- A cat who is not eating their regular meal is quite common and does not mean there is anything wrong.
- They may be bored with the cat food or the recipe has changed.
- The food might also contain an ingredient your cat is sensitive to.
- The bowl type, position, or location can also be irritating in some way.
- Your cat might be experiencing stress from the environment or recent changes.
If you ask Google why your cat is not eating much but acting normal, you’ll get a barrage of information like infection, kidney failure, pancreatitis, heart disease, and even worse. It’s a harsh PetMD world these days.
As an owner of a teenage Maine Coon cat, she certainly went through phases of not eating. But we resolved them and the issue was not so dire.
A cat not eating is actually quite common and can be attributed to food, environmental, and behavioral factors, rather than illness. Cats can go for more than a few days without eating sometimes, so let’s not jump to conclusions so quickly.
Let’s talk about those factors, plus some tips on how to manage your cat not eating much, but acting normal otherwise.
If your cat is not eating or drinking for more than a day, please contact the veterinarian. If they display other symptoms like social withdrawal, discomfort, crying, aggression, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or urinary issues, take them to the veterinarian. Everything presented here is merely informational and not medical advice.
Why Is Your Cat Not Eating Much but Acting Normal?
Underlying causes of your cat refusing to eat can be linked to the cat food itself, environmental factors, and psychological factors. Most of the time it’s not serious.
The Cat Food
While cats usually have no problems eating the same foods regularly, at the same times, they get bored occasionally too. Is your cat smelling the food and then scratching around it? They’re protesting! You can try a few things to remedy this boredom.
- Add a delicious food topper
- Alternate to a different flavor within the product line you’re feeding already
- Add a dry kibble or wet food if you’re not already feeding both wet and dry
- Switch to a whole new brand
Cat Asking For Food But Not Eating It
Your cat might be begging or asking for food but not eating when you give it to him. They are either tired of the cat food, or just asking you out of habit. Maybe they want a cat treat instead of food.
Keep in mind your cat may also like or dislike certain cat foods at completely random times. Their favorite flavor since forever can, overnight, be tossed aside.
This can be the fault of the manufacturer changing their formulation or it could not. It’s up to you to find an alternate wet or dry food in a flavor they tolerate!
Cat Not Eating Food But Eats Treats?
Lastly, you might want to pay attention to treats that you give.
Owners who provide out too many tasty snacks can effectively ruin a cat’s appetite because they are used to ultra tasty things, and their normal food can’t compare!
Allergies and Discomfort
Some cat foods just don’t agree with all cats. Ingredients in certain wet and dry cat foods vary and may cause stomach upset, digestive issues, or allergies in some cats.
Symptoms are not debilitating, so your cat can hide it. But it’s still not comfortable.
A multitude of things can cause allergies or stomach upset like
- excess carbohydrates
- artificial colors and flavors
- preservatives and gums
- the type of protein
In these situations, inspect the ingredients label of your cat food. If it’s full of the above items, ditch it for a higher quality food.
Just Not Hungry
With an indoor cat, if they are not active, digestion is slow, and your cat could not be hungry. Lots of cats chill all day. Sit happens.
Or, they have better things to do like destroy your couch or birdwatch. Our little hellraisers are not constantly thinking about their next meal. (Hard to believe, but it’s true.)
Kids are often too busy playing to eat – just like with cats.
Cats also don’t care about human’s mealtimes or eating a lunch or dinner. They evolved to be natural grazers, eating various amounts all day long.
Cats are very in tune with their environment and can be sensitive to changes in it. Maybe there is something stressful that is causing the cat not to eat much, but otherwise act normal.
Check whether you’ve switched up a routine related to meal time or even to the house. After the checking out the food, I like to inspect the dining set up – their food bowl!
Did you change their food bowl recently? Is it a deep bowl, perhaps to hold wet food? That could be causing whisker fatigue and a main reason your cat is not eating.
Whiskers are hyper sensitive organs use by animals to detect things in their surroundings. Sort of like arm hair or neck hair in humans, we are super focused on the sensation if a foreign object is up in there!
If a cat’s food bowl is too deep, and their whiskers touch the side of the bowl, it’s very irritating. Imagine one of the most sensitive parts of a cats face being uncomfortably stimulated while eating.
Food Bowl Material
The best cat food bowl is one that is flat and wide, made from a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass.
Next, the cat food bowl has to be clean! Note any odor and the cleanliness of the bowl, and for your cat’s sake use stainless steel or porcelain.
Have you recently mixed unpalatable medication in that bowl? A cat picking up on that may not eat.
The Position of the Cat Bowl
The food bowls place and position can affect your cat not eating as well. Cat’s have a strong sense of smell and maybe your current placement of the bowl is off-putting in some way.
Some cats also don’t want to tilt their head too far down to eat. Try using an elevated or raised bowl to put the food on their level.
Alternatively, the floor may have something that is stressing them out.
Older Cats Not Eating
Older cats often have pain with their joints and are limited in mobility. A raised food bowl can be just the trick to getting a senior cat to eat more. This works well with senior cats or cats with limited mobility.
Location of the Food Bowl
If the cat food bowl is near another animal or cat’s bowl, the urge to eat may diminish because in the wild, cats do not eat together.
Unlike dogs, eating is not a social practice. A predator, or sibling, can steal or eat their food. Give each cat or their own space to eat. If a greedy housemate is eating their food, look into a dog-proof feeder or a microchip cat feeder.
Is the Food Bowl By the Water?
As cats evolved and hunted prey in the wild, they would eat in one location then drink in another. Hunting is messy work and a pool of water may get contaminated.
If the food smells like water and vice vera, they may not tolerate it. Place water elsewhere, in another location. This stimulates a cat’s natural hunting and searching senses too.
Look at the physical location of the food bowl, is it in a dirty kitchen or next to their litter box? Cats are super clean animals, and if the setting of meals is not right, they might just not bother to eat.
The next thing to note is if there is something else in the food bowl – like sneaky monthly pills?
Cats will definitely detect it with their super strong sense of smell. I would not want to eat food with medication in it
Lastly, maybe your cat is not eating because they feel a certain way.
Is your cat okay? Maybe an environmental trigger is causing them not to eat. Things such as:
- Moving house
- Recent veterinarian visit
- Recent grooming visit
- Recent medication
- Car ride
- New animal or person in the house
- New smell in the space
- Movement of furniture
- Loud noises
Essentially, cats have a sensitive system, and any deviation from an established pattern can freak them out. And this could manifest as simply not eating.
New Cat Not Eating Much but Acting Normal?
If you have a new cat not eating much but acting normal, it could be a sign of stress. New environment and new everything would stress anyone out.
Don’t forget to take them to the veterinarian to get checked out just in case there is a health issue!
Not in the way that humans experience it, though. Cats have low thirst awareness and may not even know they are dehydrated! This is because cats evolved to require less water.
But if your cat is not eating much but drinking water, simply give them more water and wait. (Hopefully, they start lapping it up and not flipping the water bowl over for fun!)
Water relieves dehydration leading to better health and restored appetite. I know my cat likes to drink some water sometimes to start the meal.
Whether she has a pending furball matters, since furballs probably cause gastrointestinal distress.
With my cat, if there is a period of 3-5 days where she does not show much interest in food. Accompanied by sleeping a lot more than usual, it is probably furball time.
Then I pay much more attention to of any sounds she makes, as any hacking or coughing could mean it’s time for a furball to be expelled. After the furball is out, she usually eats as normal.
Cat Not Eating Much and Sleeping A Lot?
Cats love to sleep. A lot. They’re not lazy, it’s just evolution.
Some estimate that cats spend more than 18 hours a day sleeping. With so much sleep to take care of, food can be a distant thought, only important upon waking up fully.
I noticed that as my Maine Coon cat grew up to be a teenager in cat years, she slept a lot more and was moodier too. Just like humans!
Don’t get misled by what you find online about why your cat is not eating but acting normal. It’s not always so bad.
Provided the cat is up to date on their check ups and shots during regular visits to the vet, do not assume the reason is some intense health issue.
Pay attention to details of feeding environment. Look for patterns of behavior during daily life. Check if the your routines are serving your cat.
You’ll find the solution in those places!
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.