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My Cat Won't Eat: Is This an Emergency?

It's concerning for a cat owner to realize their companion isn't eating. Today, our Carlsbad vets share some reasons why your cat may not be eating, what you can do, and when you should see a vet.

Why Your Cat May Stop Eating

Cats are renowned for being picky eaters! Many cat owners find themselves scanning the pet food shelves for new and interesting flavors of kibble and canned food to coax their fur babies to eat more enthusiastically. That said, if your cat has refused to eat for more than 24 hours, there may be an underlying health issue.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Like people, cats can experience gastrointestinal (GI) issues that cause them to feel nauseous and experience a lack of appetite. Cats suffering from GI problems often, (but not always), show other symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.

Common GI problems in cats include:
  • Parasites
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Foreign objects in the digestive tract
  • Colitis 
  • Cancer
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Changes in your cat's intestinal bacteria

If your cat is losing weight, vomiting, experiencing diarrhea or constipation as well as refusing to eat, it's time to see your vet. Gastrointestinal problems such as those listed above are serious and may require emergency care. It's important for your cat's health that GI issues be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Dental Issues

There are a host of dental issues which may cause your cat mouth pain, leading to a refusal to eat. Your cat could be suffering mouth pain due to a dental abscess, injury to the mouth caused by a foreign object, inflamed gums, a loose or broken tooth, or advanced tooth decay.

If you suspect that your cat is experiencing mouth pain see your vet as soon as possible for an oral examination. Your vet can do a thorough cleaning of your cat's teeth and look for any dental issues that may be causing your cat pain.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is relatively common in older cats. As with GI problems, kidney disease often causes nausea which leads to cats refusing to eat. Other symptoms of kidney disease in cats include frequent urination and drinking a lot of water. There are two forms of kidney disease common in cats, only your vet can diagnose and treat this serious condition. If your cat has stopped eating, is over 7 years of age, or is displaying other symptoms of kidney disease, see your vet 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.

When to See the Vet

If your cat has refused more than one or two meals or is experiencing any symptoms or behaviors that you are concerned about, reach out to our Carlsbad emergency vets right away. Call us ahead if you can. Cats can become seriously ill quickly, so early diagnosis and treatment are key to 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.

Is your cat refusing to eat? Contact our Carlsbad vets to have your kitty examined and cared for.

New Patients Welcome

Carlsbad Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinary team would love to get to know you and your pet. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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