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

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

If your cat suddenly won't eat, it can be difficult to figure out why, and whether your feline friend needs to visit the emergency vet clinic. Our Memphis vets share some of the most common reasons why cats stop eating, and how to judge whether their finicky behavior is stubbornness or an emergency.

Why has my cat stopped 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 baby 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
  • Foreign object, such as string, your cat's digestive tract
  • Gastroenteritis 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Changes in your cat's intestinal bacteria
  • Colitis 
  • Cancer

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 diagnosis and treatment. 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 diagnosis 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 reasons not directly related to their overall health, including:
  • Recently receiving vaccinations
  • Motion sickness due to travel
  • New food 
  • Change in regular routines
  • 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.

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

If your cat has refused more than one or two meals, or is experiencing any symptoms or behaviors that you are concerned about, come to our emergency vet office in Cordova right away. Call us ahead if you can. Cats can become seriously ill quickly, so early diagnosis and treatment is key to your cat's longterm 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.

If your cat won't eat, contact our Memphis emergency veterinary hospital right away.

From Happy Pet Owners

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