What Makes a Cat Stop Eating?

By Susan Paretts

Skipping a meal is no cause for alarm, but if Fluffy has stopped eating for more than 24 hours, get her to the vet. Prompt care is necessary, because she can develop a serious condition known as hepatic lipidosis. Several illnesses can cause a lack of appetite in cats, which your vet can diagnose through an exam and lab tests.

What Is Anorexia?

Feline anorexia is classified as a sustained lack of appetite in cats. It occurs when your cat stops eating for an extended period of time, usually more than 24 hours in adult cats or 12 hours in kittens, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website. Without the desire to eat, your cat may lose weight, become lethargic, develop a dry and flaky coat or experience hair loss, and her skin might develop a yellow tint to it. An anorexic cat needs veterinary care.

Medical Causes of Anorexia in Cats

Your cat's lack of appetite could be caused by an underlying illness or periodontal disease. Periodontal disease makes eating painful for your kitty, so she'll eat less. Illnesses that cause anorexia include cancer, parasitic infections, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, viral and bacterial infections, neurological conditions and organ failure. These conditions can make a cat feel nauseous or cause pain. A physical injury also can lead to a lack of appetite. If your feline friend doesn't feel good, she won't have the desire to eat.

Psychological Causes of Anorexia

Changes in your cat's environment can be distressing for her and cause her to stop eating. These events include the death of a family member or another pet, a move to a new home or the addition of a new pet or person to your household. If your kitty stops eating after a change in her environment, she may feel stressed out. Stress can make your cat less willing to eat than usual, putting her at risk for developing health issues.

Disdain for Food

If Fluffy skips a meal or two, she simply may not like the food. Tempt her to eat by offering her a few different types of cat food, recommends Tony Buffington of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University, according to WebMD. Canned foods smell most appetizing to cats, especially foods with lots of protein, according to petMD. Feed her freshly opened food in a quiet spot, away from other pets. You may have to heat her food slightly or top it with her favorite treats to encourage her to eat it. Should your cat continue to refuse any type of food, either canned or dry, she may be sick, requiring a trip to the vet.

Heptatic Lipidosis

Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, can occur as a result of your cat's rapid weight loss and failure to eat. When your kitty doesn't eat, fat deposits build up in her liver, which impairs its function. Because the liver helps to filter toxins from your cat's blood, if it doesn't function properly, these toxins will build up and cause your kitty to be sluggish and depressed. This condition can eventually lead to liver failure and death if not treated. This condition is unique to cats and can occur in a matter of days.

The Importance of Veterinary Care

See your vet right away if your kitty isn't eating normally. Your vet can diagnose the cause and treat it to restore your cat's appetite to normal. He may also recommend an appetite stimulant, a feeding tube or forced feedings. Cats who haven't eaten for three to five days may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids. As your cat recovers, you'll need to keep her environment as stress-free as possible.