Kitten Not Eating? How to Help Your New Friend

Kitten licking its lips and looking at a food bowl

She first appeared on your radar a few weeks ago — a gorgeous bundle of fur with big ears and a bigger personality — and now she's come to join your family. You spent hours online researching and buying the best cat bed, the most exciting toys, the leading litter and the finest kitty food. You're all set. Then the big day arrives, and she turns her nose up at your carefully selected kibble. So, why is your kitten not eating?

Things haven't gone according to plan. Did you purchase the wrong food? Is something wrong with her? First of all, don't panic: Fussy kittens aren't uncommon. In this article, we'll explore six of the biggest reasons your furry little friend might not have an appetite right now. Then we'll go over some top feeding tips to help you get her back on track.

1. Stress

One of the main reasons kittens refuse to eat is stress. You're excited to see your new companion, but your kitten has just left her mother and her littermates behind. She feels out of place, and she doesn't know you yet. Simply put, this is a tough time for her. No wonder she can't eat properly.

If your shelter or breeder sent a blanket with her, make sure you put it somewhere she can find it. Why? Because that's the scent of home. She'll settle in more easily if you let her hold onto a few familiar things.

2. Type of Bowl

Interestingly, many kittens get something called "whisker fatigue." It's when your cat's whiskers touch the sides of her bowl too often during a meal. Every time whiskers come into contact with a solid surface, those sensitive antennae send a little zap. Too many zaps and your furry pal walks away from her food. The solution? Try a wider, shallower bowl.

3. Location

Kitten still not eating? If your kitten doesn't seem interested in her food, think about where you're trying to feed her. Many kittens like an out-of-the-way spot in a sheltered area. If you have other animals in your home, try placing your new kitten's bowls in a separate place. Make sure you keep her food away from her litter box, too.

4. Cleanliness

Some kittens really don't like bowls that aren't totally clean. Old food residue, leftover dish soap and dust are three notoriously off-putting contaminants. If your new kitten isn't eating food when you serve it in a plastic bowl, try a ceramic or metal bowl instead. Both alternative options are easier to clean than plastic and don't hold onto weird smells.

5. Toothache

Kittens, like human kids, have teething issues from time to time. If you've followed all the feeding best practices outlined above and your furry munchkin still won't eat, she might be dealing with tooth or gum pain. If you suspect this is what's behind your kitten not eating, take her to an experienced vet.

6. Illness

It's been a few days and you're not seeing much improvement on the food front. Now what? If your kitten seems lethargic — or if she's sneezing or has nasal discharge — she might be sick. Possible health complications include gastrointestinal infections, constipation and intestinal parasites. Unfortunately, these aren't things you can fix by yourself, so once again, you'll need to make an appointment with a competent veterinarian.

Top Kitten Feeding Tips

Not sure what, how or when to feed your teeny cat? Brush up on kitty feeding tips before your furry partner arrives and you might completely avoid the headache of a kitten not eating. Here's some expert advice on kitten feeding.

What Kind of Food?

Two main kitten foods exist: wet food and dry food. Both types contain very high levels of protein to support growth and include extra magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron and zinc to strengthen bones and teeth. Purina makes some of the best science-based wet and dry kitten food on the market.

Wet Food

Many kittens love wet food because it's easy to chew and smells great. Frequently sold in single-serve tins, this type of kitten chow is convenient and rich in essential nutrients. Kittens often drink less when they eat wet food because of the moisture content in their meaty meals.

Dry Food

Nourishing and tasty, dry foods like Purina Kitten Chow, help keep your kitten's mouth healthy because kibbles remove plaque as your pet chews. Small enough to swallow and digest, dry food packs a lot of nutrition into each tiny morsel. Dry kitten food is easy to measure — and it has a longer shelf life, too.

How Much Is Enough?

Kittens eat a lot. Still, it's best to serve a sensible amount of food at a time to avoid instilling bad habits. Ideally, your kitten needs:

  • Four meals a day immediately after weaning. If you can't manage four meals because you need to work, go with three meals and leave dry food and water out for your kitten to snack on while you're away.
  • Three meals a day after a few weeks on solid food, and two meals a day from the age of six months onward. Cats eat little and often, so she'll need a couple of meals a day even as an adult.

Insider Lowdown: Wet food tastes best at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge about an hour before your kitten's mealtime. Alternatively, use your microwave to warm it a little in a microwave-safe bowl — but always check for hot spots, and never let your kitten's food get too warm.

The Wrap

If your little furry friend isn't chowing down right now, don't panic. Instead, follow the tips in this article and see if things improve. If you don't make any progress at all, check with your vet; she might be constipated or teething. With the right support, you'll soon put this stage behind you and build a solid friendship with your new cat.

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