Why Is My Cat Not Eating?

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Cats are known for being picky eaters, which is a problem for many cat owners. There are various causes for such behavior, from environmental factors to serious health problems. 

It is crucial to find the cause to determine the severity of the problem and to prescribe the appropriate treatment. 

If you have been wondering, “why is my cat not eating?” here are some possible reasons why: 

Environmental Issues

Problem One: Lack of Eating Routine 

Your cat’s lack of appetite can often be due to irregular mealtimes. Frequent changes in the type of food and eating time can be disruptive, causing your cat to turn down their meals. 

Problem Two: Too many treats 

Some cat owners tempt their cats to eat their meals using treats. However, this can backfire as it establishes the notion that your cat can get a reward for refusing their food. 

Problem Three: Audience (too many or lack thereof) 

This depends on your cat’s personality. Some cats dislike having an audience while eating, while others refuse to eat without eyes on them. 

If you own multiple cats, some of them might feel stressed about sharing a meal with other felines. Make sure they each have their bowls and space them adequately apart. 

Problem Four: Hygiene 

Some cats are fussy when it comes to their plates and bowls, causing them to refuse to eat whenever they see dirt in them. Make sure you clean their utensils thoroughly. 

cat eating a pebble

Food Issues

Problem One: Flavor 

Cats can be finicky when it comes to their food, some more so than the others. Some cats refuse to try to eat when they don’t like the food’s smell. Others can go on while eating the same type and brand. Make sure you learn your pet’s preferences to avoid this. 

Problem Two: Shape and Texture 

Some felines are sensitive as to their food’s shape and texture. Cat food comes in various variations: dry, wet, crunchy, in triangular or circular shapes, etc. You can experiment on them to see what type your cat prefers. 

Problem Three: Spoilage 

Cats may also refuse to eat simply because their food has already expired. Make sure you check the expiration date in their packages. You can also avoid the problem by buying the right amount of food. 

Problem Four: Aversion 

Some cats can also develop an aversion to food, resulting from a hospital stay or illness. As such, they might associate food with their unpleasant memories. 

Psychological Issues 

A cat’s loss of appetite may also be due to emotional or behavioral causes. Like all animals, cats are emotional creatures, and their eating patterns and behaviors may be affected by these emotions. 

For one, cats can get depressed whenever they lose a family member. This can cause them to stop eating. 

Stress and anxiety can also be factors. Here are some examples of stressful situations that might trigger your cat’s loss of appetite: 

  • Unfamiliar environment 
  • New family member 
  • Social conflict with other pets 
  • Loud noises 

Health Issues

A cat’s loss of appetite can also indicate an underlying illness. It’s vital to determine the cause to administer treatment immediately in these cases. Here are some of the reasons: 

Problem One: Respiratory Diseases 

Respiratory diseases usually affect your cat’s ability to smell and breathe, making them lose appetites. These diseases include tumors, nasal polyps, and the like. 

Problem Two: Digestive System Diseases 

Gastrointestinal issues also lead to a decrease or loss of appetite due to the pain. Issues include: 

  • Acid reflux 
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Imbalance of intestinal bacteria 
  • Irritable bowel disease 
  • Nausea 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Other similar problems 

Problem Three: Dental Diseases 

Cats can also suffer from tooth and gum problems, causing them to refuse their food. Dental issues, however, are challenging to diagnose in a cat. As such, your vet might need to sedate them. Luckily, there are some tell-tale signs: 

  • Bad breath 
  • Bleeding 
  • Drooling 

Here are some common dental issues in cats: 

  • Dental abscesses
  • Gingivitis  
  • Gum inflammations and lesions 
  • Tartar 
  • Teeth fractures 
  • Tumors 
  • Other similar problems 

Problem Four: Kidney Diseases 

Kidney diseases can also trigger a loss of appetite since it causes nausea. 

Problem Five: Congestive Heart Failure 

When your cat has congestive heart failure, they tend to suffer from fatigue and breathing problems. These conditions tend to trigger a loss of appetite in your cat. 

Moreover, medications and treatment for this disease can also cause a loss of appetite. New diets or pills can make the food less delicious for your cat, resulting in their refusal to eat. 

Problem Six: Foreign Objects 

Your cat’s loss of appetite can also be attributed to the ingestion of a foreign substance. Like all animals, cats also like to eat things that they shouldn’t as they can get stuck in their intestine or stomach. 

As such, the pain and discomfort might make them lose their appetite. Some of these objects can also get stuck in your cat’s digestive system, causing them to vomit or experience diarrhea. 

cat eating

How long can my cat go without eating? 

Cats can survive up to two weeks without eating, but they will only last three days without drinking. However, the longer they go without eating, the weaker their immune systems become. 

It’s essential to coax your cat to eat as soon as possible. Prolonged periods of not eating might result in hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome) as your cat’s body is frantically converting fat to energy. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal for your feline friend. 

How to get my cat to eat? 

If your cat is not eating, you can try to switch up their food. Experiment with different flavors, textures, shapes, and cat food brands. Many experts recommend changing their diet two to four times a year to prevent boredom and minimize the development of food allergies. 

However, remember to introduce these changes gradually to avoid shocking your pet. First, you will need to stick with their previous preference and then slowly introduce the new one over 7-10 days. Do it in a smaller portion at first and gradually increase it as time goes by. 

If you want, you can try making cat food from scratch. There are various recipes and how-to videos available on the internet to help you out. 

Moreover, make sure you stick to a set time for their meals. With this, your cat will know when to expect their food and allows them to stick to a routine. 

You can also try giving your cat vitamin B12, which is known to increase your cat’s appetite. You can get one in most pet shops or from your vet. 

When should I go to the vet? 

If your cat refuses to eat for more than 24 hours or is still eating less than usual, then it’s time to seek professional help. Not eating for so long can indicate that your cat suffers from medical issues that only a vet can diagnose. 

Moreover, prolonged loss of appetite may exacerbate the issue leading to more problems. 

Make sure you take your cat to the vet immediately if it is displaying the following symptoms: 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme weight loss  
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting 
  • Other serious signs 

What should I expect when I visit the vet? 

The vet will ask you about your cat’s medical record and the signs and symptoms it was exhibiting before you came over. The vet needs to determine what caused your cat’s loss of appetite to know the course of action and treatment to take. 

Once the questions are done, your vet would perform a clinical observation of your cat. They will subject your cat to some tests like blood tests, urine tests, ultrasound, or x-rays. 

What is the medical treatment for your cat’s loss of appetite? 

Medical treatments depend on the cause of your cat’s loss of appetite. 

If the reason is due to dental problems, the vet will recommend a tooth extraction. Otherwise, your vet will administer intravenous fluids to address dehydration. Often, they will also recommend antibiotics whenever there are infections. 

If your cat suffers from digestive problems, your vet may require them to take antiemetics and stomach protectants. 

If he has ingested foreign objects, your vet may recommend surgery to remove the obstruction. 

How to give your cat medicine? 

Your vet might prescribe medicine after your cat is discharged from the hospital. Giving your cat some medication can be a struggle, especially when it’s in tablet form. 

Ask your vet for alternative medications. You can also ask them to show you how to administer these pills effectively if you want. 

Try to avoid hiding the pills or tablets in your cat’s food as much as possible. This might cause them to reject their food even more. 

Conclusion

There are various answers to the question, “why is my cat not eating?”. It is essential that you immediately determine the cause. Otherwise, it might be too late. 

When your cat has suddenly lost its appetite, carefully observe its behavior and make sure to watch for the signs and symptoms to know when you need to seek help. 

References

  1. https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/my-cat-wont-eat/#:~:text=The%20list%20of%20potential%20causes,your%20cat%20refusing%20to%20eat.
  2. https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/my-cat-wont-eat#1
  3. https://www.preventivevet.com/cats/my-cat-wont-eat-how-to-stimulate-your-cats-appetite
  4. https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/cat-wont-eat-try-these-tricks#cat-not-eating
  5. https://www.banfield.com/pet-healthcare/additional-resources/article-library/conditions-illnesses/what-does-it-mean-when-your-cat-wont-eat
  6. https://www.hillcrestanimals.com/site/blog-memphis-vet/2019/11/26/10-reasons-why-your-cat-is-not-eating
  7. https://www.purina.co.uk/cats/health-and-nutrition/daily-feeding-guide/how-to-feed-a-fussy-cat
  8. https://www.thesprucepets.com/cat-is-not-eating-4579814
Rita Wagenerhttp://thepetkeepers.com
Rita is a resident paw expert at Pet Keepers. A registered & licensed dog trainer, she also has a degree in animal nutrition, and runs her own dog training course.

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