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

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

It can be concerning to find that your cat is not eating. You may wonder whether your furry friend needs to see an emergency vet. Our Suffolk County vets list some common reasons why cats may stop eating, and how to tell if your cat’s case is an emergency. 

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are famously finicky eaters. This fact can often frustrate many a cat owner who has found themselves standing in front of the pantry, eyeing the new flavors of kitty food they’ve just purchased and wonder if this or that one will pique their cat’s interest.

That said, if your kitty has gone 24 hours or more without eating, an underlying health issue may be the cause.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Just like humans, cats can suffer gastrointestinal (GI) problems that can cause them to feel nauseated and lose their appetite. Often, though not always, cats suffering from GI issues will display other symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.

Common GI issues in cats include:

  • Foreign object, such as a piece of plastic or plant, in your cat’s digestive tract
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Parasites
  • Colitis
  • Urinary obstructions
  • Cancer
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Changes in your cat’s intestinal bacteria

If you notice that your cat is experiencing weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation along with a reduced appetite, it’s time to call the vet.

Gastrointestinal issues such as the ones listed here are serious and your cat may need emergency care. Having these issues diagnosed and treated early on is critical to your cat’s health.

Kidney Disease

For older cats, this is a relatively common condition that may cause your feline friend to feel nauseated, which may result in a refusal to eat. Other symptoms include drinking an excessive amount of water or urinating frequently.

Kidney disease can take one of two forms in cats. Your vet will be able to diagnose your pet and develop a treatment plan for this serious illness. If your senior cat (older than 7 years of age) is displaying symptoms beyond a pause in eating, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Dental Issues

If dental issues are bothering her, this can cause your cat to experience pain in her mouth and lead to refusal to eat. Inflamed gums, loose or broken teeth, a dental abscess, an injury or foreign object in their mouth, advanced tooth decay or other issues can cause significant pain, prompting them to stop eating.

If you suspect your cat may be suffering from mouth pain, contact your vet as soon as possible for an appointment so this issue can be diagnosed and treated.

Your vet will examine your cat, then perform a thorough dental cleaning of your four-legged friend’s teeth before diagnosing and addressing any issues that may be causing pain.

Other Potential Causes

Cats can stop eating for numerous reasons not directly related to their general physical health, including:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Recent vaccinations
  • Motion sickness due to travel
  • New food
  • Change in normal routines

Any of these issues should not cause your cat to refuse more than one or two meals. If your cat won’t eat for any longer than this, it’s time to book an appointment with a veterinarian.

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

If your cat has skipped more than one or two meals, or is exhibiting any behaviors or symptoms that are causing you concern, contact us to schedule an appointment.

Because cats can get severely sick quickly, your furry friend’s long-term health may depend on early detection, diagnosis and treatment.

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 for more than 24 hours or is displaying other concerning symptoms, contact us right away. If you have concerns after-hours contact our trusted Emergency Veterinary team.

New Patients Welcome

Deer Park Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Suffolk County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(631) 667-4004