Cats have a reputation for being particular about their diets, because they like their favorite foods served at just the right time and place.
If your cat quits eating, however, your swift action is critical, says Dr. Marla J. McGeorge, a veterinarian who runs a feline-only practice in Portland, Ore. "If your cat doesn't eat for more than a day, it should go to the veterinarian," she advises. "It doesn't take very long for cats to develop a liver disease from not eating." Liver failure occurs when fat accumulates in the liver due to a lack of protein.
Recognizing the typical reasons cats stop eating is a first step in protecting and helping your kitty. Your cat's loss of appetite could be caused by one of these issues:
What You Can Do
If your cat isn't eating, try to entice it with these four steps:
1. Heat the food. The aroma of warm canned cat food just might tempt your kitty. However, make sure you just add warm water instead of microwaving, cautions McGeorge. Microwaves can heat unevenly, and you risk scalding your cat's mouth.
2. Offer food by hand. The attention you pay to your cat while you feed a few morsels by hand can make a difference.
3. Adjust for age. Consider soft food if your elderly cat has tooth issues. Elevate the food bowl if your kitty is arthritic.
4. Provide a safe, quiet location. Make sure your kitty is comfortable with the location of its food dish. Set up several feeding stations in a multi-cat household.
Your veterinarian remains your best resource when your cat quits eating. Some owners hesitate making the call, figuring their cat's appetite might return or worrying they'll make a veterinary visit for no reason. "The big message from me is to bring your cat in," says McGeorge. "The best thing you can hear is your cat is fine."
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Kim Boatman is a Northern California-based journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as The Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifetime lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.
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