When Your Cat Is Not Eating Or Drinking

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.

food1Why Not?

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)

Spoiled food
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.

Respiratory infection
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.

Dental Problems
Bleeding gums, painful tooth, a tooth that is broken. All reasons for your cat not to eat!

Litter box
Cats won’t eat from their food if the dish is places close to their litter box.

Recent vaccinations
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.


Hepatic Lipidosis

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.


Pictures by the-cat-guide.com & postcardgallery.wordpress.com.

27 Responses to “When Your Cat Is Not Eating Or Drinking”

    • Dianda

      Oh Jimmie. I wish!
      I want to be one so badly. :(
      But it means I have to start my study all over, and it costs a lot of money, and it means I won’t get money from the government anymore.

  1. alienredqueen

    It’s funny, we get the cats special, high protein food and last time, their formula wasn’t in, so I got the Senior kind in stead. Methos doesn’t like it I guess, so he’s getting thinner, and Chloe looks like she’s plumping up, because now Methos leaves her more food.

  2. Gobi Obi

    my little boy cat has a bad leg and went off his food when he had a cast put on it, he is getting used to it now and eating again.

  3. Tom Duhamel

    Definitely a good one, Dianda. Not eating is a serious symptom for a cat. Last time I had one, she ended up receiving a surgery for Pyometria. The time before, the cat died of kidney seizure soon after. Never take it lightly. A cat won’t stop eating for a simple flu.

    It’s fine to move a cat to a different diet (such as raw meat), but this must be done with care. While the basic trick is to leave the food there and hope that the cat will get hungry and willing to try, the single most important rule is to never let a cat starve for more than 24 hours (12 hours for obese cats and kittens under 1yo). Don’t try for days, if it doesn’t work give it back its regular food and try another method.

    • Dianda

      I remember when I introduced the kitties to raw meat, I just couldn’t let the raw meat just stand there, waiting for the kitties to get hungry. Suki liked it, Hiro didn’t. And along the weeks when wewere almost finished introducing, he started throwing it up. We decided to go back to dry meet again.

    • sandradalton

      My Rowdy had pyometra. The vet said it was very rare in cats.

      The only reason she wasn’t spayed, and therefore able to to develop pyometra, was because she had previously had idiopathic hepatic lipidosis and we concerned about the stress on her liver from the anesthesia.

  4. noushad

    My cat is not taking food since five days i take to the but no change please give me solution

    • Cats & Co

      I can not give you a solution, as I am not a vet. There can be so many reasons why he isn’t eating, and not eating for five days is A LOT. Please, bring your cat to the vet RIGHT AWAY, as he/she should take a good look and examine your cat and maybe even give him an infusion for food. Don’t look through the internet, but go to the vet with your cat this instant. If your vet can’t find anything, don’t give up, he should help you and your cat. If not, find a better vet.

  5. Pat

    Sometimes cats can cost thousand of dollars in Vet bills, so I learned the hard way …….that if your not willing to spend money when your cat is sick…you shouldn’t have a pet. I’ve had cats all my life and some never cost me anymore then there use routine shots and check-up. Now I have 2 cats, one 15 years old which I’m going to have to put down because he is having seizures around twice a month and have spend so much money without any answers. The Vet suggested an MRI and it cost more money then I had. After blood work and urine tests coming up negative and not telling me a thing, one way or another you get discouraged…I mean, how many doctors (Vets) does it take to screw in a light bulb…if you get my drift. I love my cats and certainly don’t mind paying to get my cats feeling better but to spend so much and get no results is another thing. Now my cat toby stopped eating and drinking water and I don’t know what to do…I’ve been giving him hairball medicine which hasn’t worked, thinking he had a hairball stuck that wouldn’t come up because the other day he was vomiting up juice clear liquid. almost as though he was trying to get something up….like a hairball. I’m going to wait 1 more day and if he isn’t better by then he is going to the Vet.. ..one more day of the hairball medicine and trying to force fluids with a syringe is all I can do right at this moment.

  6. sandradalton

    Thank you so much for sharing this. The importance cannot be stressed enough. My Rowdy has had idiopathic hepatic lipidosis twice. We have never figured out what caused her to lose her appetite, but not eating seems to be the cause of the liver problem, and either way, eating is the cure.

    Her episodes were nearly five years apart. The first time I was able to force feed her by syringe. The second time she developed food aversion and had to have a feeding tube.

    A year after her last episode I noticed very subtle signs of nausea and started closely watching her eating and saw that she was off her food again. We immediately started her on a regimen of anti-nausea meds and appetite stimulants, along with constantly offering and encouraging her to eat her favorite foods, and she pulled out of it without a major incident.

    Since she shares food with her roommates, it wasn’t immediately obvious that she wasn’t eating. In a multicat household you have to watch for signs besides how much food they go through.

    The very subtle sign of nausea with her was foot shaking. They all do it. Foot shaking is a sign of disgust or nausea in cats. It can also just be that they just came out of the litter box and have a bit of litter stuck their foot or feet. So, it’s a matter of timing and frequency.

    I happened to have noticed it the last time she was sick. Also, with her, shaking the back feet usually happens after using the litter box, but front feet usually means nausea.


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