How to Feed a Malnourished Cat

Updated July 19, 2017

A cat's diet is one of the most influential elements of its overall health. Without proper nutrition, a cat can exhibit a number of symptoms related to malnutrition, including weight loss, hair loss, change in the fur's texture, organ disease, and an increased susceptibility to illness and diseases. When feeding a malnourished cat, you must carefully choose and dispense the amount and type of food you give to the animal to help the cat recover.

Hold a blanket in front of you, Pick up the cat and wrap the blanket around the cat to securely hold the animal and to avoid getting scratched or bitten. A blanket can help a cat feel more secure, particularly an animal that has been mistreated. A malnourished cat may not be able to put off much body heat, so the blanket will also help keep its body temperature normal. Place the cat into a kennel with the blanket to keep it safe and secure. Keep the kennel out of draughty or excessively warm areas so the cat doesn't get too cold or overheated.

Check the animal for a collar or microchip. To check for a microchip, take the cat to a veterinary clinic or an animal shelter, where the staff will have a scanner to read a microchip. If you are unable to locate the owner, you can relinquish the cat to the shelter; some veterinary clinics will also take in animals in distress.

Purchase wet food, and potentially a prescription diet, if you choose to care for the cat instead of surrendering it to pet care professionals. A feline dietary supplement can also help a cat recover from being malnourished.

Maintain a calm and quiet environment to reduce stress for the cat. Present the cat with limited quantities of canned food, depending on the severity of the malnutrition, to prevent the cat from eating too fast and making itself sick. Offer small, frequent feedings to help the cat gain weight in a healthy manner. If the cat will not eat on its own, try using a food supplement, such as Nutri-Cal, which is a high-calorie gel that helps to stimulate appetite. If a cat still will not eat, try thinning the wet food with water and using a syringe to force-feed the cat.

Consult with a veterinarian about any potential long-term health issues that the cat may experience due to the malnutrition. Depending on the severity of the starvation, and the length of time the cat was not being fed a proper diet, it could experience damage to organs such as the kidneys or heart.


When looking for the best food for a cat, look for food that is high in animal-based proteins. Make sure "filler" carbohydrates, such corn or wheat, are not high on the ingredient list.


Cats that have been abused through malnourishment may have behavioural problems or trust issues with people. Use caution when approaching an animal that has been mistreated.

Things You'll Need

  • Canned/wet cat food
  • Feline dietary supplement
  • Syringe
  • Blankets
  • Kennel
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