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Why Does My Cat Lick His Food But Doesn’t Eat?

Why Does My Cat Lick His Food But Doesn’t Eat?

It is important for your pet cat to eat the cat food you provide for him, but he is not doing it. You want your cat to eat, to be happy and healthy.

Dry food seems like the cheaper option, but you are given a variety of flavors. You try wet food, but your cat is only licking it dry. Is wet food the best alternative? 

Four Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Licks But Not Eat

There are many reasons why your cat is licking his food but not eating it. While you may be confused about your cat’s weird behavior, we provide you with some reasons why and tips to help fix this issue.

Reason 1: Is There A Problem With My Feeding Routine?

Number and Frequency Of Meals

Your cat should eat two meals daily, at least. Your cat’s feeding time depends on your family’s eating schedule; there is no set time during the day that is recommended.

Meals typically should be 12 hours apart. It is okay to do a breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime feeding schedule as well! You must ensure that no more than 12 hours passes between meals. If it does, it can make the stomach hyperacidic and cause nausea for your precious feline.

Natural Feeding Routines

Your cat is, by nature, a solitary hunter and eater. In order to appeal to this side of your cat, you can purchase feeding devices such as a “foraging feeder” or “food puzzle.” This will make your cat interact with the feeder while foraging for small pieces of food. Your cat’s feeding routine will most likely improve if it mimics natural feeding. 

Read here for more tips about natural feeding routines

Natural Feeding Routines

Feeding Stations

If you have more than one cat, part of their eating issues can stem from eating in the same space. If you have more than one cat, you should allow each cat it’s own space to consume their food.

You will use a regular feeding schedule and allow a certain amount of time to feed for each cat. This regulates feeding routines.

Your Environment

It is vital that your cat has the correct type of environment to eat. Cats prefer to eat their meals in solitude, not out in the open.

You should also feed them in the same place daily. This adds to the consistency of your feeding routine.

If you attempt to feed your cat out in the open, rather than giving them their space, they are likely going to withdraw from eating altogether.

Reason 2: Issues With Our Food Bowl

Bowl Height and Shape 

The height and shape of your cat’s food bowl could be the simple issue you are facing with your cat. Cats do not like their whiskers to touch the sides of the bowl.

If your feeding dish is too deep, their whiskers can touch the insides of the bowl. This can cause your cat to lick around the sides of the dish, rather than eat the whole meal. Cats consume their food best with a shallow dish. 

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You know that a shallow food dish is part of the solution to issues with your cat’s food bowl. Height also plays a factor.

Cats prefer to sit down when they eat; they do not like to stand. Your cat’s food dish should always stay on a flat, level surface so they are comfortable eating.

Bowl Cleanliness

Cats are not dirty creatures. Your cat is a clean animal by nature. In order to help avoid food bowl issues, keep your cat’s food dish clean, flat and shallow.

If you present your cat with a dirty food dish, they will most likely avoid eating their meal. You should also be aware that your cat may have an issue with detergents. You should always clean your cat’s food bowl thoroughly before feeding.

Reason 3: Does your cat prefer dry or wet food?

Dry Cat Food

If you decide to feed your cat dry kibble, you should never leave it out to eat longer than 24 hours. Your cat’s dry food is coated in oils and fats.

This means that leaving it out longer than one day can alter the aroma and the taste of the actual food, making it undesirable. Leaving your cat’s food in the air for more than a day results in a breakdown of the fatty coating on the kibble.

This also changes the taste and smell of your cat’s food. If you leave your cat’s dry food out overnight, it will likely absorb the moisture in the air. This causes the food to become stale and unappetizing.

 You should also always check the manufacturer’s date of your cat’s dry food before purchasing it. Check the product’s best-before date as well.

The fats and oils that coat your cat’s food breakdown after a few months. This breakdown leaves the food rancid and tastes horrible. Avoid buying cat food in large quantities if you only have one cat at home. 

Wet Cat Food

If you have a fussy cat then you are most likely purchasing wet cat food instead of dry kibble. Fussy cats tend to turn their nose up to dry cat food.

Wet cat food is also beneficial due to its higher water content. Wet cat food appeals to cats with sensitive palates as well.

If your cat is only licking the gravy off of the wet food, you may want to try a different flavor. Otherwise, you may have to try a different type of cat food altogether. 

Wet Cat Food And Dry Cat Food

You may discover that a diet of both wet and dry cat food is what suits your cat’s diet the best. If your cat has a special condition that requires a higher water consumption, then your cat needs wet food.

If your cat only licks the gravy off of the wet food, though, then they are not getting the nutrients they need. This is where dry cat food becomes beneficial. You cat also may just prefer dry cat food instead but still need the wet cat food for their diet.

Reason 4: The food may be too cold

Warm Temperatures

You may decide to try warming up your cat’s food to help with their feeding issue. This is perfectly okay. You do not want it scalding hot, but it is okay to warm up your cat’s food. Most cat owners do find this to be time consuming, though.

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Only 24% of cat owners warm up their feline’s food. Heating up your cat’s food can help with feeding issues, such as feeding encouragement. If you store your cat’s food in the fridge, you will need to warm it up to at least room temperature. 

While warming up your cat’s food is a great idea to treat your cat, it should be done to benefit their health as well. It is important to remember that your cat’s food should not be extremely hot (or cold!) so that it does not drastically alter their body temperature. Your cat should maintain a body temperature between 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Always check the temperature of your cat’s food against the back of your hand. This will ensure that your cat’s food is not too hot for them to eat. 

Cold Temperatures

If you serve your cat cold cat food, it is unlikely to eat it. Cold food does not have as strong of a scent as food that is warm or room temperature.

Remember, you cat is a hunter by nature, but has adapted. Serving your cat cold cat food will give your cat the idea that it is not fresh.

Your cat will think the food is old and more than likely not want it. If you warm the food up to room temperature, the smell of the cat food is released, enticing your cat to eat. 

Overall Guidelines To Improve Feedings 


You should keep your cat’s main three areas separated: the feeding area, the sleeping area, and the litter box area. If you have multiple cats, each cat should have their own feeding station.

These stations should be in a quiet place that is separate from one another. Do not expect your cat to eat their dinner out in the open. 

Food Dish Regulations

Remember, your cat will only lick the sides of its food dish if it is too deep. This is due to their whiskers being long.

Cats do not want their whiskers touching the inside of the bowl, so it is best to invest in a shallow feeding dish. Water dishes should also be wide and shallow to avoid your cat’s whiskers from getting wet.

Your cat’s food dish and water dish should be kept separate. You must also keep their bowl clean. If your cat is presented with a dirty food dish, he will not eat from it. 

Dry Food And Wet Food Choices

Dry Food And Wet Food Choices

Unless your cat has special dietary restrictions, it is completely up to you when choosing what type of food to feed your cat. Your cat may tell you which one they prefer, though.

Your cat may have a sensitive palate, causing only wet food to appeal to them. Your cat may have no preference at all, allowing you to serve dry kibble. Your cat may even prefer a mixture of both.