Why Does My Cat Start Eating Then Run Away?

Common Reasons Cats Stop Eating

Cats are known for being finicky eaters and there are many potential reasons why they may walk away in the middle of a meal. Some of the most common causes include:

Cats get easily distracted – With their keen senses, cats can get distracted by sights, sounds, and smells very easily. Even a small noise or movement may suddenly draw their attention away from eating.

Anxiety or stress – Changes in environment or routine can trigger anxiety in cats. Stressors like moving homes, introducing new pets, or loud noises may cause a cat to lose interest in food.

Aging effects – Senior cats often experience a decreased appetite due to dental issues, sense of smell deteriorating, or other age-related factors.

Illness – Medical conditions like dental disease, cancer, kidney failure, and hyperthyroidism can lead to a decreased appetite. An illness may make a cat feel unwell or alter their sense of taste and smell.

Preference for different foods – If a cat gets bored of eating the same food every day, they may start taking a few bites and walking away. Cats enjoy variety.

Boredom with routine – Eating the same food at the same times and place day after day can become mundane for some cats. Changing up mealtime routines can help spark their appetite again.

Assessing Your Cat’s Environment

Cats can be very sensitive to changes in their environment. Look for possible stressors that could be impacting your cat’s eating habits like noise, other pets, children, litter box issues, etc. According to a 2013 study, cats were stressed by seemingly mundane things such as cold temperatures, altered schedules, and changes in their care routine.

Take note if any major changes have occurred recently that could be causing anxiety for your cat. Have you moved homes, adopted another pet, or had a new baby? Is your cat’s litter box in a high traffic area? Try to look at the environment from your cat’s perspective.

Minimize external stressors if possible by keeping litter boxes clean, sticking to a regular feeding schedule, providing a quiet space for your cat to retreat to, and giving your cat solo lap time away from other pets and children. A calmer environment can encourage a cat to eat more regularly.

Ruling Out Medical Issues

There are several medical conditions that can cause a cat to stop eating, so it’s important to take your cat to the vet for an examination if appetite loss persists. The vet will perform a physical exam and take a medical history to try to pinpoint the cause.

One of the first things the vet will do is examine your cat’s mouth to check for dental disease, abscesses, or other oral pain that makes eating uncomfortable. According to PetMD, “dental disease is extremely common in cats and can cause or contribute to anorexia” (Source). Treatment like tooth extraction can help resolve dental pain and encourage eating again.

The vet will also feel your cat’s abdomen for signs of gastrointestinal issues like inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis, which frequently cause decreased appetite. Bloodwork and imaging tests may be recommended to diagnose these conditions. Treatment with medication and dietary changes can help manage GI problems.

Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are two other common medical causes of appetite loss in cats. The vet will analyze bloodwork to check kidney values and thyroid hormone levels. Prescription kidney or thyroid medication may be prescribed to regulate these conditions and improve appetite.

By taking your cat to the vet promptly when not eating, underlying illness can be identified and treated early before it progresses. This gives your cat the best chance of regaining interest in food again.

Trying Different Foods

Cats can be very particular when it comes to food textures, tastes, and even temperature preferences. One of the best ways to encourage a picky eater is to experiment with different types of food.

Try offering both wet and dry foods. Some cats prefer the texture of wet food and find dry kibble unappealing. You can also mix the two together, adding a spoonful of wet food into the dry kibble to increase palatability. According to one source, wet foods with shredded chunks in gravy can be very enticing for picky cats (The Best Cat Food for Picky Eaters).

When it comes to taste, look for cat foods that have strong smells or flavors added. Fish, liver, tuna, and other meaty flavors are very popular. You can also add a little bit of tuna juice or nutritional yeast to make the food more appealing. Feeding a variety of flavors and formulas can help prevent boredom.

Some cats prefer their food at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge. You can try microwaving wet foods for a few seconds to take off the chill. Just test the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot.

By experimenting with different textures, temperatures, and flavors, you’ll eventually hit on something your finicky feline loves to eat. It often takes some trial and error when dealing with a picky eater!

Establishing a Routine

Cats thrive on consistency and routine. Establishing set meal times and feeding locations can help prevent picky eating behavior. Feed your cat at the same times each day, preferably when your home is quiet and calm. Try not to feed right before or after playing, as an excited or overstimulated cat may walk away from their food. Designate a set feeding area like a corner of the kitchen or a mat on the floor, and discourage distractions during mealtime. Cats feel most secure when they can eat without interruption from kids, other pets, or loud noises. Limiting treats between meals and removing uneaten wet food after 20-30 minutes can also encourage sticking to a schedule. With time and patience, a predictable feeding routine makes cats more likely to eat their meals. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, inconsistent schedules can reinforce finicky behavior, so focus on timely, stress-free meals in your cat’s designated dining spot.

Addressing Anxiety and Stress

Cats can experience anxiety and stress for a variety of reasons, which can lead to unusual behaviors like suddenly stopping eating. Providing a sense of safety and security is important for alleviating anxiety in cats.

Create safe spaces around your home where your cat can retreat when feeling anxious. Cats like having vertical space, so provide access to tall cat trees, shelves, and window perches. Place these in quiet areas of your home.

Consider using synthetic pheromone diffusers or sprays, which can have a calming effect. Products like Feliway contain cat pheromones that promote relaxation. Plug in diffusers near your cat’s favorite spots. Source

Establish a predictable daily routine for feeding, play time, and interactions. Cats feel more secure when they know what to expect. Try to minimize changes and disruptions to their schedule.

Make sure your cat has enrichment through playtime, toys, and activities like treat puzzles. Hunting behaviors and mental stimulation can help divert anxious energy. Rotate toys to keep things interesting.

If your cat is showing signs of separation anxiety, there are steps you can take to ease the transition when you leave the house. But long-term, addressing the root causes of anxiety through veterinary advice, behavior modification, and environmental changes may be needed.

Adding Flavor Enhancers

One way to entice a picky eater is by adding flavor enhancers to their food. Some cats lose interest in their usual diet, but the addition of something tasty can make it more appealing. There are a variety of natural flavor enhancers cat owners can try:

Catnip – This herb is irresistible to many cats. Sprinkle a small amount on top of your cat’s food or rub a bit of oil on their bowl. The enticing aroma and flavor often gets finicky cats to eat. Be sure to use catnip sparingly.

Broths – Warm, unsalted chicken, beef, or fish broth poured over dry food can coax your cat to eat. The broth moistens the food and makes it more aromatic.

Tuna juice – The liquid from a can of tuna makes an easy, tasty topping. Pour a small amount over dry food.

Nutritional yeast – This flaky yeast has a cheesy, nutty umami flavor cats love. Just a sprinkle can make food more appetizing.

There are also commercial flavor enhancers for cats available like Cat-Man-Doo Bonito Flakes https://cats.com/best-cat-food-toppers. Follow package instructions. With patience and creativity, you can tempt your finicky feline to eat.

Puzzles and Games

Cats have natural hunting instincts and like the challenge of “catching” their food. Feeding puzzles and games are a great way to engage this instinct and prevent boredom. Puzzles like ball tracks, treat mazes, and food dispensing toys make mealtime more enriching by mimicking the hunt.

Food puzzles encourage mental stimulation and physical activity. As cats bat and paw at the toys, they work to extract kibble or treats. This provides exercise and relieves stress. Interactive play also satisfies your cat’s desire to “catch” food.

By hiding food around the house and having your cat search for it, you engage their natural foraging behavior. Start by placing treats in easy-to-find spots, then increase the challenge over time by using more difficult locations. This game turns mealtime into an exciting hunt.

Rotating different puzzles keeps things interesting. Look for food puzzles that can be adjusted for difficulty level. Easy DIY versions include toilet paper rolls with treats inside, or scattering kibble in a muffin tin. Providing a variety of toys prevents boredom.

Food puzzles help prevent overeating by slowing down your cat’s speed of consumption. The mental and physical stimulation also reduces anxiety and behavioral issues like aggression or destructive behavior. Overall, they provide enrichment and satisfaction for your pet.

When to Seek Help

If your cat’s change in eating habits persists beyond trying different solutions, it’s time to schedule a veterinary visit. Significant weight loss, lethargy, or other concerning symptoms along with a lack of interest in food warrant a prompt vet exam. As explained by vets at the Veterinary Emergency Group, “If your cat eats less than half of her normal daily intake for more than 2 days in a row, it’s time to call your veterinarian” (source). While cats may occasionally skip a meal or eat less some days, ongoing loss of appetite or energy can signal an underlying health issue needing treatment. Don’t delay in getting professional advice if your cat’s eating habits don’t improve or additional symptoms arise.

Keeping a Watchful Eye

One of the most important things you can do as a cat owner is to monitor your cat’s eating behavior, weight, and litter box use on an ongoing basis. Changes in any of these behaviors could indicate an underlying health issue.

Make note of any changes to your cat’s normal eating patterns. Does your cat seem to lose interest in food more quickly? Has their food intake decreased significantly? Are they leaving more food uneaten in their bowl? Any decreased appetite or unusual eating behaviors warrant a call to the vet. A healthy cat should have a good, consistent appetite.

Weigh your cat at least monthly to monitor their weight. Sudden weight loss could signal illnesses like diabetes, hyperthyroidism or cancer. Weight gain can also be problematic, putting undue strain on the joints and heart. Track weights over time and discuss any significant fluctuations with the veterinarian.

Monitor the litter box daily. Any changes in urinary patterns, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool or straining while trying to go could indicate a health problem requiring medical attention. Alert the vet to any elimination issues as soon as you notice them.

By keeping a close eye on your cat’s eating, weight and litter box habits, you can catch health issues early while they are most treatable. Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian to determine next steps for care. Consistent monitoring and open communication with your vet is key to keeping your feline family member happy and healthy.

Scroll to Top