My Mother-in-law started feeding her off of her plate as soon as she was weaned and she just will NOT eat cat food. I have tried many brands of high end dry & wet but no ~ I tried tuna ~ no ~ She just won't eat anything but that nasty old lunchmeat which has no nutrition for her and I am so upset ~ I give her milk replacer so she at least gets some nutrition. Can anyone help please? I am so worried about her development.

  • Did you tell your mother-in-law about this? Also can you specify if giving the milk replacer does anything to help the kitten?
    – D. Tunus
    Jul 23, 2016 at 8:29

4 Answers 4


This is problem in learned behavior that can occur in young animals, whether cats or human children. In humans these foods are referred to as "comfort foods"; I, for example, learned as a child to like macaroni and cheese even though it is not the most healthy food for me to eat.

Kittens learn their favorite foods when they are young, usually from their mother. Normally this helps kittens to have preferences for foods that are easy to find in their environment, whether mice, birds, or canned soft cat-food.

In your specific case, the kitten learned to eat human food from your mother-in-law, who taught your kitten to really like lunchmeat. Have no fear; although the kitten may say she won't eat anything but lunchmeat, if you can keep anyone from feeding the kitten incorrect foods (like the lunchmeat) when she gets hungry enough she will eat other foods, even if she is grumpy about it and insists to you that she is starving to death.

I had a friend who rescued a kitten who when young lived next to a garbage dumpster behind a donut shop; she had as a kitten developed a taste for the donuts tossed into that dumpster. She lived out a normal life except for having an extreme sweet tooth and would gobble down anything with maple frosting on it (and then proceed to throw it up). Donuts were not healthy for her, but she had learned while young that they were a readily available food.

If your cat doesn't still doesn't eat the food you offer it after a day or so, you may need to cut some of her desired lunch meat into tiny pieces and mix it very well with the cat food you are trying to get her to eat. Expect her to at first to try and pick just the lunchmeat out of the mix (unless it is mixed very well), but hunger will eventually force her to eat the new food.

I would personally worry about how your mother-in-law makes bad decisions about what to feed young things she comes in contact with. Spoiling kittens (or grandchildren) with incorrect foods may be fun for her, but any bad habits learned by them will need to be either corrected by you or lived with forever afterward.

  • "Starving" a cat for "several days" is a very bad idea; unlike dogs, cats can't go very long without food.
    – Allison C
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:29
  • @AllisonC I didn't say or mean you should starve a cat, just that the cat might think she is starving. If you underfeed a cat eventually she will eat some food offered even if it is not of the type she prefers. I will modifiy my answer to be more clear that I don't recommend not feeding a cat at all. Oct 8, 2021 at 20:23

Cats, Dogs, and humans will eat what they don't prefer WHEN they are hungry enough.

BUT... People joke about cats and their finicky eating habits, but it’s actually a serious issue if your cat won’t eat.

Although a refusal to eat is concerning for all pets, it can be more dangerous for cats.

When animals don’t eat enough, they must rely on their fat reserves for energy. Before stored fat can be used for fuel, it must be processed by the liver. This step requires adequate supplies of protein.

With rapid weight loss in a cat that stops eating, protein supplies are soon exhausted and the liver becomes overwhelmed by all the fat. This results in a dangerous condition known as hepatic lipidosis, which can lead to liver failure.

Instead of relying on people food, try encouraging your cat to eat commercial canned food. You may find that heating the food or mixing in fish oil, broth, or cooked egg could entice your picky cat to eat. If your cat still won’t eat, take the food away and provide fresh food later in the day. If the food is left to harden and become stale, your cat may learn to avoid it in the future.

If your cat has been eating human food exclusively, be sure to transition your pet over several weeks by mixing together your pet’s favorite people food with cat food. Over time, you should be able to change the ratio until your pet is eating only cat food.

Many experts recommend rotating your cat’s diet among different brands two to four times a year by using a similar technique. This practice may help reduce finickiness and also minimize the development of food allergies and intestinal problems.


I am reiterating what has been said previously. Cats have (I have read) starved because not too bright people fed them only one type of cat food and that company either reformulated or it was taken off the market.

Once you get kitty eating cat food, keep mixing it by brands and by meat-type. This way you will never run into that horrible situation.

Yes, I would cut up the food he likes and mix it with cat food. As he gets used to one mixture, use less and less of the people food.

When an adult spoils a child or an animal, they are not doing it for the benefit of the animal. It is entirely a selfish and childish thing to do.


Try making a slurry out of the food so mix in his/her formula with the food and make it into a slurry then cut the nipple larger and feed him/her that would definitely help ensure he/she receives the needed nutritions!

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