Cats can stop eating for a variety of different reasons, but one thing is always true: it’s stressful when your cat is not eating! In this article, I’m going to discuss the most common reasons cats refuse meals, steps to help jumpstart their appetite, and when not eating becomes an emergency.
Why did my cat stop eating?
Whether your cat has always been a picky eater, has never missed a meal in their life and is suddenly refusing all meals, or has a new condition causing them to avoid food, it’s important to first identify why your cat is not eating!
Here are the most common reasons we see cats stop eating:
- Kidney Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Foreign Body (something stuck in the intestines)
- Upper Respiratory Infections
For significant or prolonged inappetence, or when paired with other concerning symptoms (like vomiting or diarrhea), it’s important to check in with your veterinarian. They may recommend running a few diagnostics to rule out significant medical conditions and to discuss next steps to getting your cat eating quickly.
Here are a few ways you can promote better eating habits in your kitty:
- Create a stress-free environment. Our cats love, and thrive on, a good routine! If your cat is not eating, try to reduce any stress around mealtimes. Ensure you’re feeding your cat at roughly the same times every day. Try to avoid times with increased commotion, such as when people may be coming or going. Place food and water bowls away from noisy areas in the house (for example, avoid the laundry room!).
- Make it social. I have seen this tip alone break hunger strikes in many cats before! Some cats just prefer company during their mealtimes. If your cat is not eating, sit next to them, pet them, even offer them bites off a spoon if needed.
- Explore the bowls you’re using. It sounds crazy, but like us, our cats have preferences! For example, if your cat normally eats out of plastic bowls, try a ceramic or stainless steel option. Move to a plate and see how that works instead.
- Offer a buffet. Cats that stop eating often forget they are even hungry, and it can just take that one bite to remind them. Offering a buffet can up the value and increase the odds. Explore go-to brands that your cat has always liked, and also ones you’ve never tried. Try pate, gravy, stew, and freeze-dried options. When a cat is not eating I think it’s ok to offer a few kibbles too. Anything to get your kitty eating! Place one spoonful of each option on a small plate. Space each plate out by at least 1 foot so that one smell doesn’t overpower another.
- Warm the food. Warming your cat’s food will increase the smell, and may get them a little more interested. Just mix warm water into the food, or 5-7 seconds in the microwave will do! Use a finger to check the temperature and ensure it’s not too hot.
- CBD. For cats with frequent bouts of inappetence, CBD can be great. CBD increases appetite, decreases nausea, promotes well-being and decreases anxiety – all great things when it comes to meal time! For cats, we suggest the HempRx Feline Drops. Our dosing chart is here, but a good standard dose is 1 drop per 10 pounds, twice daily.
- Pharmaceutical intervention. For some cats, this may be necessary. This can include anything from an appetite stimulant, anti-nausea medication, or medication to treat the underlying/root-cause condition creating the issue. Seeing your veterinarian is a good idea if your cat is not eating and you cannot jumpstart their appetite.
When is not eating an emergency?
When a cat is not eating it can become an emergency. If your cat has not eaten anything in 72 hours, this is an emergency and you should seek medical care for your kitty as soon as possible. At the 3 day mark of not eating, cats can get Hepatic Lipidosis (AKA Fatty Liver Syndrome). This type of liver disease is triggered by prolonged anorexia and can be fatal if not treated. Your vet will provide in-hospital support to your kitty at this time, while encouraging good nutritional intake until their appetite returns to normal.
I hope that this helps you if your cat is not eating! Let me know in a comment below!
Meow and furever,