Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
I don’t know how many of you have been in the circumstance where their little ones refuse to eat. We had a great 3 years with our little ones until we ran into our first problem where Beau refused to eat all together. Luckily, for us, this was at a time where we had frequent conversations with our vet, and I know that eased our worries a lot. Having a cat stop eating can be very alarming because it can mean a number of things, and if left undiagnosed can be fatal.
So what’s the answer? How long can cats go without eating?
Cats can go up to two weeks without eating, as long as they are still drinking water. The main concern is that most cats aren’t huge drinkers and get the majority of their water from their food so if this is the case with your cat you may run into problems with dehydration before you run into problems with starvation. Dehydration is very serious and may actually cause death after two days of no water.
What are some medical reasons for a cat not wanting to eat?
Sometimes when cats don’t eat they are experiencing discomfort. These discomforts can stem from cancer, diabetes, dental disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis, ingestion of a foreign material, urinary tract infections/diseases (UTIs) and arthritis. Some other reasons could be stress or large changes in a household.
Okay, you’ve scared me now… are there any non-medical reasons a cat won’t eat?
Yes! Absolutely. Some cats are really finicky. Sometimes cats get bored of the food they are being fed, sometimes they only like specific batches of food from a particular brand, or sometimes they lose interest with age… honestly, the list goes on and on! Other non-medical issues can include hairballs and nasal congestion (I know this is technically medical, however, it is not usually longterm and can commonly be prevented).
How soon should I take a kitty to the vet if they’ve stopped eating?
Well, as most things… if you are scared, take your cat to the vet immediately. If you’ve noticed other changes in your cat’s behaviour there may be something up with your kitty. Cats usually stop eating when their illnesses have progressed immensely. They, like most animals, are very good at hiding ailments, and you want to make sure you catch it before it becomes even more severe. If your cat hasn’t eaten anything at all for 2 days, I strongly suggest not waiting any longer. This is especially true if your little one isn’t a big drinker.
So my cat has stopped eating and now they’re losing a lot of weight… what does that mean?
Breathe in and take your cat to the vet immediately. Unfortunately, extreme weight loss, especially from a cat that hasn’t eaten for over 24 hours can be life-threatening (especially for overweight cats.) With extreme weight loss can come kidney failure.
Okay, now I’m really scared! What are some other signs of my cat being sick?
Well, first I’m sorry for scaring you, but of course, this can be serious! Poor appetite & weight loss can come with dehydration. You will be able to tell something is wrong when you can feel your cat’s spine prominently. Your cat’s eyes may seem sunken and their eyes may start looking yellow. Cats will also become depressed and weak. If your cat has any of these symptoms, immediately take them to the vet.
Which is more serious? Not drinking, or not eating?
Not drinking. When a cat doesn’t eat, they lose a great number of nutrients and start to fatigue, but luckily, as soon as they eat next they should be back to their normal self. This is not true of water though. If a cat is dehydrated, much like a human their internal organs will begin to fail. This is true most of the liver and kidneys, but it does, in fact, affect other organs. The process goes as such: Stomach > Kidneys > Liver > Other Organs > Heart > Brain. Even if you get water into their system after the organs start shutting down, the damage may already be unrepairable.
Is there anything I can do while I’m waiting to get a vet appointment?
Absolutely, but please don’t use these as ways to avoid the vet! If your cat starts showing signs of dehydration grab a clean syringe and help them drink by gently opening their mouth and squirting the syringe in their mouth. The same can be done with wet food. Again, a vet visit is the best answer, as they can hook your little buddy up to fluids, but if this is a dire case where the vet is closed or you’re on your way to the vet, that’s your best hope. I wouldn’t do this regularly (ie. every day to get your cat in the habit of drinking) as it can be traumatic, but a number of vets do recommend doing it when your cat has frequent UTIs or is commonly dehydrated.
But my cat has always been picky… any advice for trying to feed a picky cat?
Well, it highly depends on why your cat isn’t eating. Some tips that have worked for us are:
- Heating up the food with warm water (or microwave it for a quick 10-second zap!)
- Simply adding water and mixing the food
- Putting a couple treats into the food (remember to subtract the calories from their meal so they don’t get tubby!)
- Rotating different flavours/proteins
- Feeding a rotation of wet & dry food.
- Sometimes I recommend mixing some dry food into the wet food, although be wary that some cats will get even pickier and will only want their wet food with dry. This can become problematic if you have a cat who develops a urinary tract infection.
- Try finding a consistency that they like
- Your cat may only be into certain textures. For example, Beau doesn’t like pate’s too much. He does love stew though, or when his food is very wet.
- If your cat only eats dry, try changing the shape and size of the kibble! You’d be surprised sometimes cats get picky about the size and shape of their kibble.
Have any other advice or experience? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear!