Why Is My Cat Refusing to Eat?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on January 24, 2019
Posted in Food & Recipes
Most cats are known for going crazy over their food. Sometimes, they act like they haven’t been fed in days and scarf their kibble or canned meals down in mere minutes. This is why it can be so alarming to wake up one day and discover that your cat is not the least bit interested in its food.
A decrease in or loss of appetite is actually one of the most common signs of illness or health problems in cats—most owners know that once their cats stop touching their food, something is wrong. But determining the health issue is another problem.
If your cat suddenly refuses to eat, there might be a few different things going on. Try to identify if any of these problems may be to blame, then visit your vet if your cat still seems uninterested in completing its meals.
Sometimes, cats just get finnicky about their food. Felines can be quite particular about their routines, litter boxes and meals, so your cat may decide one day that it’s no longer fond of what you are feeding it.
To help boost your cat’s appetite to encourage it to eat, you can try mixing its dry food with canned food or warming it up to help make it smell more appealing. You might also want to add some chicken broth or tuna juice to the food, which can entice even the most stubborn cats toward a bowl.
Another possibility is that you recently changed your cat’s food to something new and it’s not sure of it yet. Sudden changes in diet can be quite alarming for cats and cause them to boycott mealtime. If you’re giving your cat new food and it hasn’t eaten in 24 hours, try giving it the old food again or mixing the two together.
If you’ve ever endured a severely stressful period in your life, you know that stress can make just about anyone lose their appetite. Cats are the same way. If your cat has experienced significant changes in its life, it may be stressed to the point of not wanting to eat.
Given how fond of habit cats can be, major changes like moving to a new home or the adoption of a new pet can throw its routine off and cause stress or anxiety. Try to help your cat adapt to the new environment as much as possible and give it calming supplements to ease its nerves until it feels comfortable.
You should also examine the area in which your cat is being fed. If a lot of people are walking through, being loud or acting otherwise disruptive to your cat’s mealtime, your cat might be stressed and not want to eat. Try moving the feeding location to a quieter space in the home.
Serious health issues
Cat appetite problems may also stem from a more serious health issue that will need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian. A wide variety of ailments may cause your cat to lose its appetite.
Mouth problems are some of the most common causes of cats not eating. Sores or wounds, periodontal disease, tooth pain and tumors or cysts can make eating painful for your cat, so it will naturally avoid eating to prevent discomfort.
Bodily pain or illness in other parts of the body can cause a lack of appetite, too. Diabetes, kidney disease and pancreatitis are just a few common ailments your cat may be experiencing.
Finally, intestinal problems, such as obstructions, an upset stomach or constipation, can cause your cat to not want to eat because it leads to discomfort.
Loss of appetite must be taken seriously
Some cat owners think that once their cat gets hungry enough, it will eat on its own. However, this is not always the case.
It is extremely dangerous for cats to avoid eating. One of the major risks is hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver. This condition can occur after just a few days of your cat not eating. In it, fat overwhelms the liver and causes it to shut down.
If your cat is not eating for a period of 24-48 hours or more, take it to the vet as soon as possible. Once the underlying problem has been identified, your vet will prescribe the proper treatment options for it. Clearing up the underlying health issue should help restore your cat’s appetite and help it begin eating normally once again.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan