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

It may feel alarming to discover your cat is not eating. You may wonder whether your feline friend needs to go to an emergency vet hospital. Here is a list of some common reasons why cats may stop eating, and how to tell if your kitty’s case is an emergency.


Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are widely known for their fussy eating habits! Many longtime cat owners have found themselves scanning the shelves at pet food stores for new flavors of kibble and canned food that will pique their kitty’s interest.

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

Dental Issues

Your cat may be experiencing pain in her mouth if dental issues are bothering her. A dental abscess, inflamed gums, loose or broken teeth, advanced tooth decay or a foreign object or injury in their mouth can cause significant pain, resulting in a refusal to eat.

If you think your cat may be suffering from pain in her mouth, call your vet as soon as possible for an appointment so the problem can be diagnosed and treated.

After your vet examines your four-legged friend, a thorough dental cleaning of your kitty’s teeth can be completed, and any issues that are causing pain can be diagnosed and addressed.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Similar to humans, gastrointestinal (GI) problems may cause cats to feel nauseated and experience a resulting decrease in appetite. Often (but not always), cats experiencing GI issues will exhibit other symptoms such as constipation, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea.

Common GI issues in cats include:

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

It’s time to call the vet if you notice that your cat is experiencing constipation, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea in addition to a decrease in appetite.

Gastrointestinal issues such as the ones listed above are serious and may require emergency care. Getting these GI issues diagnosed and treated early on is important to your cat’s health.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a relatively common condition in older cats and may cause your furry companion to feel nauseated, which can result in a refusal to eat. Other symptoms include urinating frequently and drinking an abnormal amount of water.

Kidney disease may take one of two forms in cats. Your vet will be able to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for this serious disease. If your senior cat (over 7 years of age) is exhibiting symptoms other than a pause in eating, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Other Possible Causes

Cats may stop eating for several reasons not directly related to their overall physical health, including:

  • Recent vaccinations
  • Shift in normal routines
  • New food
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Motion sickness due to travel

Any of these issues should only cause your cat to skip no more than two meals. If your cat won’t eat for any longer, it’s time for a vet visit.

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

If your cat has refused more than one or two meals, or is displaying any symptoms or behaviors you’re concerned about, call us to schedule an appointment.

Because cats can fall seriously ill quickly, your feline friend’s long term health may depend on early diagnosis and treatment.

If your cat won't eat, contact Animal Hospital of North Asheville right away. Our qualified veterinarians can diagnose conditions and diseases, and plan treatments.

Cat won't eat, Asheville Vet

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