7 Reasons Your Cat Won’t Eat Dry Food & What to Do

Cat won't eat dry food
There are many reasons why your cat may not be interested in dry food.

A cat that has lost appetite will start to show unusual signs such as losing weight and inactivity. There are instances when your cat may refuse dry food and prefer only wet options.

When a cat won’t eat dry food, she prefers wet foods that appear fresh. Another reason is thirst, so you have to check if there’s a problem with the water. Provide clean drinking water and try mixing the dry kibble with her favorite wet food to stimulate her appetite.

Cats are choosy pets. Unlike dogs, cats are very difficult to please with food. Any minor change around felines can alter their eating habits and make them even stop eating some foods.

Why your cat won’t eat dry food

The reason why your cat doesn’t like dry food can be anything from poor appetite to something that is wrong with the feeding bowl, water, change of environment or even because she is choosy. I am going to explain further below.

1. Health issues

While it is easy to think your cat is becoming too choosy, you cannot rule out the possibility that she could be sick and has lost appetite as a consequence.

Illnesses such as cancer, kidney and liver problems, and especially gastrointestinal health issues can seriously change your cat’s eating habits.

If you cannot point to any other reasons why a cat won’t eat dry food on this list, then it is time to take her to the veterinarian to rule out diseases. Some of the diseases I’ve mentioned above can serious and should be treated or managed as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration of the cat’s health to a point that may not be fixed.

2. Thirst

The problem with your cat might not be the food at all. It could be something else, usually thirst. Dry food is not very friendly to the mouth, especially when we all know that cats are obligatory carnivores, always preferring fresh meat that supplies moisture by itself.

Being dry, dusty and crunchy, dry cat food can leave your cat feeling dehydrated (in the mouth), which is a very unpleasant feeling. Eventually, the feline will develop a habit of disliking dry pebble-like or crunchy food options regardless of the quality.

In order to make your cat like and eat dry kibble again, ensure that you provide a clean, fresh water fountain all the time.

3. Lack of variety

Cats in the wild like a lot of variety. Restricting your pet to one type of food, especially when it is dry can be sort of an issue she doesn’t like. Cats that refuse to eat dry food may prefer to have a variety. This is usually true when it happens suddenly. I mean when the cat has been eating the same dry food then suddenly refuses to eat it, it is time for a change.

4. Dental/jaw problems

A cat that suddenly stops to eat dry food may have dental problems such as a broken or weak jaw, loose teeth, gum disease, and cracked teeth. Such problems make chewing dry food a painful exercise and before long, felines will no longer prefer the food you are giving her.

5. The food is not good

Lake humans cats can also develop taste, meaning that if you give them bad food they will find it non-palatable. Perhaps the reason why your cat does not want to eat dry food is that she is not finding it tasty. This is a common problem especially if you do not buy high-quality cat food.

6. The food is stale

Another possible reason why your cat has become a fussy eater when you give her dry kibble is that the food is likely to have gone bad.

Dry food usually absorbs a lot of moisture and can go bad really fast. Chances are, it is stale by now and that is why she has suddenly become a fussy eater.

Unlike dogs, cats are quick to pick up spoilage aromas in their food. If you have been keeping that stock for quite some time, chances are that the feline gets the aroma of a stale serving and will do a lot to avoid it.

7. Unfriendly kibble size, shape and texture

Studies have also found that the nature of dry kibble is not very friendly for cats. This kind of food is usually tough to chew due to the rough texture, hardness, and even cumbersome shape.

Elderly cats, in particular, may find hard foods unpleasant to chew and will almost walk away when they see it. Young kittens, too, can easily find very dry food hard to chew. The pebbles can easily crack and cause gum injuries and soon later, the feline will stop eating dry food.

According to Kristopher Figge, a senior scientist and technical services manager at AFB International:

  • “Surface texture plays a role in palatability. Different breeds of cats pick up their food differently with their tongue.
  • Cats lack lateral jaw movement; hence, texture and size are very important.”

It is also important to note that the dentition of cats does not allow them to eat tough, dry kibble. Felines do not have molars so they cannot crush and grind this kind of food.

How to Make Cats Eat Dry Food

Although there’s a lot you can do to help your cat start to feed again, I always recommend taking the feline to the veterinarian for a check-up first to rule out any health issues that might have changed her appetite and feeding habits. If there are no dental problems or other diseases the pet is suffering from, you can try the following tips to make your cat eat dry food again.

1. Change the brand of food

There’s no doubt that buying high-quality cat food is very important for the health of your cat. To encourage better feeding, try a different brand. You can look for kibble that is appropriate for your cat breed in terms of texture, shape, and size. If you are not sure, talk to your vet for help.

Choose cat foods that have a texture that accentuates the flavor to entice the cat into eating it.

2. Clean the bowl

Felines are very sensitive and will become fussy eaters if they sense that the feeding bowl is dirty. If you have been piling new food on the previous day’s scraps, the pet will refuse to eat it. Dump that pile and clean the bowl. Serve a fresh scoop and the cat will be interested.

3. Serve fresh food

Buy a new stock of food for your cat. Chances are that she is refusing to eat because the one you are serving has gone bad already (even if you can’t see it with your own eyes or smell with your nose).

4. Create a friendly environment for the cat

A slight change in the feline’s environment can make her stop eating even if the dry food is his favorite. Look for any environmental changes that may be rattling her, such as a new pet, a new home etc. Provide a consistent routine that will give your cat comfort to regain her appetite.

5. Mix kibbles with wet food

Have you been serving your cat dry food day in day out? That could be the reason why the feline is fed up with it. Try mixing the pebbles with wet food (canned food) to appeal to her appetite again.

6. Provide clean drinking water

Thirst is an appetite deterrent in felines. Provide fresh and clean drinking water to keep the cat well hydrated all the time. I would recommend you invest in an automatic water fountain with a big reservoir that serves filtered and oxygenated water for your pet.

“Cats that eat only dry food need to be provided with lots of fresh water, especially if they are prone to developing urinary tract blockages.”

7. Sprinkle appetizing food toppers on the kibble

Cats, like dogs, like treats. If your pet suddenly won’t eat dry food, you can encourage her by adding tasty toppers to the serving. Good treats are really savory and may contain more of the meats cats usually crave. My preference is always the Blue Wilderness Wild Cuts Tasty Toppers.

Other than these measures, you could also go an extra mile and try to boost your cat’s appetite. Click this link to see our discussion on the best appetite stimulants for cats.

List of sources and references
  1. Source: Figge Kristopher: Kibble Shape and Feline Palatability
  2. Dr. Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D. (board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition) Cornell Feline Health Center: How Often Should You Feed Your Cat?
Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 336 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone