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My Cat Won't Eat

If your cat suddenly won't eat, it can be difficult to figure out why, and whether your feline friend needs to visit the emergency vet clinic. Our Fairfield, NJ vets share some of the most common reasons why cats are not eating, and how to judge whether their finicky behavior is stubbornness or an emergency.

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats have a reputation for being picky eaters! Many cat owners search the pet food aisles for new and interesting flavors of kibble and canned food to entice their feline companion to eat more enthusiastically. However, if your cat has not eaten for more than 24 hours, there may be an underlying health problem.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Cats, like humans, can suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems that cause them to feel nauseous and lose their appetite. Cats with GI problems frequently (but not always) exhibit other symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.

Common GI problems in cats include:
  • Parasites
  • A foreign object, such as string, your cat's digestive tract
  • Gastroenteritis 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Changes in your cat's intestinal bacteria
  • Colitis 
  • Cancer

If your cat is losing weight, vomiting, having diarrhea or constipation, or refusing to eat, it's time to see your veterinarian. Gastrointestinal issues such as those listed above are serious and may necessitate emergency treatment. It is critical for your cat's health that GI issues are identified and treated as soon as possible.

Dental Issues

There are a variety of dental issues that can cause your cat's mouth to hurt, resulting in a refusal to eat. Your cat may be experiencing mouth pain as a result of a dental abscess, a foreign object injury to the mouth, inflamed gums, a loose or broken tooth, or advanced tooth decay.

If you suspect your cat is suffering from mouth pain, take him or her to the vet as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment. Your veterinarian can clean your cat's teeth thoroughly and look for any dental issues that may be causing your cat pain.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is fairly common in senior cats. Kidney disease, like GI problems, frequently causes nausea, which leads to cats refusing to eat. Other signs of kidney disease in cats include frequent urination and excessive water consumption. There are two types of kidney disease in cats, and only your veterinarian can diagnose and treat this serious condition. If your cat has stopped eating, is over the age of 7, or is exhibiting other symptoms of kidney disease, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Other Possible Causes

Cats may refuse to eat for a range of reasons not directly related to their overall health, including:
  • Recently receiving vaccinations
  • Motion sickness due to travel
  • New food 
  • Change in regular routines
  • A new person in the house
  • Anxiety / Depression

Issues such as those listed above should only cause your cat to skip one or two meals, no more. If your cat refuses to eat for longer it's time to see a vet.

If my cat won't eat, when should I see a vet?

If your cat has refused more than one or two meals or is exhibiting any symptoms or behaviors that you are concerned about, please contact our Cordova emergency vet clinic right away. If possible, please call ahead of time. Cats can become seriously ill very quickly, so early detection and treatment are critical for your cat's long-term health.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat won't eat, contact our Fairfield, NJ veterinary hospital right away.

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All Creatures Great and Small Animal Hospital is now seeing new patients! Our Fairfield, NJ vets are trained to provide care for a wide range of companion animals including cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, rodents, and more. Contact our veterinary clinic today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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