What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat

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It is important to distinguish between true loss of appetite, when the cat does not want to eat, and inability to eat, when the cat wants to eat but can not.

It is not uncommon for appetite to decrease or stop completely in connection with a change of food, as a foreign smell, taste or consistency can cause the cat not to want to eat. This problem is usually solved if you change back to the previous feed.

A more severe loss of appetite, which has lasted for a long time, leads to weight loss and loss of muscle. Such a condition can have serious consequences, as a starving cat can suffer from fatty liver (hepatic lipidosis). Fatty liver can lead to chronic liver function.


The balance between satiety and hunger is regulated in several different systems, including the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Disruptions in these systems can lead to the cat losing its appetite.

Possible causes of true loss of appetite are:

  • Systemic disease (including metabolic diseases, and liver or kidney disease)
  • Infection / inflammation
  • Tumor disease
  • Changes in the environment or care that stress the cat
  • Disease of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Impact on the central nervous system
  • Poisoning

Possible causes of inability to eat are:

  • Pain
  • Tumor disease of the oral cavity
  • Foreign objects in the mouth, esophagus or further back in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Jaw fracture
  • Dental disease
  • Disease of the nasal cavity
  • Difficulty swallowing


Both the cat’s medical history (anamnesis) and the clinical examination can provide the veterinarian with important clues to distinguish between genuine loss of appetite and an inability to eat.

As loss of appetite is a non-specific symptom with many possible causes, the further investigation is based on what has emerged from medical history and clinical findings.

Possible diagnostic methods include dental X-ray, X-ray examination of the chest and / or abdominal cavity, ultrasound examination, blood tests, urine test, endoscopy, CT examination or MRI examination.


Loss of appetite is usually due to an underlying disease. It is important to make the right diagnosis so that the disease can be treated.

If the loss of appetite lasts for a long time, it may be necessary to enroll in an animal hospital, as in addition to giving intravenous fluid treatment, you can also tube feed the cat through a tube that is inserted into the stomach via the esophagus, stomach or intestines.

Such a probe is usually well tolerated by the cats.

The prognosis depends on the underlying cause of the loss of appetite.

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