My cat won't eat - is this an emergency?

You may be alarmed to find that your cat has suddenly stopped eating. It can be difficult to decide whether your four-legged companion needs to visit an emergency vet clinic. Our Greensboro vets share some common reasons why cats stop eating, and how to tell if it’s an emergency situation. 


Why would my cat stop eating?

Cats are known for their picky eating habits! Many a cat owner has found themselves scanning pet food shelves for new, interesting flavors of canned food and kibble their furry friends will love.

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

Kidney Disease

A relatively common condition in older cats, kidney disease may cause your fluffy friend to feel nauseated, which can lead to a refusal to eat. 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 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

A number of dental issues can cause your cat to experience pain in their mouth, resulting in a refusal to eat. An injury in their 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. After he’s examined, your vet can complete a thorough dental cleaning of your cat’s teeth and diagnose any issues that may be causing pain.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Just like their humans, 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
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Parasites
  • Chances in your cat’s intestinal bacteria
  • 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 her 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
  • 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.

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, come to our emergency vet office in Greensboro right away. Call ahead if possible.

Because cats can quickly become seriously ill, early diagnosis and treatment are 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.

If your cat won't eat and is experiencing concerning symptoms. contact our Greensboro vets right away.

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