If your cat is not eating you're likely to be concerned and wondering if a trip to the emergency vet is required. Today, our La Mesa vets discuss some common reasons for cats refusing food and how to tell if your cat’s case is an emergency. 

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are sensitive (and picky) creatures! If you've recently switched to a new food or your cat has had a major environment change like a new pet or move, it may affect their appetite.

If there's an obvious reason for your cat skipping a meal there most likely isn't anything seriously wrong. That being said, if it's been more than 24 hours since your cat has eaten or had any water, or they are exhibiting any other symptoms besides lack of appetite, it's time for the emergency vet. 

Below are some of the underlying illnesses or conditions that may cause a cat to lose their appetite. 

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is common in older cats and may cause your feline friend to feel nauseated and not up to eating. 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 cat is over the age of 7, has stopped eating or is exhibiting other symptoms of kidney disease, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Dental Issues

Dental issues in pets can cause pain while eating and may lead to a refusal to eat. Dental issues can include an injury to your cat's mouth from a foreign object, dental abscesses, inflamed gums, advanced tooth decay, and loose teeth. 

If you notice any swelling, bleeding, or excessively bad breath coming from your cat's mouth you should take them to the 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 Problems

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:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Colitis
  • Cancer
  • Parasites
  • Changes in your cat’s intestinal bacteria
  • A 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 their 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
  • 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 has skipped more than two meals, 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 so the vet can prepare for your cat's arrival. 

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.

Has your cat been not eating or drinking for over 24 hours? At Rancho Village Veterinary Hospital, we offer emergency services during our regular clinic hours. Contact us or bring your cat to the nearest 24/7 pet hospital immediately.