front of your kitten’s nose. Then slowly bring your finger back into the bowl to guide your kitten to it. You may have to dip your finger in more than once to get your kitten lapping milk up from the bowl. Once your kitten is comfortable eating from the food bowl, continue a feeding schedule using wet or dry kitten food.

How to get a cat to eat

You may be excited to feed your cat the latest best cat food, or your cat might have got bored of their usual food, but suddenly changing your cat’s food can be a bit of a shock for your cat and they will likely resist abrupt change. Instead, you can get your cat to eat a new food type or brand by gradually introducing it to their diet over a period of seven to ten days. Start by mixing a little into their usual food, and then gradually increase the amount of the new food as you decrease the amount of the original food. Be sure that your cat is able to drink from a water bowl to stay hydrated if you are switching from wet food to dry food.

When it comes to how to feed a cat that refuses to eat from their food bowl, you can try handfeeding. Take a bit of food in your hand and keep your hand in a flat position as to avoid touching your cat’s whiskers. Cats’ whiskers are very sensitive, and it can be painful for them when their whiskers touch the sides of a deep food bowl. They can associate the food bowl with discomfort; so alternatively, you could try swapping it with a shallower food bowl or a plate.

When to force feed a cat

Always try natural appetite stimulants before trying force feeding cats, especially with tools like a syringe. Force feeding can inflict even more stress on your cat; and improper technique could possibly choke your cat or cause other injuries. If you have never force fed a cat, and you feel at all unsure, always ask a vet for help. If your cat does not eat for more than two days, there could be life threatening complications as a result, such as liver failure. Call a professional vet immediately for advice.

If a vet has instructed you to force feed your cat, check in with them when it’s time to get your cat back to a normal solid food diet. If you are force feeding and your cat displays concerning symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, foaming at the mouth or teeth/jaw grinding sounds, it’s best to contact a vet.