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Loss of appetite can be a cause for serious concern when it comes to cats. So how can you help your kitty when they’re in a food funk? A cat appetite stimulant may be just the ticket you need! Refusal to eat can be a sign of trouble for any animal, but it is especially dangerous for cats. Read on to find out the causes for this behavior and how you can help.    

What Can Cause a Cat to Eat so Little?

It can be a little tricky pinpointing the reason why your cat isn’t eating. Cats are infamous for being fussy eaters, but you first have to rule out the possibility of an urgent medical issue causing their aversion before deciding your cat is simply picky. Eliminating the possibilities one by one is a good way to get to the bottom of the issue.     wide eyed cat staring at food    

Social Creatures

Odd as it may seem, some cats prefer eating in company. If your cat is a social eater, petting or sitting next to them while they dine could provide them with sufficient companionship. Alternatively, if your cat prefers to eat in solitude, too much noise or movement in the room where they eat may be the deterrent. Figuring out which your cat is can create a more comfortable environment.  

Picky Eaters

Like people, cats have food preferences. If a cat finds its food unappealing, it might refuse to eat it. Maybe your cat prefers shrimp flavor to salmon or wet food instead of dry. Perhaps a mix of both? The way the food is prepared can also avert your cat’s interests. Has the food been sitting out too long? Is it stale or mushy? Trying a rotation of flavors and types of food brands or formulas can help determine what your cat’s preferences are.  

Health Issues

Underlying health issues like a broken tooth or infection may be making mealtime unpleasant for your feline. Some common digestive issues cats suffer from that can affect their appetites are:  
  • Stomach obstructions (like hairballs or objects they mistook for food)
  • Food allergy
  • Constipation
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Inflamed esophagus
  • Intestinal parasites
  Other issues causing a loss in appetite might be urinary infections, nausea, or respiratory infections that affect their sense of smell. Even pregnancy can affect your cat’s appetite. A cat going into labor can stop eating 24 hours before giving birth.  

Stress or Psychological Issues

Stress and unfamiliarity with their environment can affect a cat’s mood and cause a loss of appetite. If you recently moved or have new guests in your home, your cat can feel uncomfortable and be too nervous to eat.   Depression and anxiety are also factors that play into your cat’s appetite. Recent injury, illness, trauma, or grievance from the loss of a family member can trigger these disorders.   If you notice your cat is sleeping more than usual, develops compulsive behavior (pacing, excessive grooming, repetitive scratching, or chewing), or has other dramatic personality changes combined with a lack of appetite, they may be likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.  

Other Reasons Why Your Cat Isn’t Eating

Side effects or reactions to a new medication or vaccination alter appetite. Motion sickness from traveling or any major life change are also factors that can play in. However, this is temporary and should only last a few hours or up to a day at most before your cat gets the urge to eat again.  

Consequences and Risks

Besides weight loss and malnutrition, cats that go without food for 2 – 3 days can risk developing a disease called hepatic lipidosis, where fat deposits collect in the liver and prevent it from functioning correctly. This disease is nearly always fatal, so it’s important to identify the symptoms early. Symptoms of hepatic lipidosis include:  
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Muscle wasting
  • Depression
  • Constant bending of the neck
  • Jaundice

Treatment Options for Cats with Low Appetite

If you can’t figure out why the kitty isn’t eating on your own, or if the fast has continued for a few days, the next step is taking a little trip to the vet. Together, you can form a plan of action under the guidance of a professional. Below are some possible solutions your vet might go over with you.  

Veterinary Medicine

The FDA has approved certain medicines, and each one can act as a cat appetite stimulant. Veterinarians may prescribe these as a temporary solution to your cat’s hunger strike:  
  • Mirtazapine: A well-tolerated and popular anti-depressant medicine given as a pill or cream to support weight gain by treating nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss. Side effects can include trembling, hyperactivity, drooling, abnormal gait, and higher heart rates.
  • Cyproheptadine: An antihistamine frequently administered to hinder serotonin production and reduce inflammation in the body. Side effects can include difficulty urinating, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, excitation, or sedation. Cyproheptadine is not always recommended for cats with certain conditions, nursing mothers, or those taking pain medications.
  • Diazepam: Administered intravenously, this drug can show successful results instantly, though long-term results fall short of continuing appetite stimulation. Side effects include drowsiness and difficulty walking straight. It is not often prescribed as it frequently causes severe liver damage.
  • Glucocorticoids: This class of drugs is used to treat various disorders, including treatment for decreased appetite. The effects last a few weeks, but long-term use can cause diabetes, heart failure, and a weakened immune system.
  • B12 Injections: Cats with certain medical conditions may benefit from this vitamin boost. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can result in lower absorption of nutrients and cause a loss of appetite.

Nutritional Supplements

Over-the-counter appetite stimulants for cats are sold at most pet stores. Most work to either increase the number of nutrients your cat gets or as a supplement for a cat that isn’t eating nearly enough as it should.   Supplements come in the form of fish-flavored gel, pastes, or additives for your cat’s regular food. Additives include bonito flakes (simmered, smoked, and fermented skipjack tuna) or powders.  


In severe cases where appetite stimulants fail to solve the problem, further intervention may be required. Esophagostomy tubes (E tubes) can be inserted through an incision in the neck to allow indirect feeding of regular canned food or administration of medication.    

Natural Ways to Stimulate Your Cat’s Appetite

Often, a trip to the vet won’t be necessary. At-home solutions should be the first attempts to solve decreased appetite when there are no severe symptoms (which could indicate a serious condition that is not treatable without a vet).   There are several beneficial and natural ways to increase your cat’s appetite without the need for prescription drugs or over-the-counter stimulants:  

Try New Food

Picky eaters will still be able to find foods they like, and your cat is no exception. Sometimes your cat will decide the food you’ve been giving them is no longer their cup of tea. In these cases, trying a new flavor or brand of food can motivate them to eat. If your cat finds hard food difficult to chew, trying wet food can help.   Rotating food options for your cat can also help. If you find your cat is getting bored with their dinner, you can keep trying new foods until you find the one they like. Changing their food 2 – 4 times a year can also prevent the development of food allergies and intestinal issues.   Making homemade cat food requires careful consideration for your cat’s nutrition needs but is also an option for boosting your cat’s appetite. Cats require proteins from meat or fish rich in fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, and careful balance is necessary to keep them healthy.   Meet with a veterinarian-nutritionist first to fully understand their nutritional needs if you choose to become your cat’s chef.  

Make Their Food More Appetizing

Adding a little fish oil or small bits of cheese to their food can entice your finicky cat to eat. Warming their food, as well as making sure it is always fresh, can help as well. Heating their food can make it more aromatic, which stimulates your cat’s sense of smell. Remember, the stinkier, the better!  

Move Food Bowls Around

Is your cat avoiding its food bowl because its eating area is in a stressful environment? Try moving their food to different spots around the house until you find a location your cat is more comfortable eating in.   If another pet in the house — namely, a dog — is causing stress for your cat, placing your cat’s food bowl on a higher area like a counter or kitty tower where your dog can’t get to it is an option.  

Stick to a Feeding Schedule

Giving your cat constant access to their food can be a deterrent: they are encouraged to nibble in small bouts rather than eat whole meals in a habit called grazing. Routine feeding times train your cat’s body to regulate and gives it time to work up a healthy appetite between meals.  

Stimulate Their Natural Instincts

Cats are naturally predatory, meaning they have an instinct to hunt for their food. You can satisfy this urge through puzzle toys that simulate hunting and allow your cat to physically and mentally stimulate themselves.   Increasing blood flow can be an appetite stimulant for your cat as well. Playing for a half-hour or encouraging activity in other ways (like the puzzle feeders) can raise their heart rate and help them work up an appetite.  


Catnip is a natural appetite stimulant for cats. Sprinkling some in front of their food bowl or giving them a toy stuffed with catnip can trigger their appetite.    

CBD as a Cat Appetite Stimulant

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant that can act as a cat appetite stimulant. It encourages a natural appetite and soothes any nervousness or digestive issues that may be affecting your kitty’s hunger levels.     two cats eating cat food    

Does CBD Have Any Side Effects?

CBD has no severe side effects, and if any mild issues do arise, they will likely subside quickly. In cats, more negative side effects can include:  
  • Increased napping throughout the day
  • Uncharacteristic tiredness
  • Lower heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Incoordination
  These side effects are not harmful, and if they persist, you can try lowering the CBD dosage for your cat. The benefits of CBD far outweigh the potential side effects, as it can cause an improvement in your cat’s mood, promote gastrointestinal wellness, and encourage overall tranquility.  

How Much CBD Should I Give My Cat?

The recommended dosage for CBD changes depending on your cat’s weight and the desired purpose for taking it. To increase appetite, it is best to start small and work your way up if you find the smaller dose doesn’t help.   Most adult cats weigh an average of 7 – 10 pounds. Ideally, a dosage of 0.25 to 0.5mg of CBD per 1 pound of your pet’s body weight will be their dosage. To calculate a starting dose, you would multiply your cat’s weight by 0.25.   So, for an 8-pound cat, a 2mg dose (8 x 0.25) per day would be a mild dose. Each total dose is best split in half for two separate doses a day: one in the morning and one at night.   The dosing is slightly different for liquid products like our Holistapet CBD Oil for Cats and Dogs, depending on the amount of CBD in each drop. For smaller pets, a 15ml bottle at 150mg would require about 6 drops (2 / 0.33) to get the recommended 2mg for your 8-pound cat.   For Catnip Spray with CBD, a couple of spritzes on the floor in front of your cat’s food or on their toys will achieve the intended effect.  
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Final Thoughts – Cat Appetite Stimulant

Regardless of why your cat is eating less, changes in their eating habits are a cause for concern. If the symptoms are mild, try a cat appetite stimulant at home to get your furry friend eating again. Since a decreased appetite can be a sign of a serious condition, it’s best to get your veterinarian involved as soon as possible.   If you notice your cat hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours, it’s time to get some help. Going any longer can have a serious impact on your cat’s health or even death. With the help of prescribed and natural appetite stimulants and a few changes in your cat’s daily habits, you can get them back to munching in no time!
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