13 min

New Kitten Not Eating: Causes and Solutions

If you notice that your new kitten is not eating, you might be scared. But don’t panic: this doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong. Read what to know. 

Bridget Reed

Updated November 29, 2022 • Published August 25, 2021

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New Kitten Not Eating: Causes and Solutions

If you just got your new kitten home and you’re noticing that they are not eating, you might begin to panic, but there’s really no need. There are a variety of very innocent reasons why sometimes kittens do not eat. Plus, plenty of these potential causes have very simple solutions.

It’s understandable that a new pet parent would get anxious about their kitten not eating. If you’re trying to figure out why your kitten doesn’t want any of their food, Pawp can help you track down the cause. 

There are six main reasons why your new kitten might not be eating. These reasons vary greatly, so be sure not to jump to conclusions when you’re reading. You might get nervous or stressed for no reason.

It’s important to note: if your new kitten isn’t eating for more than a day, it really is a good idea to get a vet’s professional opinion as to what might be causing this. You might find that it’s something easy to tackle. This article will discuss six reasons why your new kitten is not eating. Then, it’ll dive into developing an answer to the question: how can I make my new kitten start eating?

If you want specific guidance about your individual cat, you should reach out to their vet. Pawp can certainly help give you some advice. This should hopefully help you to quickly get to the bottom of why your kitten isn't eating. 

6 reasons why your new kitten isn’t eating

There are a few things that you should keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out what the potential culprit is. You might want to ask yourself if your cat is behaving regularly or if they’re acting oddly. If they are acting differently than they usually would, you should consider a trip to the vet sooner than later. 

Let’s run through six of the top reasons why your cat might be reluctant to eat. Remember: before jumping to conclusions, really take your cat’s overall behavior into account, too. This can help clue you in on important things about their health. 

Your kitten doesn’t have a routine yet

The first reason why your cat might not be eating when you just bring them home is that they are not in a routine yet. Your kitten needs to eat regularly. This is required to support both their energy and growth needs.

It’s definitely tempting to leave food out for your pet to graze on as they choose. It seems like a great idea, but in reality, it could actually hinder your pet. This is because they will not have the opportunity to develop a routine — and kittens need that. In addition, your kitten could either over or under eat as a result.

Instead, you should create a well-thought-out kitten feeding schedule that you know you can really stick to. Not only will this help your kitten build trust in you, but it will also help every day seem more manageable to them.

The kitten’s feeding schedule should depend on how old they are. For kittens that are just eight weeks old and below, they will need to be fed more frequently. This usually means somewhere between three and four times per day. 

You should also keep in mind that your kitten will typically have to use the litter box after they eat. Therefore, you have an excellent opportunity at hand to help your cat get some litter box training after their feeding time. 

Your kitten's food bowl isn’t right

Your kitten doesn’t like when their whiskers touch the sides of their bowl every single time they reach down to eat. Whiskers are very sensitive antennas, and they allow the kitten to get practical information from their environment. 

If your cat is continually “activating” these antennas while they are eating, this could potentially make them not want to eat. Therefore, you should choose a food bowl that’s right for your cat.

Consider getting one that is both wide and shallow instead of one that’s tall and deep. That will help ensure your cat’s whiskers aren’t constantly touching the bowl. 

Your kitten's dish is dirty

Cats are extremely clean creatures. If a kitten isn’t eating their meal, sometimes it is because they’re protesting a dish that they don’t feel has been washed correctly. Every time you clean the dish, be sure to use detergent and rinse it extremely well with water. 

This should be completed after every meal. You can also pick up a ceramic bowl for your cat — this will help ensure that your cat’s bowl doesn’t hold scent the same way a plastic one might. 

Your kitten dislikes their bowl placement

Did you know that where you put your cat’s food bowl matters? It’s true. You should be sure that the location of your kitten’s bowl is somewhere they would actually be OK with eating.

In other words, it shouldn’t be near their litter box, and it shouldn’t be where tons of people walk all the time. That way, they can relax and eat without being worried about getting stepped on. 

You should also keep in mind that if there are other pets in your home, your cat would rather eat alone. This is due to their hunting instinct. Be sure that you keep your pets’ different food bowls apart from each other. 

Your kitten is stressed or anxious

Transitioning to a new home can be intimidating or scary for a little kitten. Therefore, it’s completely normal if your kitty feels a bit unsettled when they first get to their new home. This sometimes manifests itself as a lack of appetite. 

To remedy this, you can ask the breeder or shelter where you got your cat from for an object or blanket they know. If this reluctance to eat persists, you should definitely talk to a vet and get their input, though this is a relatively common situation.

Your kitten does not feel well

Lastly, a reluctance to eat could mean that your cat does not feel great. Sometimes this is as simple as something, such as painful gums, as kittens experience teething pain similar to how babies would. 

Sometimes, the condition is more serious. There are a variety of reasons why your kitten might not be feeling well, and all of these can have an impact on their decision to eat or not. It could be something as simple as having a stuffy nose or something as complicated as your cat having parasites in their intestine or another problem.

All of these can potentially be causes for your kitten not to eat. Therefore, you should reach out to your vet. They’ll be able to tell you if your new cat is simply nervous or if there’s something wrong that they need to intervene. 

How can I make my new kitten start eating?

There are a variety of things that you can do to help make your kitten begin eating. First of all, if you’re transitioning them to a new food, you should be sure to do this slowly. If you do this all at once, your kitten might have belly aches. Instead, it should take approximately seven to 10 days.

Pawp veterinarian Dr. Laura Robinson explains why new foods can prove difficult for kittens to digest: “It is unknown exactly why, but thoughts are that their microbiome may not be fully developed or their body is just adjusting to new foods it has never processed before.  Whenever switching foods, it is recommended to do so gradually over a few weeks to avoid this from happening. Some kittens can also be allergic to certain types of foods, which can also cause an upset stomach.”

The most important thing to do is first get your vet’s opinion. This can also help because they can advise on things that you can do that will make your cat begin to eat. Pawp does have some suggestions that can help, however.

One thing that can help is if you warm the food a little. It shouldn’t be too toasty, but it can be heated. This will make it more appetizing, especially if you normally store their food in your fridge. 

You should also ensure that the bowl doesn’t interfere with their whiskers when they dip down to eat. As mentioned, you should also carefully clean their bowl and be sure that the location is working. If your cat doesn’t want to eat, move their bowl so you can see if that helps. 

Also, be sure to keep other pets you might have in your home away from your cat when they’re attempting to eat. This can make them nervous. The same goes for children: your cat’s eating time should be just theirs. 

Talk to a vet

If you bring your new kitten home and notice that they’re not eating or don’t seem to have an appetite, don’t panic right away; it might be one of these things causing the problem.

That being said, it’s a great idea to reach out to a vet so you can rule out some of the more complicated reasons cats don’t eat. That will also provide you with excellent peace of mind— it’s worth it!

Kitten not eating sources: 

Feeding Times and Frequency for Your Cat | VCA Animal Hospital

Cat Not Eating? Here's Why and What You Can Do | Pet MD

Clean Your Pet's Food Bowl To Keep Them Happy And Healthy | Huffington Post

Kitten Feeding Schedule: From Newborn to One Year | Daily Paws 

Guide to Food and Water Bowls for Cats | The Spruce Pets 

Is It Safe to Warm Up Cold Cat Food? | LA Times 

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