My ~10-year-old cat (male, neutered, indoor-only) has recently has a decline in appetite and corresponding weight loss. We've been to the vet, had X-rays and blood tests (normal), had an ultrasound, and are waiting for a possible biopsy of lymph nodes in/near the GI tract (showed as enlarged on the ultrasound), but the first available appointment is a few weeks away. In the meantime, I'm looking for ways to encourage him to eat more.

When I put wet food down he eats a few mouthfuls and then loses interest. I've tried a variety of canned foods, both pate and chunks in gravy, and including a prescription food specialized for GI problems. The cat is allergic to fish, so canned tuna isn't an option (unless I get desperate enough that "food now" trumps "allergic reaction later"). Dry food is available all time. He'll eat a few treats if I feed them to him one at a time, but not if I put a bunch out at once. Fresh water is available at all times (multiple locations, replaced a couple times a day).

I normally feed wet food in shallow bowls; my vet suggested a plate instead, which hasn't made a difference so far. She also suggested serving canned food at room temperature, not straight out of the fridge, which I'm doing.

My vet prescribed a low dose of an antidepressant (yes, really!) because a side-effect is appetite stimulation. That seemed to make a difference on the first day, but not much since (it's been a week since we started this).

He had to have three teeth pulled about seven weeks ago due to resorptive lesions in his mouth. My vet has examined him since and found no further problems in his mouth -- and, in fact, he was eating normally for a while after that surgery. The loss of appetite is much more recent.

How can I get him to eat more? Are there particular foods that might work better? (I'm flexible about what I feed him, aside from the fish thing, if it'll get more nutrients into him.)

Obviously we need to identify and solve the underlying medical problem. That's not what this question is about, though input on that is welcome too.

  • One of my cats - one who kinda needs to be coaxed to eat - really loves it when the food is very wet, souplike, so we add water to her food. Our other cat doesn't like that much, she usually eats eagerly but gets all shifty-eyed suspicious when it's that moist - though she will eat eventually. There may be some similar preferences that you can experiment with, even if water content itself isn't what your cat's looking for.
    – Megha
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 6:28

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, I don't have a suggestion for getting your cat to eat more, but you might focus on getting high-calorie foods into him until you can reverse the weight loss. I believe there's some sort of paste/food that comes in a tube that vets sometimes suggest for this purpose.

Since he's eating treats if you feed them to him one at a time, maybe putting out less food will help. Of course you'll refill the plate once he cleans it. You know how sometimes when you're ill, you can manage a few bites, but will feel overwhelmed if someone offers you a big serving?

Edited to add something I just thought of: Chicken breast. You can buy small packages of broiled chicken breast pieces in the market, and cats usually find it hard to resist. They're pre-cooked (handy for us vegetarians who don't like to prepare meat). I'm using it right now to sneak some medicine into one of my cats.


A good way to add nutrients is to add cooked dry oats on top of whatever food he does eat.

Secondly, adding chicken broth to a portion of dry (can also soften it, so bonus points!) or wet food to add nutrients into the food can help, but both must be eaten within the hour to be safe.

In desperation to get him to eat a full meal, cooking a chicken breast seems to be irresistible to felines. This may seem tedious but it can be refrigerated and warmed up on other nights. It also ensures that it is completely natural as opposed to a pre-cooked individually packaged chicken breast. However, this isn't a permanent solution and he will need to return to eating cat food soon.

As far as encouraging him to eat cat food there isn't much to go off of other than the advice above.

  • 1
    Not sure about the oats - cats are obligate carnivores. Chicken and broth can work though.
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 6:10

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