close up of a tabby cat eating from a stainless steel bowl

Will Cats Starve Themselves If They Don’t Like The Food?

Is your cat refusing to eat her food? It’s not that surprising. Cats are picky eaters, and they often turn their nose up at what you put in front of them in the dinner bowl.

Why do cats go off their food? There are several reasons your cat could be snubbing its meal. They could have caught a mouse earlier, or they might not like the new food you bought yesterday. Will cats starve themselves if they don’t like the food you give them? Yes, they have been known to stubbornly refuse to eat if the food you give them is not to their liking.

Will a cat starve itself to death? In severe cases, cats that stop eating may develop hepatic lipidosis as quickly as within three to four days – this conditions can kill them.

Why Did My Cat Stop Eating?

All cats love to eat. Some like food more than others, and they have problems with managing weight. The cat might be light on their food intake or picky with what type of food they have to eat.

Food aversions and issues are the most common cause of your cat refraining from munching down on their dinner. If your cat doesn’t like the food, it lets you know by avoiding dinnertime.

Your cat might visit the dinner bowl, bend down to it, give it a sniff, and then turn away in disgust. It’s a sign they don’t like the food, and you’ll need to change it. This often occurs with kittens who are not so familiar with cat food flavors and with adult cats when you change their food for a health reason. Older cats become fussy eaters often because their sense of smell and taste deteriorate, they will turn their nose up in the same way.

a tabby cat stretching jaws around a slab of raw beef on a kitchen table

Will Cats Starve Themselves If They Don’t Like the Food?

The reality is yes; your kitty will rather starve themselves than eat food they don’t like. Even if they don’t have an underlying health disorder preventing them from eating, healthy cats may still starve themselves.

Unfortunately, this behavior is severely detrimental to your cat’s health. Cats don’t carry much body fat and refraining from eating means your cat loses body weight fast.

Cats can become “anorexic” in a matter of days, refusing food to an extent where you need to start force-feeding them. Once a cat stops eating, it will dip into its body fat reserves, fat that is mobilized can clog the liver causing liver failure and death very quickly. Cats that are overweight or obese are particularly in danger from this phenomenon.

Are There Other Factors Stopping My Cat from Eating?

Why do cats stop eating suddenly? There are several reasons why your cat might refrain from visiting the dinner bowl. If you haven’t changed the food, then check the following in your home.

Environmental Factors

Cats find it stressful when you change the living dynamic in the home. If you recently got another pet, it could be the new addition to the family causing the problem.

Something as simple as having a houseguest for the weekend could cause a shift in your cat’s feeding behavior.

These temporary environmental changes typically don’t have a lasting effect, and your cat overcomes them quickly.

Moving to a new apartment or home may also cause high-stress levels in cats, causing them to stop eating for a day or two. Limit stress during the move, and do everything you can to adjust your cat to the new living environment as soon as possible.


Food aversions may also occur in your kitty due to underlying illness. If your cat is dealing with digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease or colitis, they might lead to gas, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Dental issues and kidney problems are also common underlying health issues in cats that stop the feeding response. If your cat experiences dental issues, it might have trouble chewing on the food.

When you take your cat to the vet for an annual checkup, always ensure they conduct a dental exam on the animal. If you notice your cats favoring one side of their mouth when crunching, it may be a sign of a dental issue causing pain.

close up of a vet inspecting a cats teeth and gums

Will My Cat Eventually Eat Their Food?

Don’t assume that your cat will eat when it feels hungry. Many dog owners find this to be the case if the dog stops eating or misses a meal. Eventually, fido starts eating again.

However, it’s not the same with cats. Cats can develop anorexia quickly, leading to a condition called “hepatic lipidosis,” damaging the liver.

If your cat is not eating on the second day, make an appointment with the vet, and take your cat in for a diagnosis. Only the vet can make an official diagnosis as to why your cat stopped eating.

Take the food you’re feeding the cat along to the vet; they’ll want to look at the ingredients listing.

How Do I Get My Cat to Eat?

Since the food is typically the problem causing your cat to stop eating, you’ll need to change it. If you recently swapped out your cat’s food, then it’s definitely the problem. If your cat licks food but doesn’t eat then they have the urge to eat but the flavor or texture rather than the aroma is an issue.

Cat food is available in wet and dry options, so you might have to run through a few products by vet-approved brands to find something your cat likes.

Generally speaking, wet food has more flavor and aroma and is more likely to be tempting to your cat.

If you’re not sure if it’s the food causing the problem, there’s an easy way to check if there’s a more severe underlying problem.

Offer your cat one of their favorite treats and wait for their reaction, if she takes the treat, then the food is the issue. If she is hesitant to take the treat, spits it out, or doesn’t pay any attention at all – you have a problem.

If you feel the food might be the issue, try buying your cat another food brand with a stinky smell. Cats love the smell of fishy foods and strong scents.

cat eating tuna from dish on kitchen top
Most Cats Find Tuna Irresistable!

Serving Food to Your Cat

Some cats won’t eat cold wet food. If you put some wet food in the fridge overnight, they probably won’t touch it if you serve it cold. If your cat wont eat wet food try to serve the food at room temperature or slightly warm to mimic the temperature of food in the “wild”.

Cats are also clean animals. They won’t eat old food, so don’t put it back in the bag. They also require a clean dinner bowl and a bowl where the rim doesn’t touch their whiskers.

When Do I Call My Vet?

If your cat isn’t eating or showing interest in treats on the second day, make an appointment with your vet. Leaving things to chance could cost your pet their life.

Your vet may require you to initiate force-feeding at home, or they might keep them overnight to rehydrate or replenish your cat.

Treatments vary depending on the extent of the problem, and your vet will let you know about what you have to do to get your cat to start eating again.