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

It can be difficult to figure out why your cat has suddenly stopped eating and whether or not they need to visit the emergency vet clinic. Our Elk Grove vets share some of the most common reasons why cats stop eating and how to identify this behavior as stubbornness or an emergency.

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are renowned 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 little one to eat more consistently. That said, if your cat has refused to eat for more than 24 hours, there may be more than their typical stubbornness at play.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Like people, cats can experience gastrointestinal (GI) issues that cause them to experience nausea and/or a loss of appetite. Cats suffering from GI problems often 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. GI 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 soon 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 a more accurate analysis. Your vet can do a thorough cleaning of your cat's teeth and look for any dental issues that may be a source of pain.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is relatively common in older cats. As with GI issues, kidney disease can lead to nausea which contributes to a refusal 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 than that, book an appointment with your vet right away.

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 long-term 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 Elk Grove emergency veterinary hospital right away.

New Patients Welcome at Bruceville Pet Hospital

We are happily accepting new patients at our conveniently located Elk Grove veterinary clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals. Reach out today to book your pet's first appointment.

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