It can be very concerning to pet owners if their cats won't eat. It can be difficult to tell if they're being picky or if they are in need of emergency care. Our Ankeny vets share some common reasons why cats stop eating, and how to tell if it's time to rush them to the emergency veterinary clinic.
Why won't my cat eat?
Cats are known for their picky eating habits! Many a cat owner has found themselves scanning pet food shelves for new, interesting flavors of canned food and kibble their furry friends will love.
That said, if your cat refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, an underlying health issue may be the culprit.
Kidney disease is common in older cats and may cause your feline friend to feel nauseated, which could lead to a refusal to eat. 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 older cat (over 7 years of age) has stopped eating or is exhibiting other symptoms of kidney disease, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
Dental issues in pets often lead to severe mouth pain, resulting in a refusal to eat. An injury your cat's mouth caused by a foreign object, dental abscess, inflamed gums, advanced tooth decay or loose or broken teeth can all cause significant pain.
If you suspect your cat is suffering from pain in his mouth, take them in to your 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.
As with people, gastrointestinal (GI) problems can cause cats to feel nauseated and consequently, experience a drop in 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:
- Urinary obstruction
- Changes in your cat’s intestinal bacteria
- Foreign object, such as a piece of plastic or plant, in your cat’s digestive tract
It’s time to see your vet if you notice that your cat is experiencing weight loss, diarrhea, constipation or vomiting in addition to losing her appetite.
Gastrointestinal issues, including the ones listed above, are serious and may warrant emergency care. Getting a diagnosis and early treatment for these GI issues is important for your cat’s 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
- 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 to eat for any longer, 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.
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.