Just like humans, cats may go off their food at times. There could be many reasons for them not eating as much as usual or not eating at all. So when might this be a cause for concern? There are a few questions you should ask yourself if your cat suddenly stops eating their food.

Has something happened to your cat recently?

If there’s an obvious reason for your cat not eating like they normally do, it’s likely there isn’t anything seriously wrong.

For example, your cat may, understandably, have less of an appetite for a short period of time if:

  • they’ve been sick, injured or had surgery
  • they’ve experienced something stressful like being in a cattery, moving house or having a big change at home if a person, baby or other pet has moved in or out
  • their food has changed or they no longer like certain foods.

However, if your cat hasn’t eaten for more than 24–36 hours (and if they have other physical symptoms as well) contact your vet as soon as possible.

Cats who don’t eat for a few days are at risk of developing a condition called hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). When a cat hasn’t been eating, its body moves stored fat to use for energy. But this process can overwhelm the liver, the organ that helps process the stored fat. If this condition isn’t treated, it can cause liver failure and death.

Does your cat have any other symptoms?

Not eating can be a sign of something else happening with your cat, such as cat flu, stomach issues, a blockage or dental issues.

Take note of any physical symptoms your cat is experiencing while they’re not eating, so you can discuss them with your vet. These could be drooling, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea and/or weakness.

Also take note of any changes in your cat’s usual behaviour, especially if they’re more lethargic or sleeping a lot more.

What about water?

If your cat hasn’t been eating or drinking water for more than 24–36 hours, contact your vet immediately.

On the other hand, if your cat hasn’t been eating but has been drinking more water than usual, also seek your vet’s advice. This could be a sign of certain health issues.

Might they eat different food?

Before the 24–36 hours have elapsed since your cat last ate, try seeing if they will eat a different type of food.

Also, if they have a blocked nose, they may not be able to smell their usual food and this could be why they’re not eating. Try giving them something with a strong smell, like wet food (especially a fish variety) or pour the liquid from a can of tuna on their dry food.
You can also try warming their usual food in the microwave.

And if your cat still won’t eat?

If your cat hasn’t eaten for 24–36 hours, contact your vet as soon as possible to discuss their symptoms and behaviours.