Dec 03, 2020 May 13, 2021

If your cat isn’t eating, there’s a problem. It’s a natural function of your cat’s body, and if the problem isn’t addressed and resolved, it can become a bigger issue. Some small changes can influence your kitten to stop eating for a short period of time, and they’re easily resolved. However, loss of appetite over a considerable amount of time can be linked to more serious problems you’ll want to get addressed immediately. 

When you’re worried about your cat not eating, it’s natural to want to panic immediately. However, understanding all the possibilities and knowing when it’s an emergency will prepare you for the next action course. 

Know when it’s an emergency

First and foremost, it is recommended to see your vet if it has been over 24 hours since your cat has eaten. However, you should pay attention to other behaviors as well. For instance, if your cat isn’t drinking water either, more risk factors arise because dehydration becomes a threat. Cats can go longer without food if they have water, but their survival rate is shortened significantly without both. It’s safer to follow the 24-hour rule and contact your vet so they can find and fix any issues right away. 

Have there been any recent changes?

If it hasn’t been a significant amount of time, your cat’s eating problems could be less severe and more easily resolved than you may think.

First, consider whether you have made any significant changes to your cat’s daily routine. For instance, have you changed cat food recently? Cats are very routine-oriented creatures, so what may seem like a small change to you (like switching brands) can be frustrating for them. Not to mention, the new brand may be gross compared to what you were providing previously. Before you skip ahead to freaking out, try offering your cat a bowl of food you know they like to cross off any stubborn behavior.

A common problem associated with cats not eating is a change in their environment. Much like a change in diet, cats aren’t easily adjusted to new surroundings. They’re more open to change as long as it’s not so unexpected. Otherwise, your cat will be vulnerable to getting stressed and exhibiting symptoms like loss of appetite, over-grooming, or changes in bathroom habits. Experts suggest planning to allow time for your cat to adjust, start small and consider not making many changes all at once, and keep an eye out for signs of stress so you can take a few steps back when necessary to avoid overwhelming your kitty.

Another recent change to consider is any vaccinations your cat may have gotten recently. It’s safe and recommended to routinely vaccinate your cat because, contrary to how the saying goes, cats don’t actually have nine lives to bounce back from any harmful diseases that may come their way. However, some cats are susceptible to some side effects of vaccines, like not eating. Experts say side effects are generally mild and temporary, so if the problem is persisting longer than 24 hours, you should contact your vet. There’s not much you can do to resolve vaccine side effects quickly, but if that’s the problem, it won’t last long enough to hurt your kitten.

What you need to know about hepatic lipidosis

There are many symptoms associated with hepatic lipidosis because it attacks your cat’s liver, which functions in a variety of important ways. Some symptoms, aside from not eating, include being overly tired and weak, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Hepatic lipidosis is a serious condition that you need to bring to your vet’s attention as soon as you notice any notable signs.

Sharon Center, DVM, a professor of medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, explains that “they will avoid their food bowl—won’t even go near it—as if they’re scared of it,” she notes. “In fact, when they see it, they might move away quickly and just sit there salivating. Also, they may become jaundiced—there’s a yellowish tinge to the skin in their ears and to their gums.”

If you notice these sharp reactions in your cat, bring up your concerns to your vet, and don’t wait to get them to the doctor.

Does my cat have gastrointestinal problems?

Gastrointestinal problems are focused in the area of your cat’s stomach. If your cat isn’t eating because of gastrointestinal difficulties, you’ll notice that they are also more sensitive in that area when you pick them up or handle them around the abdomen. Additional symptoms may be vomiting and diarrhea. 

Some causes for gastrointestinal problems include:

  • Inflamed digestive tract
  • Eating contaminated or expired food
  • Food allergies
  • Parasites
  • Stress

Does my cat have dental disease?

The most common dental diseases among cats are periodontitis, gingivitis, and tooth resorption. The biggest difference you should know is gingivitis and tooth resorption can be reversed, whereas periodontitis can not.  When these conditions are left untreated, they can lead to a vast amount of pain in your cat’s gum and teeth area. While these diseases do not commonly lead to death directly (especially if treated promptly), infections can make your cat’s organs vulnerable to permanent damage.

Some signs to look out for if you think your cat has a dental disease:

  • Missing teeth
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite 
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating
  • Bad breath

Does my cat have kidney disease?

Kidney disease is most commonly seen in cats aged seven or older. If treated right away, it is a disease that can be treated and preserve your kitten’s life for a little longer. However, with many diseases and infections, you can miss the opportunity to treat the problem before it gets worse if you ignore vital signs. Some symptoms to be aware of aside from your cat not eating is poor hair quality, depression, weight loss, and bad breath.

Many cat families aren’t aware of the differences dry and wet food can have on their cats. In the case of their kidneys, wet food can be a more beneficial option. According to veterinary experts, “Cats eating dry food don’t drink enough water, and this increases the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and lower urinary tract diseases, such as feline interstitial cystitis (FIC) and urolithiasis.”

Dry food isn’t necessarily unsafe, but you should keep an eye on your cat’s water intake more often if they’re not eating wet food.

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