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What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

People joke about cats and their finicky eating habits, but it’s actually a serious issue if your cat won’t eat.

Although a refusal to eat is concerning for all pets, it can be more dangerous for cats.

When animals don’t eat enough, they must rely on their fat reserves for energy. Before stored fat can be used for fuel, it must be processed by the liver. This step requires adequate supplies of protein.

With rapid weight loss in a cat that stops eating, protein supplies are soon exhausted and the liver becomes overwhelmed by all the fat. This results in a dangerous condition known as hepatic lipidosis, which can lead to liver failure.

A cat's loss of appetite often indicates illness, so you should consult your veterinarian as soon as you notice a change in your cat’s eating habits. The more quickly you respond to the problem, the more able you'll be to do something that will help.

Why Your Cat Won’t Eat

Illness. Loss of appetite is one of the key indicators that something is wrong. So be sure to pay attention if your cat suddenly stops eating. A number of different conditions may be responsible, including infections, kidney failure, pancreatitis, intestinal problems, and cancer. But it isn’t always serious -- something as simple as a toothache can make your cat stop eating.

Recent vaccination. Did you notice your cat’s loss of appetite shortly after you took it to the vet for routine vaccinations? If so, the reason your cat won’t eat may be an adverse reaction to the shots. Although vaccines have been lifesavers for millions of animals, they do cause side effects in some. Loss of appetite is among the more common of these side effects, which are usually temporary and mild.

Travel and unfamiliar surroundings. Like many people, many cats are creatures of habit. So a change in routine can result in a loss of appetite. Additionally, some animals experience motion sickness when traveling by car or plane, which can lead to nausea and a refusal to eat.

Finickiness or psychological issues. If your veterinarian has determined that your cat is not physically sick, then anxiety or depression could be the reason your cat won’t eat. Changes in the household can be disturbing to sensitive cats, and sometimes new people or changes in familiar schedules can affect a cat’s emotional well-being. Or, your cat could just be a finicky eater. Keep in mind that cats, in general, take a long time to adjust to new types of food, so a recent change in diet could be the culprit.

What You Can Do

Whether your cat is sick, anxious, or just plain picky, remember that a complete refusal of food can have devastating consequences. So, even if you’re trying to make your cat eat a doctor-prescribed diet, never starve your cat into eating a certain type of food.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

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