It is never a good sign when your cat stops eating their regular meals and it can be especially dangerous for cats. Humans can typically handle a temporary loss in appetite, but a cat’s physiology is far more delicate in comparison.
It’s normal for our furry friends to be picky about their everyday food, particularly if you have recently made a few changes to their diet. But, if they miss more than a couple meals in a row, it can quickly become a cause for concern. Consequently, this post looks at some of the reasons why your cat may not be eating and provides some tips and guidance for if/when this situation occurs.
It is important to remember – an unexplained loss of appetite is often a sign of unseen problems. Your cat refusing to eat can be a symptom of some underlying disease or illness, and only a veterinarian will be able to help you discover and resolve what’s wrong.
The fact that your cat may not eating is clearly a serious issue, but remember that cats are able to survive for several days and up to as many as four or five, without food. We have a whole post about this if you want to learn a little more. The risk of irreversible damage comes when your cat’s body starts reacting to starvation.
If your cat goes too long without eating, several health factors can come into play.
Hepatic lipidosis (HL), or yellow fatty liver disease, is the most common liver disease among felines and occurs when a cat goes hungry. Their body responds by sending fat to their liver for processing, leaving cats without the proteins to break down the fat.
As a result, the fat builds up in their liver over time, which can lead to serious health issues or even death later on.
There are two types of HL. The first occurs when a cat stops eating, seemingly for no reason at all. This is caused by stress, usually stemming from a change in their diet or surrounding environment. The second can be a result of a pre-existing condition cat condition, such as gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, or other illnesses.
In short, being sick can cause your cat to stop eating, which then may lead to HL. Obese cats are even more at risk for HL, as well. So, it is important to make sure that your cat is eating the best cat food for weight loss, if they are a little on the plump side.
Cats that have stopped eating can also become anemic, which occurs when they stop receiving the folic acid that they would normally absorb through their food. If this is a concern, ask your vet to carry out a quick blood test.
Both HL and anemia are treatable through veterinarian care if caught early enough, but often they are symptoms, not the causes, of other severe problems.
Simple Reasons For Your Cat Not Eating
OK, this is helpful but why is my cat not eating in the first place? There are a number of reasons why.
As mentioned above, cats are picky eaters and are known to go on ‘hunger strikes’ if they become unsatisfied with their food or changes in their diet. Some cat owners recommend leaving your cat no other option but to eat the food that you’ve given them. This is cruel and can lead to further hunger strikes and other negative consequences.
Some common reasons why your cat may not be eating, include:
- Boredom with food type or brand.
- Food is stale or old.
- Problems with the food dish.
- Food has become too cold to eat.
- Cat has found another food source (outdoor cats only).
- New brand of food – getting used to it!
More Serious Problems If Your Cat Stops Eating
If your cat goes more than a day without eating, you should visit a veterinarian to find out what’s up. They will be able to diagnose any disease or condition that your cat may have that is preventing them from eating their yummy grub. They can also prescribe the necessary treatment to help your cat recover, if needs be.
Some of these health conditions may include, but don’t panic until you have seen the vet.
- Dental disease.
- Broken tooth, abscess, or inflamed gums.
- Kidney disease.
- Gastrointestinal disease.
- Urinary or digestive obstruction.
- Upper respiratory infection.
Can Not Eating? Other Potential Causes
Sometimes, cats simply refuse to eat because there have been changes to their environment, which they are not too happy about! Once any serious or lasting conditions are ruled out, think about recent events that may have disrupted your cat’s eating preferences.
Cats may change their eating habits for a number of other reasons, such as:
- Motion sickness from recent traveling.
- Anxiety or depression – yes, cats get depressed as well!
- Changes in schedule.
- Changes in surroundings.
- Recent vaccination.
Can Not Eating? What Can I Do?
One of the main problems with a sick or unwell cat refusing to eat their food is that it can lead to a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy (an unbreakable cycle). Your cat won’t eat because they do not feel well, but not eating will cause your cat to become weaker and feel even worse.
The first thing to determine is whether your cat simply doesn’t like the food that you’ve provided. Just like humans, cats can sometimes grow tired of eating the same thing each day. Try different brands of food, alternate between wet/raw or use a blend of both.
You can use strong-smelling foods with flavors like tuna or chicken to help increase your cat’s interest. Many experts recommend rotating your cat’s brand of food a few times a year to reduce their pickiness and help them develop immunity to food allergies and avoid intestinal problems.
Cats are also very particular about their surroundings, and variation to their routine – such as moving, introducing a new household member, or bringing another pet into the home – can stress them out to the point of not eating. Even small changes like the smells and sounds of your home can make a big difference to your cat.
Here are some ways you can calm your cat down and make them comfortable again:
- Play with them 10 to 15 minutes twice a day.
- Keep fun cat activities around your home.
- Maintain a routine.
- Always let your cat come to you.
- Only pick your cat up if they’re comfortable with it.
If you cat continues to turn down food, even after making them as comfortable as possible, then it’s probably worth a visit to the vet to see if something more serious is going on. Your veterinarian can tell you if your cat has an illness that is causing them to refuse food.
There may be a long checklist of possibilities causes, but if your cat goes more than 24 hours without eating, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. Any delay can cause serious problems for your feline friend.
Is your cat not eating? Leave any questions below.