Cats -- like anything else -- need to consume food in order to live. If your cat is not eating, it is a sign that something is wrong. Causes of appetite loss include illness, recent vaccination, change in environment, or just plain fussiness. Regardless of the reason that your cat is not eating, the physical consequences of inappetance can be serious.
Cats who don’t eat must rely on fat reserves for energy, and this fat must be processed by the liver before it can be used. If your cat does not have adequate protein to aid in this processing, fat can build up in the cells of the liver, resulting in a life-threatening disease known as hepatic lipidosis. Though many times this disease leads to liver failure, it can be reversed if caught early enough.
Read on to learn about the causes and treatments of appetite loss in cats.
Why a Cat Would Stop Eating
Illness - If your cat is not eating, it may be the result of an illness. Infections, pancreatitis, kidney failure, cancer, and intestinal problems can all cause a cat to stop eating. Less serious medical issues like a toothache can also be to blame. If you notice that your cat is suddenly refusing to eat, you should visit your veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions.
Vaccination - Vaccinations help to keep your cat healthy and free of disease, but they can also cause side effects, one of the most common being loss of appetite. This side effect is usually minor and temporary, but you should contact your veterinarian if you notice the problem persisting.
Change in Environment - Cats enjoy living a routine life, and any changes in that routine can result in appetite loss. Traveling to an unfamiliar location, moving to a new home, or even welcoming a baby or new pet into the family can be stress-inducing, and your cat may deal with that stress by refusing to eat. Some cats also experience motion sickness when travelling in a car or plane, and that nausea can affect your cat’s desire to eat.
Fussiness - Cats are finicky eaters, and they often take a long time to adjust to a new food. Cats have also been known to become bored with the food they’ve been eating. If you’ve recently changed your cat’s food -- or if you’ve never changed it -- this may be the reason that your cat is refusing to eat.
Treatment for Cats Who Aren’t Eating
Treatment for your cat’s refusal to eat will depend on the cause. If your cat is not eating because of an underlying medical condition, that condition must be treated, but your veterinarian may also design a feeding regimen to get your cat eating while they are unwell.
Changes in feeding schedule and food type can sometimes get a sick cat eating again, and many times a tasty canned food will do the trick. When treating more serious illnesses, your veterinarian may prescribe appetite stimulants, implant a feeding tube, or recommend that you feed your cat a liquid diet with a syringe.
If a medical condition is not the cause of your cat’s inappetance, here are three things you can try to restore your cat’s desire to eat.
1. If you’ve found that your cat is particularly enticed by certain food items -- such as canned fish or liver -- try mixing these in with your cat’s regular food. Only offer these special food items in small amounts, as too much could result in health problems caused by excessive vitamins. Fish oil, soup broth, and cooked eggs are other good options for mixing with your cat’s food. Eventually you should be able to transition to feeding only cat food.
2. You can also try heating up your cat’s food before serving it and/or removing food that has not been eaten. Providing a new bowl of food later in the day may encourage your cat to seize upon the food when it is fresh and available.
3. Rotating your cat’s diet among different foods several times a year can help to reduce fussiness, and it can also help prevent the development of food allergies or intestinal issues. When changing your cat’s food, always make the transition over several weeks by mixing the new food in with the old. If you switch foods too abruptly, your cat may refuse to eat.
More on Cat Food & Nutrition
Cat Nutrition for Male Cats
What To Feed a Cat: Female Cats
Nutrition For Feeding a Senior Cat
How To Make Your Own Cat Food
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.