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Cat won't eat? Here's what to do.

You're bound to be worried if your cat is not eating. Is it time to rush your kitty to the emergency vet or should you wait until your vet is available? Today, our Mooresville vets share common reasons why cats stop eating, and ways to tell if it’s an emergency situation.

Finicky or Sick?

Cats are known for their picky eating habits! Countless cat owners have found themselves scratching their heads and scanning pet food shelves for new, interesting flavors their fussy cats might actually like.

That said, if your kitty refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, an underlying health issue may be the problem.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is common in older cats and may cause your kitty to feel nauseated, which could lead to a refusal to eat. Other symptoms of kidney disease 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

Severe mouth pain can be an issue for cats suffering from oral health issues and could be the cause of your feline friend's refusal to eat. An injury to 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.

Gastrointestinal (GI) Issues

Gastrointestinal issues or 'tummy trouble' 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:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Colitis
  • Cancer
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Parasites
  • Changes in your cat’s intestinal bacteria
  • A foreign object in your cat’s digestive tract (ie: a piece of plastic, plant, or string)

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.

GI problems in cats, 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
  • Depression/anxiety
  • 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.

When To See a Vet if Your Cat Won't Eat

If your feline friend 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.

Is your cat refusing to eat? Contact Lake Norman Animal Hospital in Mooresville to book an examination for your kitty. 

Bowl of dry food being held out to a cat that won't eat. | Mooresville Vet

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