Help! My Cat Won't Eat

It can be a stressful situation if your cat is not eating. Is it a temporary upset stomach or a veterinary emergency? Today, our Smokey Point vets share some common reasons why cats stop eating, and how to know if a trip to the emergency vet is necessary. 

Why won't my cat eat?

We all know cats can be picky creatures! If you've recently changed food brands or your cat has undergone a big environmental change, such as a move or new pet, it can disrupt your feline friend's appetite. If there's an obvious reason for your cat skipping a meal there most likely isn't anything seriously wrong. However, if it's been more than 24 hours since your cat has eaten or they are exhibiting any other symptoms besides lack of appetite, it's time for the emergency vet. 

Here are a few of the underlying illnesses or conditions that can cause cats to lose their appetites:

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is common in cats older than 7 and may cause your feline friend to feel nauseated and uninterested in food. Other symptoms include drinking lots of water and urinating frequently.

Two forms of kidney disease are common in cats. Only your vet will be able to diagnose and treat this serious disease. If your cat has stopped eating or is exhibiting other symptoms of kidney disease, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Dental Issues

If your cat is suffering from a dental issue it can lead to severe mouth pain, resulting in a refusal to eat. Dental abscesses, inflamed gums, advanced tooth decay, injury from a foreign object, or loose teeth can all cause significant pain.

If you notice any swelling, bleeding, or excessively bad breath coming from your cat you should take them to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet can perform a thorough examination and dental cleaning of your cat’s teeth and diagnose any issues that may be causing pain.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Similar to humans, gastrointestinal (GI) problems can cause cats to feel nauseated and lose their appetite. Cats suffering from GI issues will often (but not always) display other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and weight loss.

Common GI issues in cats include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Colitis
  • Cancer
  • Parasites
  • Changes in your cat’s intestinal bacteria
  • A foreign object, such as a piece of plastic or plant, in your cat’s digestive tract

If you notice weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting in addition to your cat losing their appetite it is time for a visit to the vet. 

Gastrointestinal issues, including the ones listed above, are serious and may warrant emergency care. Getting a diagnosis and treatment for any GI issues your cat might be experiencing is important for your cat's overall health and should be done as early as possible.

Other Possible Causes

Cats may refuse to eat for a number of reasons not directly related to their overall physical health, including:

  • New food
  • Depression/anxiety
  • A shift in normal routines
  • Recent vaccinations
  • Motion sickness due to travel

These issues should only cause your cat to skip two meals at most - no more. If your cat refuses food for more than two meals, it’s time for a visit to the vet.

If my cat refuses to eat, when should I visit a vet?

If your cat has skipped more than one or two meals or is exhibiting any behaviors or symptoms you’re concerned about, contact your vet right away, or visit your nearest emergency vet clinic. Call ahead if possible so the vet can prepare for your cat's arrival. 

Cats can quickly become seriously ill, making early diagnosis and treatment critical to your feline friend’s long-term health.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your cat refused food for over 24 hours? At Advanced Care Animal Clinic, we see emergency cases during our clinic hours. Contact us or bring your cat to the nearest 24-hour pet emergency hospital right away.