Cats can be fastidious characters, so it’s not surprising that they can be picky eaters. While cat owners may jest about their cats’ very specific eating habits, it can actually be a sign of a much more serious problem if your cat is refusing to eat. In fact, it can be very difficult to tell when your cat is ill, and not eating may be the first sign of a health issue in cats. Moreover, not eating can also lead to a number of health concerns including hepatic lipidosis and eventually liver failure.
Nevertheless, there may be many reasons your cat is not eating, the most common of which are illness, reactions to vaccinations, and stress. First of all, illness in cats is often marked by loss of appetite. Infections, kidney disease, pancreatitis, intestinal problems, and cancer are all examples of conditions that may result in loss of appetite. Even minor concerns such as an abscess tooth or minor constipation can affect your cat’s eating habits. It’s very important to closely monitor your cat’s habits if they suddenly stop eating and visit a veterinarian if the behaviour persists.
Another reason cats may stop eating is a reaction to a recent vaccination. Vaccines are an important, lifesaving preventative treatment but it’s not uncommon for cats to have adverse reactions. Loss of appetite is a common side effect of vaccinations, but this loss of appetite should only be temporary. Again, if your cat’s lack of eating persists, visit your veterinarian to ensure a more serious health concern is not responsible.
Stress is another common factor contributing to loss of appetite in cats. Travel, unfamiliar surroundings, and other psychological issues may interfere with your cat’s eating habits. Cats are creatures of habit; they grow familiar with their surroundings and moving to a new location can be a very stressful event. Likewise, motion sickness is not unheard of in cats, and so travel may cause nausea and not eating. Especially if your veterinarian has ruled out other causes of appetite loss, psychological stress may be the root cause. New people, schedule changes, or changes in diet may all be associated with not eating.
Regardless of the underlying causes for your cat not eating, there can be very real consequences to this behaviour. Starvation can obviously be life threatening, so you should always consult your veterinarian if your cat refuses to eat for a prolonged period. New diets should be introduced gradually, and you may need to introduce different foods if your cat isn’t eating. In very severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend prescription medicines that act as appetite stimulants or syringe-feeding your cat. Ultimately, the underlying illness needs to be diagnosed in order to treat your cat’s eating problems; but if there is no illness to speak of, you’ll want to introduce preferred foods such as liver or canned tuna. Even people food may encourage your cat to eat. However, you should only feed your cat special foods in small amounts so as not to encourage even more finicky eating.