Care of a Kitten That Refuses to Eat

Kittens expend a lot of energy and shouldn't go very long without eating.
i Kitten image by Vlad Podkhlebnik from

Your new kitten is playful and cute as can be. Only, she doesn't eat much...or at all. Don't let her go hungry for more than 48 hours. She should see the vet if she hasn't eaten at all, but you can try a few things to rouse her appetite.

Don't Change Her Food

If your kitty was eating solid food regularly in her birth home, find out what brand of food it was and give that a try. If your kitten wasn't introduced to a variety of foods when she was with her mother, she probably won't want to try something new, especially just after arriving at a brand-new home. Get her some of the food she was used to eating to see if she will dig right in.

The Smellier The Better

The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats tells us that cats in particular find stinky food appetizing. When trying to find a food that will appeal to a kitten that doesn't want to eat, get her something with a strong aroma, like fish-flavored cat food, or pour a bit of oil from canned tuna over her kibble.

Tempt Her

All it might take to tempt your kitty into eating is to enhance her kitten food with something unusual. Pieces of chicken (cut up into fine pieces) or some low-sodium chicken or beef broth added to her kibble might be enough to get her eating. Don't overdo it, though, as you can end up with a fat cat who will eat only if you toss last night's leftovers in with her supper.

Hot Lunch

Who doesn't like a hot meal once in awhile? Sometimes you can get your kitten eating if you serve her dinner to her heated. If you are feeding her canned food, try popping a bit of it into the microwave just until it is warm (not too hot! A few seconds should do it). If you are feeding your kitten dry kibble, try mixing it with some warm water. This will heat it while softening it at the same time -- the dry kibble's hardness might be the problem in the first place. Some kittens may have been weaned too early or simply have a hard time chewing dry food. In these cases, softening the food or even getting it outright soggy and mashing it into a mush will make it easier for her to eat.

Things to Avoid

Don't feed your kitten from the table or at any time other than her meal time. She may not be hungry for her food because she is snacking throughout the rest of the day. Not feeding a kitten from the table and limiting the amount of people food she gets will ensure that you won't have a beggar or a Dumpster diver on your hands when she grows up. Don't feed her and then stand there staring at her, willing her to eat. It can be uncomfortable to have someone hovering over you while you're trying to eat, even for a kitten. Just give your kitten her meal and allow her to eat in peace. Also, don't keep your kitty's dish right next to the litter box. Cats are clean animals, and your kitten may not like to eat food that is sitting right next to her potty.

Medical Attention

Kirsten Nickisch, D.V.M., tells clients that if a kitten hasn't eaten in 24 hours, a doctor's visit is in order. Kittens expend a lot of energy playing as well as growing, so they don't have as much of a store of calories for fuel as adult cats do. Taking your kitten to see her doctor if she isn't eating will catch any medical problems as early as possible, and you won't be risking additional illness that can be caused by her weakened condition.

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