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Why Won’t My Adopted Cat Eat?

Whether you are a seasoned cat parent or a first-time cat parent, no one knows everything there is to know about the habits of cats. I have rescued and housed all breeds of cats with various personalities for over 30 years. I currently have six fur babies, and I am still learning new and exciting things about this fantastic animal. Know that not all your cats may or may not like the same kind of food or texture

  • Where did you adopt your kitty?
  • Did your kitty come from off the street, another home, from a shelter, or from the local humane society? Was your cat a barn cat on a farm?

Why Won’t My Adopted Cat Eat?

It makes no difference where you adopt your cat from; it will take several hours and possibly a few days for your new cat to adapt to its surroundings. Put yourself in your kitty’s place. Someone took you out of familiar surroundings and put you somewhere else. Suddenly, you are in strange surroundings, with unfamiliar people. You do not know what to expect.

What do these people expect of you?

You cannot tell me that cats do not think of these things. Cats are highly intelligent critters. If you were in that cat’s place, you probably would not want to eat it either. Your cat may be scared for a spell and understandably uneasy and on high alert. This is why your adopted cat does not want to eat.

You must give your cat time to look around, explore its new home, and get to know its new family. Cats (and dogs, as a matter of fact) know when people like them or dislike them. Cats can tell if their new family will treat them kindly and love them unconditionally. Cats also know if they are in a less than a satisfactory place.

Cats have this unique instinct and ability to know who likes them and who does not. You must do all you can to help your cat adjust. Your cat needs time to consider your home as its new space. Your cat may hide and turn away from food and water for a few days. The important thing is to make your cat comfortable in its new surroundings.

Cats look at their surroundings differently than you do. They search out avenues of escape if the time ever comes. For example, the higher they can climb, the more secure they may feel. Some cat owners use graduated shelving on a wall so the kitty can climb to each level and hang out on the uppermost level. Some cat parents buy a high tower cat stand to climb and sit at the top, feeling safe and secure. It is not unusual to find your cat resting on the top kitchen cupboard or refrigerator.

Cats are notorious for finding holes and entryways into places that could harm them. Ensure you take stock of these places and secure them, so your kitty does not get injured. Keeping your cat safe and active ensures a good appetite. Never allow another cat or dog to come in contact with your new cat until your cat relaxes and feels more at home and willingly accepts food and water.

How to Get My Adopted Cat to Eat?

If your kitty decides to hide, please let them alone for a spell. Since you do not know yet what they like to eat, start out with a small amount of wet chicken cat food, a small amount of cat fish food, and a small amount of dry chicken cat food in separate bowls and a small bowl of water near their hiding place.

Return on occasion to see if the kitty ate anything. Take notice of which food your cats eat, chicken or fish. Replenish the dishes and monitor what the kitty eats. You will have to experiment with different textures also. For the time being, place a litter pan near their hiding place. This hiding place would be their own private and secure place. Avoid scaring or startling your new kitty. Some new cats have a tough time getting acclimated to their new surroundings. Have some empathy for your new cat.

Once your cat comes out from hiding and becomes more comfortable in its new home and parents, you can move its food and water dishes and litter pan to a more accommodating area, but be sure to show your kitty where it is.

*Litter should be clumping and dust-free litter or a better grade of litter to avoid urinary tract infections from clay and dusty litter brands. 

Once your cat gets used to you and your family members, allow your cat to venture into your home. They will likely run back to their safe place if they are spooked. No one cat is the same, and all have different personalities. A cat’s personality depends on how quickly it becomes comfortable with eating.

Our Wee Willy, now 17 years of age, showed up at our front door during Christmas week in 2005. Willy was about eight weeks old. I opened the front door, and he came in, walked through the house to the kitchen, and right to the food and water bowls as if he lived there! It was amazing because this little baby knew exactly where he was headed.

We did not know where he came from, but he became the ruler of our home from that day. At eight weeks, he ate like a horse and had no time to get acquainted. He immediately shook the snow off his long black fur, ate until his little belly was full, drank water, sniffed out the litter pan, and curled up under our Christmas tree for a nap. We stood there and looked at each other in total disbelief. He wasted no time in showing our other cats that there was a new sheriff in town, and he ruled the roost. Willy was Spunky and he remains so today.

Willy did not give us time to get him acquainted with anything. He did not care. He knew this was his new home. He was such a cute baby, and now he is our cute little old man!

It all depends on your cat’s personality, how quickly they adapt to their new home, and when they feel comfortable starting eating. It is best to monitor your cat’s eating habits in the days that follow. Every cat is different. Our cats have little eating habits related to food types, textures, dry or wet, treats, or no treats. All six of our cats are different and it took us a while to know the preferences of each cat.

Knowing a cat’s food and texture preferences means that the cat will eat better for you because you give it something they enjoy eating. When you get a new cat, it is trial and error in the food department for a while. Consider the following,

  • Types of food: chicken, fish, beef, turkey, duck, quail, etc.
  • Find out what texture suits them, such as pate’ or classic, shreds, meaty bits, extra gravy.
  • Find out their preference for dry or wet food. I would provide both dry 24/7 and wet on demand if it were me, but you must figure out what works best for your kitty.
  • As an added note, your cat may have no desire to eat after receiving vaccination shots.
  • Supply a variety of toys to help keep your kitty active.
  • Offer some catnip every day. When going to the vet, sprinkle a bit of catnip on the carrier on their blanket. It sometimes helps to calm them down.

Other Reasons Why Your Cat Won’t Eat

When you adopt a stray cat off the street, you take it to the vets for a check-up and shots before leaving it in your home. Stray cats tend to be happy with any food you give them. You must make sure this cat does not have an illness, disease, or dental problem before adopting it in your home.

If you adopt your cat from a shelter, the humane society, a vet hospital, or a pet specialty store, a vet usually checks the cat for wellness and administers the first vaccinations with a dental exam. It may take a while for these cats to adjust to eating in a different place.

Underlying diseases and illnesses affect how your cat eats. However, if the cat has been checked over before you adopt it, disease or illness is not a likely reason why they do not want to eat. The problem is probably due to the changes in that cat’s life that affect its appetite. This is a short-term issue and, with your help, your cat will soon adapt to its new home with lots of encouragement and love.