How to Convince Your Cat to End a Hunger Strike

This article outlines some of the reasons cats may refuse to eat and offers tips for pet guardians who are caring for a cat who is refusing food. The article also outlines the ways in which a veterinarian might treat the condition.

Anyone who has lived with and cared for cats for any length of time has likely encountered one of the most frustrating and potentially life-threatening feline behaviors.

The cat has stopped eating.

There are no other symptoms. After testing and examining, the veterinarian can't tell you why. But, day after day, your cat continues to leave the kibble in the bowl.

Cats will go on hunger strikes for a number of reasons.

Sometimes it is a health issue and your veterinarian will be able to quickly diagnose and treat the condition and have your cat back to eating in no time.

Other times, it's obvious that the cause is some type of stress in the cat's life. This stress can include a move to a new house, additions to the human or pet family, losses to the human or pet family - or even something as simple as re-arranging the furniture.

And, other times, there is no explainable reason for the behavior.

Regardless of the reason or lack of reason, you must take action to get you cat to eat again.

Home Care

There are different steps you can take to convince your cat to eat.

These steps may save you and your cat the trauma of a visit to the veterinarian, or they may be useful after visiting the veterinarian.

  • If you have small children or other pets in your home, try feeding your cat in a separate, quiet room.
  • This is the one time you might want to consider offering your cat people food. Oftentimes, getting a cat to eat just a few bites of something will be all it takes to get it back to eating normally.
  • Try putting out a buffet of all your cat's favorite foods. This could include dry kibble, canned food, tuna fish, yogurt, baby food and chicken broth - anything that might whet your cat's appetite. You might also offer a few different brands of cat foods.
  • Try heating the foods a little. Cats' appetites are stimulated by smell and heating the food will release aromas that may entice your cat to eat.
  • It may help to sit with your cat. Sometimes cats are more likely to eat if you are there to keep them company. You might also offer the cat food from your hand or try to convince the cat to lick food from your fingers.

Professional Care

If it has been more than 24 hours since your cat ate, it's time to take the pet to a veterinarian.

Going without food can be especially dangerous for cats, because it can lead to a condition known as hepatic lipidosis, which can in turn lead to liver failure.

Medical reasons that may explain why your cat isn't eating include infections and toothaches, as well as the potential onset of more serious illnesses.

Depending upon whether your veterinarian can diagnose the exact cause of your cat's anorexia or must just treat the symptom, there are several options available.

The doctor may prescribe an appetite stimulant for your cat. The doctor may also try feeding the cat with a syringe, or instruct you in how to do this at home.

If the condition goes on for too long, the doctor may recommend using a feeding tube until the cat is able and willing to eat on its own.