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My Cat Won’t Eat or Drink: 3 Possible Reasons Why and What To Do

Posted by Dr. Roth on August 10, 2022

What to do if?
Stress & Anxiety
Nutrition
Wellness Care
my-cat-wont-eat-or-drink-possible-causes-and-treatments-featured-image

It's normal to be worried if a cat suddenly stops eating or drinking. Unexpected changes to a cat's behavior can be a sign that something is wrong. The cat might be sick, anxious, or just picky. 

If a cat has recently stopped eating or drinking like they used to, it's crucial to figure out why to fix the problem. Keep reading to learn three potential answers to why the cat won't eat or drink and the best solutions to help cats return to normal as soon as possible. 

Potential Causes for Why Cats Won't Eat or Drink

There are many reasons why a cat won't eat or drink. Cats can be mysterious creatures, and they don't like showing discomfort. That means a sudden loss of appetite can signal something seriously wrong with their physical or mental health. However, cats also have strong personalities, so they sometimes may change their minds about food for no reason.

It's important to figure out if a cat's loss of appetite is due to a medical problem, a temporary sign of stress, or a change in palate. Here are three of the most common reasons why a cat may refuse to eat or drink anything.

1. Illness, Parasite, Foriegn Body Ingestion or Other Underlying Health Issue

Cats often lose their appetite when they're sick. Cats have strong instincts to hide if they don't feel well, which can mean they don't even come out to eat or drink anything. This is especially true if they have a health issue affecting their digestive system like a parasite or bladder stone.

Cats are very good at hiding that they're sick, so don't expect them to show that they're in pain. If a cat is refusing to eat or drink, look for other signs of illness like:

  • Lethargy

  • Hiding more than normal

  • Loose stool

  • Vomiting

  • Painful urination

  • Refusing to let anyone touch them

These may all be signs that the cat has lost their appetite because they're sick.

Similarly, if a cat has eaten something they shouldn't, like stuffing from a toy or food they're allergic to, eating and drinking might not be comfortable. If cats eat a foreign object, they can suffer an intestinal obstruction that makes them want to avoid eating. If a cat is trying to vomit and nothing comes up, it may be a sign that their lack of appetite is due to ingesting a foreign object.

2. Anxiety or Emotional Health Condition

Cats like stable routines. If something has forced them to change their habits, they may go off their food for a few days. 

For example, a cat may become anxious if they move to a new house or a new animal is introduced to their life. They could also become sad if they're separated from a favorite companion, whether a person or another animal. Cats often react to anxiety and other emotional health conditions by refusing to eat for a while.

3. Change in Regular Diet

A cat's appetite may change because of something they've eaten, too. Diet changes are a common reason cats stop eating for a bit. If they have recently changed food brands or swapped from wet food to dry food or vice versa, the cat may not like their new options. Returning to the old food may be enough to get their appetite back.

Treatment Options for Feline Hydration Issues

Most cats can go some time without eating anything and be just fine. However, if a cat refuses to drink anything, that's a bigger problem. Dehydration can cause severe problems very quickly for cats, including kidney disease and even death. 

If a cat appears bright, alert, and well pet parents can consider if dietary changes, such as feeding more wet food, may have led to decreased need to drink. They may also be drinking for a different water source (toilet bowl, sink, flower vase, etc.) so ensure none of those are accessible to the cat before growing more concerned about their hydration.

If a cat still refuses to drink water, it's time to get medical advice. Owners can reach out to an online veterinarian to discuss their cat's behavior and the best possible treatments. The two most common courses of action are:

Vet Visit and Diagnostic Tests

If a cat displays more symptoms than just a lack of appetite, they should go to the vet for a checkup and some diagnostic tests. Sudden weight loss, signs of illness or pain, or excessive vomiting or diarrhea are all signs that a cat needs immediate medical care. 

The vet will perform diagnostic tests to determine the actual cause of the cat's symptoms. They can also help the cat avoid dehydration by providing IV fluids and performing any other urgent veterinary care.

Medication, Supplements, or Nutrition Change

If a cat has to go in for veterinary care, the vet there will also recommend at-home treatments for their lack of appetite when they go home. It may be necessary to start medicating the cat for a chronic illness like kidney disease, or they may need dietary supplements such as specific fresh foods to get enough water. 

If a cat is still drinking water but just won't eat, owners can request medical advice from a telehealth vet, "Why won't my cat eat or drink anything?" The vet will ask about the cat's behavior and recommend medication, supplements, or nutrition changes that may help. They can also advise owners if it's time to seek in-person treatment to get the appropriate diagnostic tests performed.

Contact an Online Vet for More Advice About a Cat's Loss of Appetite

Cat loss of appetite isn't necessarily an emergency, but it is something to keep an eye on. Owners can reach out to the experienced online veterinarians at Fuzzy to learn why their cat won't eat or drink anything. 

Fuzzy's veterinary team can help owners figure out the right way to treat their cat's loss of appetite. They can help identify signs of illness, provide medical advice on how to help cats recover, and recommend medication or dietary changes to get cats back in good health. Get started today by signing up for a free trial and talk to a vet in under a minute.

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