Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
Does your cat greet you with meows and leg rubs every time you walk into the kitchen? Many cats learn to associate the kitchen with meal time and spend hours each day staring at their empty food bowls, waiting for their next meal. The kitchen is normally a happy place for your cat, but when things change and your cat won’t eat, it’s time for concern.
It’s important to constantly monitor your cat’s eating habits and make note of changes, especially if your cat won’t eat because she could be sending you a signal that something is wrong. In this blog, we’ll discuss the reasons a cat stops eating and discuss how to get a cat to eat again.
Loss of Appetite in Cats
There are many causes of loss of appetite in cats. Behavioral issues are frequent triggers, such as anxiety or depression caused by changes at home or a vacation that caused a change in routine. A recent change in food is also one of the many reasons a cat stops eating and may signal that you have a finicky eater! Some cats prefer dry kibble to wet food and vice versa. In order to get her to eat again, it’s helpful to offer a few food options in case your cat doesn’t just like her current food.
If you have ruled out the reasons above as to why your cat won’t eat, it’s time to consider illness as the cause. From toothaches, to infections, to serious illnesses like cancer or kidney disease, loss of appetite in cats cannot be ignored. If your cat goes from food obsessed to disinterested, it’s time to take a trip to the vet.
How Long Can Cats Go Without Food?
Even if your cat is drinking water and acting normal, loss of appetite in cats has varying degrees of seriousness depending on their weight, age, and health. Because every cat is unique, their body condition will determine how long cats can go without food.
Cats are carnivores and need protein in the form of meat to survive. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores, and can survive by eating meat, by eating a combination of meat and plants, or by only eating plant materials. When your cat won’t eat, their bodies use their fat reserves for energy. A cat’s liver processes the fat reserves to use it for fuel and if there is no protein coming in to your cat’s body, you cat can develop fatty liver disease (hepatic lipdosis). The risk for fatty liver disease is especially high in overweight cats and can lead to liver failure.
What to Do If Your Cat Stopped Eating
If your cat stopped eating, a trip to the vet is your first priority since the list of what could be wrong is a mile long. Your vet will run blood work and other diagnostic tests to determine why your cat stopped eating. Depending on how long ago your cat stopped eating, the vet may need to provide supportive care by giving fluids either under the skin or intravenously, or in extreme cases, place a feeding tube.
Determining how to get a cat to eat during this time can be tricky. A cat owner, you probably know of a few foods that your cat considers a special treat. Perhaps you give her tuna or liver on special occasions, like her birthday or on holidays. If your cat stopped eating, try giving her that special treat as an appetite stimulant to encourage eating. If you’ve tried that and your cat still won’t eat, try feeding her some baby food with meat.
It’s normal to worry when your cat won’t eat. If you cannot pinpoint a change in environment or household schedule or routine as the cause for why your cat won’t eat, it’s time to take a trip to the vet to rule out illness as the explanation. How long can cats go without food is not a question your vet wants to answer! It’s important to get to the vet as quickly as possible since cats are notorious for hiding their illnesses, and loss of appetite is one of the first signals that something is wrong.
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