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

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

It can be alarming to find that your cat is not eating. You may wonder whether your feline friend needs to see a vet for emergency care. Our Memphis vets share some common reasons cats may stop eating, and how to tell if your cat's case is an emergency. 

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are well-known for being fickle eaters - a fact that often frustrates many cat owners who find themselves eyeing new flavors of kitty food on pet store shelves, wondering if this or that will capture their cat's interest. 

That said, if your cat has gone more than 24 hours or more without eating, an underlying health issue may be to blame. 

Kidney Disease

This is a relatively common condition in older cats. Kidney disease can cause nausea, which may cause your cat to refuse to eat. Other symptoms include drinking an excessive amount of water or urinating frequently. 

Kidney disease can show up in cats in one of two forms. Your vet will be able to diagnose your pet and develop a treatment plan for this serious illness. If your senior cat (older than 7 years of age) is showing symptoms beyond a pause in eating, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. 

Gastrointestinal Problems

Just like humans, cats can suffer gastrointestinal (GI) problems that can cause them to feel nauseated and lose their appetite. Often, though not always, cats suffering from GI issues will display other symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.

Common GI issues in cats include:

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

If you notice that your cat is experiencing weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation along with a reduced appetite, it’s time to call the vet.

Gastrointestinal issues such as the ones listed here are serious and your cat may need emergency care. Having these issues diagnosed and treated early on is critical to your cat’s health.

Dental Issues

If dental issues are bothering her, this can cause your cat to experience pain in her mouth and lead to refusal to eat. Inflamed gums, loose or broken teeth, a dental abscess, an injury or foreign object in their mouth, advanced tooth decay or other issues can cause significant pain, prompting them to stop eating.

If you suspect your cat may be suffering from mouth pain, contact your vet as soon as possible for an appointment so this issue can be diagnosed and treated.

Your vet will examine your cat, then perform a thorough dental cleaning of your four-legged friend’s teeth before diagnosing and addressing any issues that may be causing pain.

Other Potential Causes

Cats can stop eating for numerous reasons not directly related to their general physical health, including:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Recent vaccinations
  • Motion sickness due to travel
  • New food
  • Change in normal routines

Any of these issues should not cause your cat to refuse more than one or two meals. If your cat won’t eat for any longer than this, it’s time to book an appointment with a veterinarian.

If my cat won’t eat, when should I see a vet?

If your cat has skipped more than one or two meals, or is exhibiting any behaviors or symptoms that are causing you concern, contact us to schedule an appointment.

Because cats can get severely sick quickly, your furry friend’s long-term health may depend on early detection, diagnosis and treatment.

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.

If your cat won't eat for more than 24 hours or is showing other concerning symptoms, contact our Animal Emergency Center veterinarian and get to our hospital immediately.

Animal Emergency Center in Memphis

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