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My cat won't eat, is this an emergency?

It can be a stressful situation if your cat is refusing food. Is it a temporary upset stomach or a veterinary emergency? Here, our Newtown vets share some common reasons why cats stop eating, and how to tell if it’s an emergency situation.

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are sensitive creatures! If you've recently switched to a new food or introduced a major change to their environment (such as a new pet or a move) it may disrupt their appetites. If there's an obvious reason for your cat skipping a meal there most likely isn't anything seriously wrong. However, if it's been more than 24 hours since your cat has eaten or they are exhibiting any other symptoms besides lack of appetite, it's time for the emergency vet. 

Here are a few of the underlying illnesses or conditions that can cause cats to lose their appetites. 

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is common in older cats and may cause your feline friend to feel nauseated, which could lead to a refusal to eat. Other symptoms include drinking lots of water and urinating frequently.

Two forms of kidney disease are common in cats. Only your vet will be able to diagnose and treat this serious disease. If your older cat (over 7 years of age), has stopped eating or is exhibiting other symptoms of kidney disease, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Dental Issues

Dental issues in pets often lead to severe mouth pain, resulting in a refusal to eat. An injury to your cat's mouth caused by a foreign object, dental abscess, inflamed gums, advanced tooth decay, or loose teeth can all cause significant pain.

If you notice any swelling, bleeding, or excessively bad breath coming from your cat you should take them to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet can perform a thorough examination and dental cleaning of your cat’s teeth and diagnose any issues that may be causing pain.

Gastrointestinal Problems

As with people, gastrointestinal (GI) problems can cause cats to feel nauseated and consequently, experience a drop in their appetite. Cats suffering from GI issues will often (but not always) display other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and weight loss.

Common GI issues in cats include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Colitis
  • Cancer
  • Parasites
  • Changes in your cat’s intestinal bacteria
  • A foreign object, such as a piece of plastic or plant, in your cat’s digestive tract

It’s time to see your vet if you notice that your cat is experiencing weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting in addition to losing their appetite.

Gastrointestinal issues, including the ones listed above, are serious and may warrant emergency care. Getting a diagnosis and early treatment for these GI issues is important for your cat’s health and should be done as early as possible.

Other Possible Causes

Cats may refuse to eat for a number of reasons not directly related to their overall physical health, including:

  • New food
  • Depression/anxiety
  • A shift in normal routines
  • Recent vaccinations
  • Motion sickness due to travel

These issues should only cause your cat to skip two meals at most - no more. If your cat refuses to eat any longer, it’s time for a visit to the vet.

If my cat refuses to eat, when should I visit a vet?

If your cat has skipped more than one or two meals or is exhibiting any behaviors or symptoms you’re concerned about, contact your vet right away, or visit your nearest emergency vet clinic. Call ahead if possible so the vet can prepare for your cat's arrival. 

Cats can quickly become seriously ill, making early diagnosis and treatment critical to your feline friend’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.

Has your cat been refusing food for over 24 hours? At Newtown Veterinary Specialists, we offer 24/7 emergency services. Contact us or bring your cat in for treatment from our highly skilled emergency vets. 

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Newtown Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Newtown companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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