A cat that doesn’t eat or drink is most of the times in pain or very sick. It’s always a bad sign, and it’s always a good idea to call your vet. It is a common symptom of sickness and one which can quickly become life threatening.
When your cat isn’t eating, or eating very little, it can have various reasons, they range from issues like food poisoning, stress, intestinal bugs, through bigger ones: Kidney disease, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and bigger problems like cancer, diabetes complications and the end-stage of kidney disease.
Most of the time not eating goes in combination of other symptoms. For example food poisoning, inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal bugs usually go together with diarrhea or vomiting. Kidney disease might make your cat lethargic and the need to drink more. Liver disease may cause lethargy and vomiting.
Make sure you take your cat to the vet if you see your cat not eating or drinking. Your vet might take blood and urine tests and diagnostic imaging (X-rays or ultrasound) can usually get to the bottom of the problem.
More causes are:
There are a great number of sicknesses that can cause loss of appetite. (read this very informational article!)
Stress and/or depression
This might happen to cats that are in a cattery, or there is a change in the environment.
Change in Diet
Food your cat doesn’t like, with raw meat, you haven’t introduced the raw food to your cat properly, or too fast. (Changing to a raw meat diet)
Wet food can quickly go off in the warmer months. So it’s important to keep an eye out. Not let the wet food out in the warm months longer than 30 minutes. Then remove it and throw it away or change to dry food if you don’t trust it.
Food preference/addiction to a particular type of food
You might have a finicky cat here! If you have fed your cat the same time for a very, very long time. And you decide to change food (brand), your cat might refuse to eat that kind of food.
Incorrect bowel type
Whiskers can be a bit annoying when the cat is eating. Because if the bowl is too narrow they will touch the sides of the bowl. Your cat might not like this. It’s the best if you provide abowl that a wide food and water bowl, and one that doesn’t have high edges.
The ability to smell is a trigger for your cat to eat. If your cat sneezes, suffers from watery eyes and sounds congested. He probably won’t be very enthusiastic about dinner.
A cat that licks its lip often when approaching a dish filled food and ten backs away. It;s most likely not feeling well and nausea. It might be that your cat has eaten something that upsets the stomach, or it might suffer from liver disease or other illnesses. It’s hard to tell, and that’s why it’s important to see the vet.
Pain or Trauma
Wounds or injury? The resulting pain or underlying infection could understandably decrease your cat’s hunger.
Ingestion of foreign objects or poison
Plants, string, ribbon a piece from a toy. It can all become obstructions, possibly poisoning your cat, or block the stomach.
Older cats are more at risk due to kidney problems, bowel disorders, heart disease and cancer. Older cats might also suffer from arthritis, limiting their ability to bend over into the food bowl.
Bleeding gums, painful tooth, a tooth that is broken. All reasons for your cat not to eat!
Cats won’t eat from their food if the dish is places close to their litter box.
Did your cat stopped eating shortly after you took him to the vet for routine vaccinations? If so, the reason your cat isn’t eating, and doesn’t want to eat may be an adverse effect from the shots. although vaccinations have been lifesavers for millions of animals, they do cause side effects in some animals.
When your cat has stopped eating the body begins to use fat stores as fuel. These fat stores are sent to the liver where they are broken down to supply nutrients. This means that the liver sometimes becomes overwhelmed and is unable to process this fat as quickly as needed. This leads to a build up of fat in the liver, which interrupts the liver function. This condition is known as hepatic lipidosis.
Be aware that cats with poor appetites often also do not consume enough water. The risk of dehydration is yet another reason to get to the vet quickly when a cat stops eating.
Any change in normal behaviour in your cat should be investigated by a veterinarian, that includes sleeping habits, loss of interest in activities such as grooming, playing etc., changes in behaviour, no longer grooming and change in eating habits. All of these can show an underlying problem.
When cats don’t eat for 48 hours or more, some of their organs might shut down. So it’s always important to go see your vet.