The Hervey Foundation for Cats
What to Do When Your Cat Stops Eating

What to Do When Your Cat Stops Eating

Cats are natural eaters. Many will overeat if left to their own devices – we have all seen the videos on Tik Tok and Instagram of overweight cats. So what does it mean when yours stops eating?

There are a couple of reasons that may cause this issue, ranging from simple psychology to serious illness. That means you need to put on your detective’s hat when your cat is no longer excited at mealtime. 

What are some of the reasons your cat might not be willing to eat? 

  • Anxiety/Stress: There are a multitude of reasons a cat might feel anxious or stressed out. If you live in a multi-cat home, that could be a contributing factor. If your cat is new to your home, regardless of whether you have other cats, try sitting with them for the duration of their meal. If they eat while you are present, you may need to sit with them for a period until they feel more confident. Cats who are chronically anxious or stressed out might also require medical intervention, so if you aren’t able to get them to finish their meals, talk to your vet.
  • Old Age: Sometimes as cats get older, they eat less. Whether that is less food or fewer meals, keep an eye on things. Cats cannot monitor their nutrient intake and as their owner it is up to you and your vet to determine the best path forward. More nutrient-dense food might be a good way to keep them healthy and happy if they are eating less, but there could be other reasons beyond aging. 
  • Medication: Cats who take regular medications might have adverse reactions that cause nausea or a lack of appetite. If this is occurring, you should speak with your vet. Don’t rely on blogs or other online information when you suspect medications might be the cause.
  • Dental Issue: Broken or loose teeth, gum disease, or other issues that cause pain in the mouth will stop a cat from eating. Cats with loose or broken teeth, who are experiencing pain, will certainly not eat dry food and in some cases, they will avoid wet food as well. It can be difficult to diagnose a dental issue on your own, and if the tooth is loose, you run the risk of further damaging it by trying to open your cat’s mouth. If you bring your cat to the vet because they are not eating, this is one of the first areas they will check. 
  • Illness/Disease: Some sicknesses and chronic illnesses can affect a cat’s appetite. Things like diabetes, intestinal lymphoma, UTIs, and liver disease are just some examples. These are not going to be detected by a cat’s owner and therefore a trip to the vet would be necessary to get to the bottom of it. 
  • Ingestion of Foreign Objects: If your cat has eaten something they probably shouldn’t have, it might be causing them a lot of discomfort or even pain. As we all know, when we are feeling bad, the last thing on our minds is eating food. It might be hard to tell if your cat has eaten a foreign object, and once again this is something only your vet could tell you (unless you saw them eat the object in the first place).
  • Ingestion of Poisonous Plants: There are a number of plants that are dangerous for cats to eat (we have written blogs about this in the past). If eaten, they can cause serious illness and sometimes death. If your cat might have eaten a poisonous plant, regardless of whether they are refusing to eat regular food or not, you need to get them to emergency as soon as possible. 

Sometimes It’s Not Worth Waiting

Animals are food-driven beings. They are unable to communicate with a language, therefore survival is their number one priority. Regardless of whether they live outside or with humans, animals, especially cats, will always want to eat when they are hungry… unless something is wrong. 

Since we cannot speak to our cats, judging their behaviour is the only tool we have for keeping tabs on their health. Avoiding mealtime is not a natural behaviour, so keep a keen eye when taking care of your cat. 


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