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

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

If you notice that your cat is not eating, you may feel concerned and wonder whether this qualifies as a veterinary emergency. Our vets in Baltimore share some common reasons your cat may stop eating, and how to tell if your cat's case is an emergency. 

Why won't my cat eat?

Cats are well-known for being picky eaters. Many a cat owner has stared at their feline friend's full food dish feeling frustrated. That said, if your cat has gone 24 hours or more without eating, their lack of appetite may be caused by an underlying health issue. 

Dental Issues 

If your kitty is bothered by dental issues, she may experience pain in her mouth and refuse to eat. Loose or broken teeth, a dental abscess, inflamed gums, a foreign object or injury in the mouth, advanced tooth decay or other issues may also cause significant pain, prompting your cat to stop eating. 

If you suspect your cat might be suffering from mouth pain, contact your vet as soon as possible for an appointment so they can diagnose and treat the issue. 

After your vet performs a full dental examination and cleaning of your kitty's teeth, they will diagnose and address any other issues that may be causing pain.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Similar to humans, cats can experience gastrointestinal (GI) issues that may cause them to lose their appetite and feel nauseated. Other symptoms such as constipation, vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss are common but do not always appear. 

Common GI issues in cats include:

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

If you notice your cat is experiencing constipation, diarrhea, weight loss or vomiting in addition to a reduced appetite, it's time to make an appointment with your vet. 

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

Kidney Disease 

Kidney disease is relatively common in older cats. The condition may cause your kitty to feel nauseated, leading to a refusal to eat. Other symptoms include urinating frequently and drinking an excessive amount of water. 

In cats, kidney disease can take one of two forms. Your vet will be able to diagnose your pet and develop a treatment plan for this serious illness. If your senior cat (over 7 years old) is exhibiting symptoms other than a pause in eating, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Other Potential Causes

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

  • Recent vaccinations 
  • New food 
  • Change in normal routines 
  • Anxiety or depression 
  • Motion sickness due to travel 
  • New food

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 has paused eating for more than 24 hours or is displaying other concerning symptoms, contact our Baltimore vets today for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Caring for Pets in Baltimore

Falls Road Animal Hospital accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

Contact Us

Contact (410) 825-9100