Kittens are fragile, just like babies and infants. Their eating habits may vary from voracious to complete loss of appetite.
Your kitten may not be eating because it is not feeling well due to intestinal parasites or constipation. Other reasons could include a toothache or stress due to a new environment. Also, your kitten may refuse to eat because the bowl is not clean or you have put the bowl in an unfavorable location.
Let us explore the above reasons in-depth and what you can do to alleviate them.
Loss of Appetite Has Many Potential Causes
Pain, internal obstructions, and dental problems may also result in loss of appetite for your cat.
Stress, anxiety, or depression due to changes in environment and surroundings can also cause appetite loss. Changes in household environment or surroundings can affect the emotional wellbeing of a cat.
Loss of appetite is not always a result of severe underlying problems. Sometimes something as simple as a toothache or side effects due to routine vaccinations can cause anorexia.
A Kitten Not Eating Is an Emergency
Of course, it is of great concern when a pet refuses to eat, but this can be especially detrimental and more dangerous for cats. When animals eat less, they depend on their reserves for energy.
For the stored fat to fuel the body, the liver must process it, which requires adequate protein supplies.
In cats, anorexia and pseudo-anorexia lead to weight loss, and protein supplies are soon exhausted, which causes the liver to become overwhelmed by all the fat.
This develops into a fatal condition known as hepatic lipidosis, resulting in liver failure. This condition is unique to cats, and it is a common liver disease in felines. And that is why your kitten’s refusal to eat is especially dangerous for your kitten.
It’s always advisable to consult your veterinarian whenever you notice a loss of appetite in your cat. In case of sickness, the necessary interventions should be applied at the earliest opportunity.
Diseases That Cause Your Kitten Not to Eat Enough
1) Respiratory Diseases
Your cat’s sense of smell or ability to breathe can be affected by respiratory problems, and this can lead to loss of appetite.
Lower respiratory tract diseases attack your cat’s lungs, making it difficult to breathe. In contrast, upper respiratory diseases clog the cat’s nose and eyes with discharge rendering it unable to see or smell, albeit temporarily.
These respiratory problems are due to bacterial or viral infections which require basic medical intervention or, in extreme cases, might be as complicated as cancer. Failure to breathe properly or smell food discourages your cat from eating.
Does your cat exhibit a stuffy nose or discharge from the eyes? This could be cat flu. Cat flu is common in cats with a compromised immune system (due to a recent stressful experience or other illness) and unvaccinated cats.
Cats with respiratory tract infections in their lungs and heart tend to pant and put more effort into breathing at the expense of eating. They tend to sit with their neck extended and elbows out to allow space to breathe easily. They quickly run out of breath and are not keen on playing or exercising.
Such breathing problems should be referred to a vet for immediate intervention.
2) Digestive System Diseases
Problems with your cat’s digestive system, including intestines, pancreas, stomach, or other parts of the system, may lead to losing appetite. Vomiting and diarrhea or abdominal pain are some of the symptoms indicating there is an issue with your cat’s digestive system.
Usually, appetite loss is the first sign of a digestive system problem.
The digestive system problems would result from tumors, acid reflux, intestinal bacteria imbalance, irritable bowel disease, parasites, and an array of other issues.
3) Non-edibles (Foreign Bodies)
Some cats like to eat non-edible things or may swallow hairballs. These may get stuck in the stomach or intestines of your cat and are known as gastrointestinal tract obstruction or GI Obstruction.
A GI obstruction will not allow food to pass through the digestive tract, eventually forcing the cat to vomit and avoid eating.
A cat can suffer temporary GI obstruction or loss of appetite if a foreign body manages to pass through the digestive system. Severe cases require surgery to cure the problem.
4) Dental Disease
Painful gums and teeth can lead to appetite loss. Teeth fractures, resorptive lesions on their teeth, gum inflammation, dental abscesses, and other dental problems cause mouth pain, discouraging a cat from eating.
Dental issues are usually difficult to diagnose in a cat, and a veterinarian may need to anesthetize or sedate your cat to evaluate the problem.
If your cat allows you to examine its mouth, look for broken teeth, red gums, and teeth coated in grey-brown tartar. Molars are likely to cause problems with feeding; examine them closely. Look out for lumps on the tongue, a foul smell, and fleshy red spots on the teeth.
These are signs of a condition known as Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLS), an excruciating tooth condition in cats.
5) Diabetes, Kidney Disease, and Hyperthyroidism
Kittens tend not to drink too much water. Reduction in drinking can be difficult to detect. However, an increase in drinking is a sign of underlying health issues like kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
This is usually accompanied by urinating more than usual due to the increased thirst.
A sure way of confirming if the cat is consuming more water than usual is to measure the amount they drink from their bowl. Consult a vet once you establish they are drinking more and eating less or not at all. The vet may carry out tests to screen for the conditions mentioned above.
Diabetes and hyperthyroidism initially cause extreme hunger in older cats, followed by loss of appetite as the disease progresses.
They are less likely, but possible, in kittens as well.
Examinations and tests by your vet will be able to pick out these issues, after which you can discuss their management.
Other Reasons That Cause Kittens Not to Eat Enough
1) Change of Food
Being creatures of habit, cats develop preferences for certain food types. They tend to stick to their preferences, whether wet or dry foods. A sudden change of food that a kitten is used to will provoke a fuss.
Cats are keen and have an eye for detail. A sudden rejection of food often occurs if food manufacturers change food shape, texture, or flavor.
Texture preferences are instinctive, which is why a cat sniffs the food in their bowl before eating. So, if the cat encounters food with lots of gravy in the place of the usual chunky bites, it may not trust the new food in the bowl.
It’s always advisable to transition them onto the new diet slowly, preferably over a couple of weeks, by gradually mixing it with the old diet.
Your cat will most likely reject expired or spoilt food. They have a strong sense of smell, and so they can tell when the food is off due to its odor.
2) Recent Visit to a Cattery or Hospital
Kittens develop food aversion by linking a particular food with a time they were having a painful and nasty experience or were unwell. A visit to the hospital or cattery may lead to the kitten rejecting some foods it associates with the establishments.
To remedy this problem, change the cat’s food to something different.
3) Your Kitten May Be Eating Elsewhere
Some kittens will stop eating when they are full, while others will eat endlessly. If your kitten is an outdoor cat that is not eating, and the vet has ruled out any medical issues, then there is a possibility it is eating elsewhere.
4) It May Not Like Its Feeding Bowl
Cats hate it when their whiskers touch the sides of their feeding bowl every time they eat.
Whiskers are sensitive and are used to obtain helpful information from the surroundings, and activating them unintentionally when feeding leads to loss of appetite. Wide and shallow food bowls are recommended to keep the whiskers from touching the dish.
5) The Bowl May Not Be Clean
A dirty feeding bowl can be repulsive to a kitten during feeding time. Use detergent and rinse thoroughly with clean water to clean the cat bowl after every meal. Avoid plastic bowls which retain food smell and instead use ceramic bowls.
6) Your Kitten Doesn’t Like the Bowl’s Location
Keep the food bowls in locations away from the litter box and human traffic to avoid disturbances while the kitten is feeding.
Cats prefer a solitary dinner. If there are other pets in your house, place their bowls well apart from each other to avoid conflict, which, if allowed, will lead to loss of appetite.
7) Your Kitten May Be Stressed
As earlier seen in this article, stress is one factor that leads to anorexia in kittens. A new home, surroundings, visitors, or change of routine can stress kittens. In such circumstances, give them time to settle in and seek a vet’s help if they refuse to eat.
How to Feed a Kitten With Loss of Appetite
The sooner you get the kitten back on track as far as its feeding is concerned, the better. There are so many varied reasons why a cat can lose appetite, and it is essential to establish the underlying cause and treat it.
Treatment is paramount, and these tricks and tips for stimulating your kitten’s appetite can in no way replace professional medical intervention.
Still, they can only be helpful when caring and nursing your cat back to good health.
- Warm wet or tinned food to increase aroma
- Wet or tinned food is much softer and easier to chew. This is most suitable for kittens recovering from a dental procedure or mouth pain.
- A bit of tuna mixed in spring water added to the cat’s diet tempts the cat to eat.
- Try out different food textures and flavors in small portions to identify the cat’s preference.
- Ensure intervention by the vet in case of urinary problems, vomiting, or increased respiratory rate symptoms.
- Congestion and loss of smell due to upper respiratory disease can be managed at home as recommended by your vet. At-home treatment to clear your kitten’s nasal passages may involve nebulizing your kitten with steam using saline nose drops, which break up nasal discharge and allow the cat to breathe freely and be able to smell food.
- Fresh ingredients in home-prepared food can be more appealing to the kitten. Consult your vet to ensure it is well prepared and contains vital nutrients.
- Has the flavor of your cat’s favorite food changed? Check the package if there is a change in ingredients as “new and improved flavor” or inquire from the food company. If there has been a change, you might have to find a new favorite for the kitten.
- Give your cat vitamin B12. Cats with digestive issues often have a deficiency of these vitamins. It is a harmless water-soluble vitamin that boosts your kitten’s appetite.
Consider Using Medication
Diagnosis will determine the corresponding medication prescription to treat your cat’s illness.
Drugs are also available to combat other symptoms such as nausea while stimulating your cat’s appetite.
Only your veterinarian can prescribe medications for your kitten. Never use human or store-bought medications on your pets without first consulting your veterinarian.
Use Fluid Therapy
Dehydration is treated by injections or an IV that delivers fluids to the cat. This requires the insertion of a tube or catheter into your cat’s vein. This allows nutrients to be carried into your cat’s body quickly so that it regains its health back faster.
Your veterinarian will discuss this option with you if it is needed.
Use a Feeding Tube
If dental disease is the cause of loss of appetite, the most appropriate method of feeding is through a feeding tube to avoid food going through your kitten’s mouth. Softened or liquefied food is directed into the cat’s digestive system through a feeding tube.
This method is also preferred when dealing with psychological problems where feeding is concerned. The kitten will not be able to associate any negative memories with the food in its mouth and will gradually revert to normalcy with regard to feeding.
A feeding tube is the last treatment option where all other treatment options have failed. It should only be done by your veterinarian.
Try Home Feeding Techniques
If it’s a psyche-related problem rather than any physical illness, treatment is best addressed by mixing up the diet or making changes to the way you feed your kitten.
Try feeding your kitten through a syringe or directly out of your hand and adding its favorite food. Warming up the food also helps but ensures it is not too hot.
Keep an Eye on Your Kitten as They Recover
Closely observe your cat as its appetite improves at a consistent rate. Lack of eating contributes to dehydration and imbalance in salt and sugar levels.
Be on the lookout for signs of these issues and stick to your vet’s medication, which usually takes care of the problem through electrolyte or hydration supplements.
Follow your vet’s instructions to the latter to prevent recurrence of the illness.
If changes in the household or surroundings, such as daily routine, adding new pets to the household, or even a newborn baby, are to blame for your cat’s lack of appetite, then you should involve your vet on how best to manage the problem.
Ensure your cat’s eating habits return to normal by engaging your vet. If indications point to the return of anorexia, do not hesitate to take your pet for another examination.
If your kitten rejects their favorite food, it is time to worry because it is a sign that things are not okay. This problem should not be left for long before involving a vet, as it can have dangerous ramifications for your kitten’s health.
When a cat shows signs of ill health alongside incompetence, it is a clear sign all is not well.
The feline body is not well equipped to cope with long periods of starvation. If your kitten stops feeding for more than 24 hours, it should concern you even if it is acting normally because cats generally eat more frequently than dogs.
Kittens with symptoms such as vomiting, urinary problems, or an increased respiratory rate should be treated as an emergency and rushed to a vet as soon as possible.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku