What Does It Mean When My Cat Stops Eating?

Cat no Eating

Not eating.

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 cat parent to notice: Your usually ravenous fur baby hasn't eaten any kibble in days.

They may be displaying other signs of distress, or they may not. Either way, you’re confused, worried, and scared.

Here's what not eating could indicate, other symptoms to watch for, and what to do for your feline friend.

Loss of Appetite

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.

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.

Adults

adult cat not eating

Like green-, blue-, or red-colored PrettyLitter, your cat’s loss of appetite 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, loss of 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 vet.

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:

  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Intestinal problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Pancreatitis

Pay attention to any other signs of feline illness, such as:

  • Prolonged seclusion
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Pale gums
  • Coughing
  • Bad breath

If you notice any combination of symptoms, it’s time for a vet visit.

Kittens

Kitten with food

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, it’s 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.

If you still can’t get your wee one to eat, you should take her in to see the vet straight away.

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 cat parent is to figure out the puzzle of your cat’s eating habits.

Time to Call the Vet

Cat at 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, cats who go without eating 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.

Has your cat struggled with appetite in the past? Currently? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. We’ll do our best to help.




Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



7 Responses

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

October 12, 2018

@Katie – Oh dear…. I’m so sorry to hear about your poor kitty, Katie. It sounds like she has several health problems that are making things difficult for both you and her. Of course, I’m not a vet and I can’t give your little one medical advice. Keep your vet posted, let him/her know about the change in litter color, and follow your vet’s instructions; and cherish every moment you have with her. It sounds like you’re taking wonderful care of your fur baby and sometimes that’s all we can do as pet parents – try to give them the best life possible.

@Mary – I know exactly what you’re talking about (unfortunately, haha!). My cat, Hunter, does the same thing from time to time. Cats spend all day licking themselves, their environment, and who knows what else. It’s understandable then that they may have some tummy upset from time to time. If you and your vet have ruled out any medical conditions, I recommend following your vet’s instructions and keeping an eye out for any changes in your kitty’s behavior. :)

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

October 12, 2018

@Jean – Oh kitties…. they do love to make messes, don’t they? Sometimes cats will accidentally kick their litter out of their box while they’re trying to cover up feces. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent this behavior as it seems ingrained in their DNA. However, you could get a litter mat to put outside your cat’s litter box to collect the kicked litter. Then, whenever you go to clean out the litter box, just dump the spilled litter back into the box.

@Aggie – What picky eaters you have! Poor dears. It sounds like they were doing well on their old cat food. Have you thought about switching them back to that variety?

Mary J. Tunno
Mary J. Tunno

October 12, 2018

I just took my cat to the Vet recently. She is between 12 & 13 years old and she occasionally throws up. My Vet checked her & she checked out okay. He said his cat was throwing up as well & is around the same age or maybe 15.I showed him a photo of one of the recent times she threw up. He said it looked like bile. He said to buy some Pepsid SC & cut the pill up in quarters. He said to smash one quarter of it up & sprinkle it on her food each day. I have been doing that & so far so good. She seems healthy in every other way. Do you have anything you could add to this or do you have additional suggestions? Thank You! Mary

Aggie
Aggie

October 12, 2018

My two cats, 11 and 12 years were doing great until I decided they needed wet food added to their diet. I also thought I was doing them good by getting the holistic natural (very expensive) food. Now they refuse to eat anything but wet food.How can I get them back on track ?hey don’t like the holistic food at all.

Katie Kapres
Katie Kapres

October 12, 2018

My oldest cat has cancer. It’s in her right cheek bone. Not operational. She stays in one spot all day & night & gets disoriented often, additionally when eating she seems to lose control of her head at times. I just had her to the vet recently & she is on new meds, one pill every other day. She just developed diarrhea & goes outside the litter box which I believe is a sign of illness. Am I right & what should I do? Is there anything I can give her to help? Please respond ASAP, I am very worried as Tokyo has cancer & is 14 yrs old & she does not have eyes which doesn’t help her disorientation. Thank you. PS I love your kitty litter & her urine is bluish-green. Not good.

Jean OShea
Jean OShea

October 12, 2018

Recently started adult male cat to use your litter. I think it is great – no odor and easy to scoop up and keep box clean, however, he seems to have a problem – he throws litter out of the box? For me of course this is a nuisance and extra cleanup. What’s up?

Carole block
Carole block

October 12, 2018

my cat Isabella seems to not want to eat. I feed her by hand and then when she likes the taste she will eat sometimes. she does not seem to like her usual foods which is anything with fish. thanks, Carole…

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