The thought of curling up on the loveseat, one hand lazily stroking your fluffy cat in front of the television after a hard day at work is enough to get you through the day. Imagine how distressing it is to just come home, thoughts of a laid back evening in mind only to discover kitty is pretty sick. So sick in fact, even its favorite feline snack that he typically goes into raptures at the sight of, now elicit only a vacant stare. Although very few animals (humans included) fare very well after not eating, for cats, it is even worse as they tend to fall ill really fast when not eating. Seeing as kitty is only weighing a few kilograms even when healthy, a prolonged lack of appetite can have dire consequences. Sometimes even deadly ones. Such a situation truly is worrisome.
Getting kitty treated and nursed back to health is a priority. Equally important is tracing the possible causes of the lack of appetite/not eating to prevent a recurrence. Before that though, a number of factors come into play that also need to be considered.
Your Cat’s Age
Advanced age in cats and humans alike come with a host of physical challenges often not common when younger. Renal failure is one of such age-related challenges. Older cats are much more likely than younger ones to fall victim to kidney disease. Bringing with it waves of nausea, eating would be the last thing an elderly cat wants, especially in the throes of pain battling kidney disease. Older cats also have a reduced metabolism resulting in digestive issues. As foods, even familiar ones, sometimes bring on strange reactions, your senior cat might get wary of food altogether. As kitty’s metabolism slows down with age, it could still feel full and not particularly hungry even with one meal a day.
Could it be you are just returning from a road trip with kitty? If yes, you might have to consider the possibility of your cat being homesick and losing its appetite as a result of being in an unfamiliar environment. It could even be that kitty is suffering from motion sickness and its accompanying nausea. Nausea, as is the case, even with humans is a sure appetite killer.
Your Cat’s Breed
The breed of a cat has some bearing on its refusal to eat. As there are various cat breeds, there are also various conditions some breeds are much more likely to fall victim of than others. Siamese cats, for example, are known to commonly have kidney failures. A kitty with a failing kidney is highly unlikely to be keen on food. The Persian cat is another cat prone to a host of health issues ranging from Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), ringworm and polycystic kidney disease, among many others. For a cat that has come down with FIP, an unwillingness to eat can certainly be expected.
Variety is the Spice to Kitty’s Life
While you might find your cat’s refusal to eat alarming, with you desperate to haul it into the Feline Intensive Care Unit (FICU), slow down to strike out the possible simpler reasons first. Could it be that your cat is sick of the same old flavor of the store brand cat food you fill its bowl with? Switch things up a little cat food wise and see if things change for the better.
With the four points above to tick off your feline troubleshooting list, you will be in a better position to determine what exactly is wrong with your cat. If your cat persists in not eating over an extended period sans the possibilities listed above, it is time to look into possible medication challenges.
Causes and Treatment
Cause 1: Kitty Is Not Hungry
While you assume your cat is not eating and start getting worried about its safety, it could be that your cat is not even hungry. Kitty could have had its fill of food somewhere other than from your hands. This is often the case with cats owned by suburban dwellers whose cats get opportunities to be outdoors. Your cat could have been hunting up a storm, tapping into its wild side, taking down birds, mice, squirrels, and any other small animal and eating them. It could even be eating some juicy tidbits fed it by your neighbors or taking them from the trash cans.
Treatment: Keep your cat indoors or place barriers around your yard to keep it from creeping into other folk’s yards soliciting food. Ensure your trash cans have lids on them to keep your cat from rummaging through it. Invest in pest control and fumigate your yard regularly to keep out mice that your feline friend could be tempted hunt for food. This measure is sure to curb your cat’s taste for free range food. Announce set feeding times and kinds of approved food to family members who could be feeding the cat filling junk food while you are away.
Cause 2: You Have a Picky Eater
Remember that nephew of yours who is never keen on trying new foods? or the one that picks at an expensive meal you splurged on at a fancy restaurant preferring plain ole fried chicken with no crumb coating or any kind of frills? Well, your cat might be cut from the same cloth. Felines typically have a reputation for being finicky when it comes to food. If you are the kind who would leave a batch of food in your cat’s bowl for days on end since it isn’t empty yet, you just might be the reason your cat is not eating. Cats have been known to turn down stale, moldy or cold food. If the bowl has not been washed in decades with you pretty much refilling a crud coated bowl, kitty’s refusal to eat could be a subtle shade of your cleaning habits.
Treatment: Fortunately, picky eating is not too hard of an issue to resolve. Trying out different kinds of food with your cat can help give ideas of its food preferences. Also, try giving dry or warm food instead of it being cold. You could also mix in some meat broth, tuna flakes or crushed boiled egg to induce your cat’s appetite. While at it, wash your cat’s food bowl frequently to prevent a build-up of encrusted dirt or critters crawling all over it.
Cause 3: Oral Problems
Remember eating involves the use of the mouth? Kitty might not be eating because its mouth hurts. Your cat could be struggling with an oral tumor or some other inflammatory dental disease. A mouth sore from an infection could make chewing and swallowing not only difficult but very painful. A broken tooth or swollen gums are painful oral conditions that could make your cat unwilling to eat.
Treatment: A feline dental issue is not an area you can go the DIY route on especially of the cat has developed halitosis (smelly breath). An assessment of your cat’s mouth is best done professionally. A veterinarian would far more quickly identify the problem and even better has the tools necessary to hold the cat’s mouth open with limited likelihood of injury. A thorough mouth examination would reveal if there is bleeding from the mouth or excessive drooling which are signs of a serious case of gingivitis, an extremely painful cat dental disease.
Cause 4: Gastrointestinal Problems
A cat suffering from stomach issues is highly unlikely to want to eat anything especially if nausea is a part of the mix. It could be that kitty’s gastrointestinal tract is filled with parasites. An inflammation of its colon causing colitis could be the culprit. Your cat’s gastrointestinal tract could even be inflamed or its pancreas inflamed or infected. Sometimes your cat’s gastrointestinal issues could be a case of curiosity attempting to kill it. It could have eaten some foreign object just as a small ball of string, color plant or small reptile. At other times, gastrointestinal troubles could be a sign of a serious stomach cancer such as intestinal lymphoma.
Treatment: Seeing as the symptoms of feline gastrointestinal problems are and can include but not limited to a refusal to eat, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, your layman’s diagnosis is not the best for your cat. What would be best is to consult a vet and take your cat in for an examination. A medically approved course of treatment can then be determined for your pet based on what actually ails it.
Cause 5: Reaction to Medication
Similar to how you just can’t explain why you feel so lethargic and out of sorts after using certain medication is likely how kitty feels after using certain medication or receiving a vaccine. They are many types of medications or vaccinations that can bring on a loss of appetite, lethargy, nausea, constipation or even vomiting as a side effect. It’s very hard to gain an appetite with all of that going on in one’s system.
Treatment: Now this is one area you can wing it on. Simply observe your cat to see if its refusal to eat is coming on in the wake of a recent vaccination or a new medication/vitamin you gave it. Kitty’s refusal to eat might not be unconnected with that. If symptoms persist, quickly contact your veterinarian, cat in hand for a physical examination to rule out any more serious problems.
Cause 6: There is Competition
Are there other pets in the house especially cats? If yes, your feline could be staging a hunger strike of sorts in protest of having to fight off other cats for food. You might figure your cats have nothing to worry about as there is enough for all of them. In a feline mind, however, this perceived threat to its right to feed is very real. Older cats who have paid their ‘dues’ have been on the block for a while rarely react this way. This is a feline behavior much more common in younger cats.
Treatment: Fortunately, you do not require a professional opinion for this. It is a simple matter of reassuring your pet of not having to hustle for food with other cats by giving it food in separate, marked bowls. You can even step things up by keeping the food bowls in physically different locations from each other.
It is pretty clear that the reasons for a cat not eating are numerous. While you keep on the lookout for the above stated, make sure to take some precautions, especially when feeding your pet. Felines have a very keen sense of smell and so placing its food bowls near the trash can be very off-putting. If you have formed the habit of mixing in medication into your cat’s food as a way to get your pet to take it, that might be a reason it is turning down food altogether. Once your cat senses a strange smell which it very likely will, it will refuse to it eat. A better idea would be to speak with a vet about medication designed as a kitty treat instead.
Look out also for signs of ‘whiskers syndrome’ in your cat. A cat’s whiskers are extremely sensitive containing between 100 – 200 nerve cells per whisker. You might wonder about what purpose the whiskers fulfill in the first place. A cat’s whiskers are not like human hair that can be disturbed or even cut without much ado.
When a whisker touches an object, the cat is provided information that describes its immediate environment helping it judge spaces. When its food bowl is too narrow and it whiskers hit the bowl repeatedly, it can bring on stressful information overload. Over time, just remembering the thought of its whiskers hitting against the bowl is enough to make mealtimes something to dread. Thankfully this is a less serious cat problem that can be fixed quickly with a switch to a wide food bowl with shallow sides.
- Loss of Appetite in Cats – PetMD