There is no denying that cats can be finicky, and it isn’t uncommon for them to turn up their noses at even the most upscale cat foods.
Though some cats are just tricky by nature (to say the least), sometimes if a cat stops eating, it is due to another health problem.
Your cat can’t tell you when something is wrong. So it is up to you to notice when something isn’t quite right.
Here are five reasons why your cat won’t eat and what you can do about it.
Why is my cat not eating?
If your cat suddenly stops eating, pay attention, as it could be a critical indicator that something is wrong. The problem could include infections, kidney failure, pancreatitis, intestinal problems or cancer.
But it isn’t always serious; it could also merely be a simple toothache.
2. Dental problems
On average, the majority of cats will have some stage of dental disease when they reach three years old. While it may be common, the long-term effects can be quite serious.
If it goes untreated, dental problems can produce infection, discomfort and loss of teeth, all of which will affect your cat’s ability or inclination to eat.
If your cat seems otherwise healthy, one of the first things to check is his or her teeth.
3. Change in routine
Cats are undoubtedly creatures of habit and any significant change to their routine can cause stress. So, they often experience a loss of appetite when they have a change in routine.
If you are wondering why your cat has suddenly stopped eating, consider whether anything has been different recently (such as a change in living space, or the addition of a new person or pet).
This also means that they often lose their appetite when you board them or leave them with a friend while you are on vacation.
4. Recent vaccination
If your cat’s loss of appetite commenced quickly after your pet had a routine vaccination, then you may have found the reason!
While vaccines are lifesavers for millions of animals, some do experience side effects, such as a loss of appetite and a possible fever. However, luckily, it is customarily mild and temporary. So don’t worry about taking your cat to a pet vaccination clinic.
Just like you, most cats want a variation in their diet. If their meals aren’t changed occasionally, they very well may get bored of the food and stop eating.
One way to manage their boredom is through rotational feeding. This can be accomplished by using some pet food brands that offer products designed to be fed in a rotation, ensuring balanced nutrition with variety.
What can I do about it?
If you have noticed your cat hasn’t eaten for more than two days, then he or she is at high risk of damaging his or her internal organs permanently. For this reason, it is crucial that you take your cat to the veterinarian immediately to ensure there isn’t a medical cause.
Once you have ruled out any medical causes, you will have to try some other approaches at home to encourage your cat to eat.
1. Fill the bowl up with a different brand or formula
Even if you personally are committed to a specific cat food brand, you may need to try other flavors. Cats get bored with consuming the same flavor, or perhaps a particular ingredient in the food doesn’t agree with them.
That being said, if you do choose to change your cat’s food and diet, ensure you are doing the transition slowly enough (over the course of a week or so) to reduce any potential digestive upset.
2. Add something delicious to the meal
If you think boredom may be the root of the issue, then try incorporating some wet food or a meal topper to make it more exciting.
That may mean drizzling some chicken broth over your cat’s wet food, which will not only make it easier for him or her to eat, but will also add some flavor and an enticing aroma.
Additionally, you could sprinkle grated cheese or small meat chunks. You can also purchase special food additives from an online pet food shop to ensure your cat will look forward to his or her meal.
If you do decide to add something delicious to your cat’s meal, just be sure to decrease the amount of kibble, so you don’t overfeed your cat.
3. Warm it up a little
If you usually feed your cat wet food and keep the food in the refrigerator, there is a good chance your cat will not like the cold.
In this scenario, by merely warming it up for five to 10 seconds in the microwave (bringing it to body temperature), the smell will quickly become charming to your cat. If you don’t have a microwave, try combining some warm water into the food instead.
4. Change the feeding dish
Just like with most things in their lives, cats can be very selective about their food bowls.
This is particularly relevant if your cat consumes canned or raw food as germs can start maturing in the pieces of leftover food and generate illness.
Besides, cats are inherently driven to avoid eating putrid-smelling meat. For this reason, if you are utilizing plastic dishes, consider substituting them with metal or ceramic bowls, as they are simpler to keep clean.
What is more, some cats don’t like deep or tight bowls, as they tend to constrict their whiskers.
5. Seek medical treatment
As soon as you notice something not quite right with your cat, it is time to seek medical treatment and take them to the local veterinary specialist. The earlier you take your cat to the vet, the sooner any issues can be treated.
In addition to treating the underlying reason for not eating, your vet can also prescribe any necessary medications to incite your cat’s appetite.
If it is a severe case, your vet may propose syringe feeding a liquid diet or using a feeding tube to guarantee your cat is receiving enough of the needed nutrients for optimal health; however, these measures are only recommended in combination with addressing the root medical causes.
Whatever the issue, your veterinarian will work with you to decide the most suitable medical treatment for your cat.
Compared to people and dogs, cats can show signs of being sick sooner after skipping their meals. Therefore, ascertaining the underlying cause for your cat‘s refusal to eat is one of the most valuable things you can do for your favorite friend.
A cat’s preference for ignoring food is medically meaningful and should be discussed with your veterinarian right away.
Dr. Max Spicer is the Managing Partner and Senior Veterinary Surgeon at The Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. He has taken strides towards providing comprehensive service by hiring veterinarians that are flexible, approachable, and highly specialised in their respective fields.