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What to Feed a Sick Cat That Won’t Eat

Are you struggling with a sick cat that refuses to eat? A lack of appetite in otherwise healthy cats could be due to various reasons, including illness or stress. In this practical guide, I’ll offer tips and advice on what to feed a sick cat that won’t eat, helping concerned pet parents effectively navigate this challenging situation.

So, if that’s you, and you’re worried about your cat’s hunger strike or curious about just what you should do when your cat stops eating, keep on reading.

Reasons Why a Sick Cat Might Not Eat

There are a number of reasons your best pet pal’s eating habits might have changed – or dropped off altogether, to the point where they’re not even interested in taking a few bites of food. If you’ve noticed your cat eating less, a few things could be in play. Let’s examine some of the common causes.

A gray cat with its tongue out

Loss of Appetite Due to Illness or Pain

Illness or pain can often lead to loss of appetite in cats. A sick cat might feel too weak or nauseous to eat, while discomfort from conditions such as dental disease could make eating painful.

Even mild illnesses like a common cold can affect a cat’s senses of smell and taste, making food unappetizing. Serious problems like kidney disease, liver failure or even inflammatory bowel disease may cause severe loss of appetite over time and have your cat avoiding their food bowls.

Dental Issues or Mouth Pain

Dental issues or mouth pain can cause your cat to stop eating. In conjunction with monitoring your cat’s diet, it’s crucial to regulate their oral health too. Sometimes, conditions like dental disease, gum inflammation, and tooth decay cause significant discomfort that deters cats from normal feeding habits.

In some cases, an ill cat may not eat due to the presence of painful sores in the mouth. Viral infections such as feline calicivirus can lead to ulcerations making it hard for a furry friend to consume food comfortably.

white cat yawning

Stress or Anxiety

Stress or anxiety can also contribute to a sick cat’s loss of appetite. Cats are sensitive animals, and any changes in their environment, routine, or even the presence of other pets can cause stress or anxiety. This can make them reluctant to eat their regular food.

It’s important to create a calm and quiet feeding area for your cat, away from any potential sources of stress. Providing comfort and reassurance during mealtimes can help alleviate some of the anxiety and encourage your kitty to eat.

The Best Foods To Feed a Sick Cat

If your cat won’t eat and you’re getting concerned, don’t worry! There are more than a few things you can try to help your frantic furry feline get their appetite back to full strength. Let’s take a look at some of the best things for a sick cat to eat below.

High-Quality Wet or Moist Cat Food

High-quality wet or moist cat food is often recommended for sick cats that have lost their appetite. This type of food is easier to eat and digest compared to dry kibble, making it more appealing to a fussy eater.

Encouraging them to eat wet food also provides hydration, which is important for overall health and can be especially beneficial for cats that are not drinking enough water on their own. Look for brands that contain high levels of protein and essential nutrients to support your cat’s recovery and immune system.

An anxious cat outside

Dry and Canned Food

While wet food is often recommended for sick cats, dry food can still have a place in their diet. If your cat prefers dry food or if you are in need of a longer-lasting option, consider looking for premium dry cat food that’s specifically formulated for sensitive stomachs or recovery.

Dry food that’s high in protein and low in artificial fillers can be gentle on a cat’s stomach. Additionally, some dry foods are designed with smaller kibble or unique shapes that may be easier for a sick cat to chew and swallow. If your cat is struggling with standard dry food, you might also consider softening it with some water or chicken broth to make it more palatable.

Canned foods can be an excellent option for a sick cat. Unlike dry kibble, canned foods have a higher moisture content, making them easier to chew and swallow. This is particularly beneficial for cats experiencing oral discomfort or those that may be dehydrated due to illness.

The texture and aroma of canned foods can also be more appealing to a cat that’s lost interest in eating, stimulating their appetite. Many canned cat foods are designed with high-quality proteins and fats, which can be essential for a sick cat’s recovery.

Meat Flavored Baby Food

Baby food can be a surprising but effective option for feeding a sick cat. Many cats enjoy the texture and flavor of meat baby food, and it can be a gentle option for cats with stomach issues.

When choosing baby food, opt for flavors that contain simple ingredients like chicken or turkey and avoid any with added onions, garlic, or seasonings, as these can be harmful to cats. Make sure to read the label and consult with your vet to ensure the baby food is suitable for your cat’s specific condition.

Chicken Broth

Chicken broth is another comforting food option for sick cats. It provides hydration and can be a soothing treat for a cat with a sore throat or digestive issues.

Homemade chicken broth without added salt or seasonings is usually the best option. Simply simmer chicken bones in water to create a nourishing liquid meal. If you’re short on time, some stores sell pre-made broth specifically formulated for cats, which ensures it’s free from harmful ingredients like onions or excessive salt.

You can serve the broth on its own or mix it with your cat’s regular food to add flavor and moisture.

Cat-Safe Supplements

Supplements might be considered if your cat’s illness has led to nutritional deficiencies or if they need support with digestion or immune function. Here are a few that can be beneficial:

Fish Oil

Fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can be a valuable supplement for cats, especially those with inflammatory conditions or skin issues. The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil can aid in reducing inflammation, supporting overall health. Make sure to use a product specifically designed for cats, as the appropriate dosage and purity are vital.

Appetite Stimulants

If your cat’s illness has severely impacted their appetite, your veterinarian might recommend appetite stimulants. These medications can help trigger hunger and encourage eating, aiding in recovery. It’s essential to follow the vet’s instructions carefully, as these stimulants should be used under professional guidance. 

Liquid Food

For cats that are struggling to eat solid food, liquid food supplements can be a lifesaver. These nutrient-dense solutions are designed to be easily digestible and provide essential vitamins and minerals. Liquid food can be fed via a syringe if needed, making it an option for cats with oral or dental issues.

Other supplements, such as probiotics for gut health or specialized supplements for joint support or stress reduction, might also be considered.

Always consult with a veterinarian before introducing any supplements into your cat’s diet. They can recommend appropriate products and dosages tailored to your cat’s specific needs and condition.

A cat on a black background

When Should You See a Vet?

Your cat’s appetite can be affected by various factors when they’re sick, and if they haven’t eaten for more than 24 hours, it’s essential to take them to your vet – especially if you notice additional symptoms as well as their lack of eating.

It’s crucial to get a vet’s opinion, as they can provide guidance on what steps to take next. It may be that your cat needs a prescription diet that involves more human food like cooked meats, carrots, and broccoli. You can also use a pet telehealth service that provides cat nutrition advice.

In the case of severe injury or illness, your furry friend may need to eat with a feeding tube for a time. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of your cat’s loss of appetite is vital for their wellbeing.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognizing why your cat might not eat is vital, whether it’s due to illness, pain, dental issues, or stress.
  • Offering wet or moist cat food that’s rich in protein and nutrients can aid in recovery.
  • Dry and canned foods provide alternatives for different preferences or needs, and certain types can be specifically beneficial for sick cats.
  • Unconventional options like meat-flavored baby food and homemade or specially formulated chicken broth can be soothing and appealing to a sick cat.
  • Supplements such as fish oil, appetite stimulants, and liquid food may be considered, under veterinarian guidance, to support your cat’s specific needs.
  • If the cat hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours or shows additional symptoms, a vet visit is essential to determine the right course of action.


In this post, we’ve seen how when a cat is sick, maintaining proper nutrition is crucial for recovery. Offering a variety of appealing food options like high-quality wet or moist cat food, dry food tailored for sensitivity, baby food, chicken broth, and possibly cat-safe supplements can make a substantial difference in getting your furry friend back to full strength.

Remember, every cat is unique, and their dietary needs may vary depending on their specific illness or condition. By paying attention to your cat’s food habits and gradually reintroducing them to eating the right kinds of food, you’ll have them chowing down with you again in no time!