How To Force Feed A Cat Safely | Getting A Sick Cat To Eat

It comes only natural for pet parents to start panicking when their feline furballs start refusing to eat.

The reasons behind the kitty’s refusal could be plenty – from seemingly harmless new furniture pieces to pure whimsicality. But the most alarming reason of all is the factor played by a physical illness. When cats are sick they lose their appetite and they don’t really think about the consequences of malnourishment.

On top of that some cats may start associating any pains or nausea with the food they’ve recently eaten, which in return can only increase their loss of appetite.

In cases like these it’s of extreme importance for you to act accordingly and put a stop to the loss of crucial nutrients. Felines can’t survive long without food or water, so the sooner you get a sick cat to eat, the better. Unfortunately, you can’t exactly force feed a cat by sticking food in its mouth. Fortunately, there are some natural (and some less common) ways to trick your pet into eating its food.

How to make a cat eat

Here are the most efficient natural methods to get a sick or finicky kitty to eat again before the food deficiency starts causing complications.

Heat the food

Let’s face it – a warm dinner is always much more palatable than any cold meal. While cats in general don’t have a problem eating cold foods, heating up your pet’s dinner can invoke its appetite. The heat will boost the flavor, the texture and the scent. You can do it with anything – from canned food to freeze dried or dehydrated treats and even to kibble. Just make sure the food you’re serving is lukewarm, otherwise it could burn the kitty.

Switch to kitten food

By default kitten foods, be they canned or not, are higher in protein and fats. That makes them more flavorful in comparison to foods for adult and senior cats. I strongly recommend you consult with your vet prior to switching to the kitten stuff since cats with health disorders (urinary diseases, diabetes, obesity, etc.) should stay away from fatty foods.

Opt for fish or raw meat

Even finicky cats like fish. Try some homecooked baked salmon (sans herbs, spices and sauces) or opt for introducing a new fish-based canned food to your furball’s diet. You can also try making the cat eat again by swapping its regular food for some raw meat. The raw diet will mimic a feral cat’s natural feeding habits in the wilderness and might invoke the inborn cravings for raw meat even in felines that have been kept strictly indoors their entire life.

Additionally, you can also include appetite stimulants in the meal. Catnip and other popular stimulants can help awaken even a sick cat’s desire to eat. Check out this article by Dr. Jennifer Coates for more info on appetite stimulants.

How to force feed a cat

Although you can’t literally force feed a cat (we all know that anything forceful with cats only results in stress and injuries), you can still trick your pet into eating its food with some less conventional methods.

Hand feeding

I don’t recommend hand feeding for independent, stressed out and easily annoyed kitties. However, if your pet is loyal, amiable and has eaten from your hand before, you should opt for hand feeding it. That doesn’t automatically guarantee success, though. But if your cat trusts you enough to eat from your hands, it may swallow some of its food after all.

Trick-feeding with “table scraps”

I wasn’t joking when I said “unconventional” earlier. This method may seem rather shocking for some cat owners, but trust me, it can actually work magic for sick cats and especially for finicky eaters.

How? It’s pretty simple. Trick your cat into eating its food by making it believe you’re sharing your own table scraps while in reality you’re only sharing cat food. As capricious as cats are, they always think our food tastes better than theirs. However, many high quality cat foods are actually delicious. If you’re up to the task of munching on some kitty food for the sake of your cat’s health, do it in front of the cat. Just don’t let the furball see the package and it will think you’re offering your own dinner instead of cat food.

Regardless of the reason behind the cat’s refusal to eat, you shouldn’t neglect the problem. Don’t let the kitty go hungry for more than 24 hours and schedule an appointment with the vet. Food deprivation will inevitably lead to health disorders, which in return will only shorten your precious furball’s lifespan.

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Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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