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Why Is My New Kitten Not Eating?

4 min read

Kittens are sensitive creatures with a fussy side they often like to show off at dinner time. So if you’re wondering why is my kitten not eating, here are the most common explanations.

You’ve got everything set up and ready for the new arrival. The best kitten food sat waiting in the cupboard next to delicious kitten treats – the perfect training rewards. No doubt you can’t wait to see your little cat feasting on the glorious meal. Yet sometimes what you’ll see instead is the new kitten not eating and woefully ignoring the bowl of food in front of them.

When kittens turn their nose up at their food, we immediately think something must be wrong with the meal itself. Maybe it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, not wet enough, not the right variety of fish, or the wrong flavour, colour and smell. But in fact, there can be many reasons why a fussy eater will refuse the meal in front of them. It doesn’t always mean they’re disappointed with your taste in kitten food! Here are some common explanations for a kitten not eating.


Why is my kitten not eating? - 8 explanations 

1. They don’t like the type of bowl

Kittens don’t like their whiskers touching the sides of the bowl every time they dip in to eat. Although the syndrome “whiskers fatigue” is still being studied, there is one thing we know for sure – whiskers are extremely sensitive antennas that help kittens extract useful information from their environment. Activating them several times during their meal could in theory put them off their food. This is why it’s recommended to choose food bowls that are wide and shallow, to keep those precious whiskers from touching the dish.

2. The location of the bowl isn’t right

Where you put their food bowl can be just as important as what you put in it. If you’re seeing your new kitten not eating, consider the location of the bowl. Make sure it’s away from the litter box and in an area where the footfall is at minimum, so they can eat without being disturbed.

If there are other pets in the house, remember that the hunting instinct still alive in your kitten makes them prefer a solitary dinner. Place your pets’ food bowls well apart and see if your kitten will consider giving the food another chance.

3. The bowl might not be clean enough for fussy kittens

A kitten not eating their meal might also be related to a dish that has not been properly washed. Make sure you use detergent and rinse well with water to clean up the kitten’s food bowl after every meal. You can also go for ceramic bowls as these don’t hold on to the food’s smell as plastic ones do.

4. Kitten’s not eating because they’re stressed (maybe due to a new environment or travelling)

It’s normal for your cat to feel a bit unsettled while they get used to the new surroundings and this can be reflected in a lack of appetite. A good idea is to ask the shelter or breeder for an object or a blanket they are familiar with.

The transition to the new life will be made easier if they have something that reminds them of the old home while adjusting to living in the new one. As always, give your kitten time to settle in and don’t hesitate to ask a vet for help if they refuse to eat or eat very little food. A plug-in pheromone diffuser such as Feliway can also be helpful to settle your new kitten into the family home.

5. Your kitten has recently had their vaccinations

Sometimes, kitten vaccinations can cause a lack of appetite but shouldn’t stop them from eating completely. This reaction is usually mild, lasting about 2-3 days. If you notice that they haven’t been eating properly for longer than 3 days after a vaccination, it’s time to contact the vet.

6. They have tooth ache

The new kitten not eating can also be down to painful teeth or gums. Kittens can have teething pain just like babies. Sore gums are uncomfortable enough to keep your pet away from the food bowl. Contact the vet for a check-up to rule out this possibility.

7. An illness could be causing a lack of appetite

Kittens often refuse to eat when they’re not feeling well. Unfortunately, there is a long list of possible health conditions that can stop them from dipping into their food bowl as they should. Anything from a clogged nose to intestinal cat parasites, cat constipation or an upset tummy can contribute to your kitten not eating. This is why it’s very important to ask for professional help if your kitten is not eating. The vet will be able to distinguish between a nervous eater and a kitten in need of medical attention.

8. They might need to get used to their new food

The food you feed your kitten may not be the same as they are used to having. Always ask the breeder/shelter what food the kitten is having currently. If you wish to change this food, it should be done slowly and gradually over a period of about 7-10 days. Initially place a small amount of the new food into a bowl next to a bowl of the original food. Gradually increase the amount of the new food & decrease the amount of the original food so that your kitten transitions to the new food gradually.


What do I do when my new kitten’s not eating?

Here are a few things that might help a little kitten with their lack of appetite:


Try different kitten food flavours and textures

Just like us, our kittens have food preferences. This process is trial and error as you find out what kitten foods they like. 


Warm the food to body temperature to make it more enticing for the kitten

This is especially important if the food has been kept in the fridge. They’re more likely to eat if the food is at the right temperature.


Change the food bowl 

Make sure it’s their food bowl is wide, shallow, and if possible, ceramic or glass. Like we mentioned earlier, plastic can hold smells more which can put them off their food.


Thoroughly clean the kitten dish with soap and water

Smells can put kittens off their food, so making sure you wash their bowls after each meal is important.


Change the location of the food bowl to a quiet area.

Cats and kittens can get distracted by noises, meaning they will avoid their food. Moving their bowl to a quieter area of the house can help with this.


Keep children and pets away from the kitten at dinner time

Similar to the point above, distractions can stop your cat from eating their food. Making sure they’re focused on their food and not the kids or other pets can help them to focus.

Leave dry food out for them to graze

Cats tend to graze feed, little and often, so leaving a little dry food down in the day is a good idea, so they can nibble when they feel like it.

Make sure your kitten is not suffering from an illness

Contact the vet for a check-up and advice on how to get the new kitten eating again.


When should I worry about my kitten not eating?

If your kitten hasn’t eaten for 24 hours, you should visit your vet. It could be a case of allergies or another condition that needs to be treated. Also keep an eye out for cat vomiting or lethargy as this could be a sign for a wider condition.


We hope this guide on kittens not eating was helpful. We know it can be daunting but with a few changes, they should be munching away! Next, see our article on what to feed a kitten.