Not eating. Loss of appetite. Steering clear of the food bowl.
It's the cardinal sign that something is wrong - in cats and humans alike.
It can be an extremely scary thing for you as a pet parent to notice: Your usually hungry cat hasn't eaten any kibble or wet food in days, and it’s becoming more obvious based on the empty state of her kitty litter box.
Your kitty may be displaying other signs of distress, or they may not. Either way, you're confused, worried, and scared given its reduced appetite.
If you are wondering, "why would a cat stop eating?", here's what not eating appetite loss could indicate, other symptoms to watch for, and what to do for your feline friend.
The first thing to realize when you notice something -anything - is wrong with your fur baby is that cats and all animals can feel under the weather just like us. A lack of appetite may be caused by something small, like a headache or a queasy stomach, so it's important not to jump to worst-case-scenario conclusions and associate a shift in eating habits to disease. In the case of a queasy stomach, make sure to check out these litter box cleaning hacks to keep your cat’s waste area in tip top shape.
Stay positive and be there for your little one. Cats are extremely perceptive creatures and, like you've probably noticed if you've been a cat parent for a while, they can pick up on your mood. Remain calm, positive, and nurturing to keep your cat's stress as low as possible while you work together to figure out what's up.
Like green-, blue-, or red-colored PrettyLitter, your cat's appetite loss is a clear sign that something may be wrong. Unfortunately, it could be any number of things.
For example, if your cat recently got her vaccinations, she may simply be feeling a bit woozy while her body works through the treatment. Typically, the change in a cat’s appetite from vaccinations is temporary and resolves itself pretty quickly.
On the other hand, the problem could be more serious. Dental problems are known to cause cats to avoid the food bowl. If you notice that your cat is struggling to eat food, is only chewing on one side of her mouth, is drinking far more or far less water than usual, or seems to avoid doing anything with her mouth, she may have a dental problem and need to see the veterinarian.
Another common cause of changes in appetite in cats is stress. Have you moved recently? Added a new member to the family? Changed your routine? Purchased a new food for your cat? If so, your cat may simply be stressing about it. Luckily, there are ways to help your cat unwind.
If you’ve ruled out all of these options, your cat could be suffering from a serious medical condition. There are several feline illnesses that could cause your cat to stop eating, such as:
Pay attention to any other signs of feline illness, such as:
- Prolonged seclusion
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Pale or inflamed gums
- Bad breath
If you notice any combination of symptoms, it’s time for a vet visit.
Oh kittens.... the fuzzy little awkward things that make our hearts skip a beat. During their first few weeks of life, kittens are fragile. They’re growing from tiny little puffs of adorableness into slightly larger kings and queens of the castle – and that takes a lot of energy.
If your kitten is not eating, it’s serious cause for concern. In their developing state, kittens are burning through crazy amounts of energy, which means they shouldn’t go more than 24 hours (often less!) without eating.
To get your kitten to eat, you may need to try force-feeding milk or kitten formula with a plastic syringe. As uncomfortable as this may be, this form of appetite stimulant is often what it takes to get kittens to realize that they need to start consuming nutrients on their own now that they're out of the womb.
Kittens rely heavily on their sense of smell in early age while their eyes are developing. Many cat parents and breeders have found that introducing a strong-smelling wet food to kittens is all it takes to get them to start nibbling.
Beyond Being A “Picky Eater”
Before you rush Fluffy off to the vet, consider all of the easy-to-fix options first. For example, some cats are simply picky eaters.
While some cats drool at the sound of a wet-food can being opened, others will turn their cute little noses up at the wet stuff and demand dry kibble. Some love fish-flavored food, while others will only eat the highest quality bits of bison.
Meanwhile, other cats have issues with the size of their food bowls. If your cat’s bowl is too small, for instance, it may touch her whiskers when she goes in for a bite, which can be irritating to some cats.
Still others refuse to eat unless they’re home alone, or their human is in the room, or it’s morning, or it’s nighttime. Cats are odd little beasts – which is why we love them – and part of your job as a pet parent is to figure out the puzzle of your cat’s eating habits.
Time to Call the Vet
Changes in eating patterns can indicate so many different things, which is why we recommend doing your due diligence to rule out all of the simplest causes before taking Kitty in for a potentially stressful visit to the vet.
However, you shouldn’t wait too long. Do your best to work quickly through the possible causes we mentioned above. Then, if it’s been a couple days without your cat resuming her normal nom nom nom, take her in to see the doc.
In particular, watch out for rapid weight loss. This is a sign that your cat needs to see the vet stat!
Fasting or not eating while ill is normal for animals. When cats don’t eat, their bodies turn to their stored fat for energy. This is perfectly fine and is exactly what fat stores are for. Ideally, your fur baby’s immune system will work through whatever bug has made her feel unwell and she’ll be back to normal in a day or two.
In severe cases, though, felines who go without eating cat food can deplete their stores of protein, which your cat's liver needs to break down stored fat into energy. With protein levels exhausted, your cat's liver can't process fat and your cat may experience hepatic lipidosis, which is a dangerous and potentially deadly condition.
Rapid or dramatic weight loss is a sure sign that your cat is approaching this danger zone and needs to see the veterinarian to assess whether its digestive tract is functioning properly.