Why Is My Kitten Not Eating?

By Travis Greenwood

Welcoming a new kitten into your home is one of life's great moments, but it's not all fun and cuddles and Instagram hashtags.

Animals at home. Cute Red cute little baby cat pet
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With your new pet, comes new responsibilities — and chief amongst them is ensuring that they have access to a healthy, nourishing, and diversified diet.

But what if they don't want to eat the food you set out for them? A reluctance to nom nom nom can be traced back to any number of factors, some more concerning than others.

Below, we unpack some of the potential culprits — illness, location, anxiety, routine, fussiness, et al. — and what you can do to remedy them.

Kitten in a dog's bowl
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Read on then to learn more about why your kitten might not be eating, either at all or as much as they should.

Illness & Injury

Any prolonged loss of appetite usually indicates illness or injury. If your kitty hasn't eaten in 24 hours, get them to a vet post-haste. This is particularly true if they seem particularly lethargic or are showing signs of weight loss. Remember: Kittens by their very nature are energetic and playful and most of the calories they consume fuel their growth so any variation from this behavior is alarming. It could be something serious like an infection or kidney failure, but it could also be something less threatening like a tooth infection.

On a related note, vaccinations can also dampen their appetite, but this is typically mild and passes in a day or two.

Cleanliness

No one likes to eat from a dirty dish, and kittens are no exception. To this end, wash their bowl or plate daily and toss any leftover scraps between meals. While plastic is easy and cheap, it's also less germ-resistant. For this reason, Catster recommends that you upgrade to metal or ceramic if at all possible.

Another complication can stem from the size and shape of the receptacle. Deep or narrow ones, for instance, can interfere with a cat's whiskers, which might lead them to shy away.

Feeding locations are important.

Cats typically prefer to eat in private so finding a quiet corner or nook where they won't be disturbed by loud noises or foot traffic — either human or that of other pets in your home — is ideal. If competition from other cats (or kittens) is giving them anxiety, you'll need to develop a workaround in some sort of space where they can dine in peace.

cats with feeding bowl
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Keep daily routines consistent.

Cats are creatures of both comfort and routine. If they aren't eating regularly, it might be because you're not feeding them regularly. If possible, establish a schedule — say once in the morning and then again at night — and keep to it. If you can't be home during the day because of work, school, or travel commitments, invest in an automated feeder that can be programmed to dispense the noms in prescribed amounts and at prescribed times.

At the same time, changes in a routine — a move to a new home, a trip, a new schedule or baby — can leave a cat unsettled. They usually come around to their new reality, but it can take some time and the transition isn't always a smooth one.

Heat up that boring food.

We all love a hot lunch from time and time and again, kittens are no different. While the food shouldn't be piping hot, warming some wet food up in the microwave for a few seconds can entice your cat to wolf down their meal. Per this piece at The Nest, heat activates a food's odor, making it more likely that your kittens will come a running when you go to prep their breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

cat food in scoop on weighting scale tray
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Variety is the spice of life.

Would you want to eat the same exact thing every single day? Probably not, and neither does your new little bestie. Experimenting with different brands, consistency (wet and dry), flavors (fish, chicken, beef), and the like can bring a kitten who doesn't want to eat back to his or her dish in a hurry. The same can also be said of peppering their dish with something like bonito flakes or cat vitamin powder.

According to WebMD, "many experts recommend rotating your cat's diet among different brands two to four times a year ... This practice may help reduce finickiness and also minimize the development of food allergies and intestinal problems."

Have you had to deal with a cat that wouldn't eat? Tell us about it in the comments below!