As a cat parent, it can be stressful when your animal won’t eat. This is particularly true for cat owners, as cats notoriously won’t show that something is wrong until it’s really wrong. 

There can be a number of reasons a cat won’t eat, ranging from tooth pain to gastrointestinal problems, to something as simple as them not liking the food. Typically, a cat will be alright if it doesn’t eat for up to 36 hours, but anything more than that and it may be necessary to take your feline friend to the vet for a checkup. Our Vancouver vets explain why your cat may not be eating, what to do about it, and when to worry.

Less Concerning Reasons Why Your Cat May Not be Eating

A cat could be avoiding its food for simple reasons, such as it’s a new food and they aren’t used to it or don’t like it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’ve been feeding your cat the same food for a long time, it's possible your pet has grown bored of it.

Cats are notoriously picky eaters and will drop their favorite foods without a moment of notice. Try different flavors of foods. 

A cat could also be experiencing a loss of appetite due to recent vaccinations, motion sickness from traveling, or a change in its regular routine. Changes in the environment or even the bowl can also contribute to a cat's refusal to eat. Some cats will even refuse to eat when there is a stranger in the home.Cats can be finicky creatures who don’t like change, and even the seemingly smallest change can cause anxiety or stress in a cat. 

Another deterrent is if the cat's food has been used to cover a pill or other medication. If they can smell the medicine in the food, they will become mistrustful.

More Serious Reasons Your Cat May Not Be Eating

There are some more serious reasons your cat may not be eating. A fairly common one is tooth pain. If your cat is experiencing any kind of oral discomfort, it’s not going to want to eat. It’s the same for humans, when your teeth hurt, you don’t want to use them to chew. If you suspect your pet is having dental problems, it's best to book them in with their vet for a dental exam.

Common gastrointestinal (GI) problems in cats include parasites, foreign objects trapped in the intestinal tract, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, urinary obstruction, colitis, cancer or changes in gut intestinal bacteria. GI issues can cause cats to feel nauseous and experience a lack of appetite. If your cat is suffering from a gastrointestinal issue, they may show other symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea.

Unfortunately, kidney disease is also very common with cats, especially as they age. If your cat is suffering from kidney disease, you may notice other symptoms such as drinking large amounts of water and frequent urination.

Infectious diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and toxoplasmosis can also cause a cat to lose their appetite. Like humans, if the cat is feeling sick, they probably won't want to eat.

How can I tell if my cat has stopped eating?

It is generally recommended to feed your cat on a fixed schedule, rather than constantly having a bowl ready and available to them. Think about wild cats: they are obligate carnivores who have to catch and kill their prey twice a day for meals. Feeding your cat on a fixed schedule twice a day mimics this behaviour, and it will also help you keep an eye on the food bowl and notice if they have stopped eating. Try balancing out your cat’s dry food with wet food now and then to make sure they stay hydrated. 

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.

Has your cat has stopped eating? Contact our vets in Vancouver to schedule an exam. Our team can to diagnose and treat health conditions in cats.