Dear VetBabble: What Do I Do If My Cat Stops Eating and Drinking?
One of the most common concerns we encounter from cat owners is, “My cat is not eating or drinking. She is 5 years old and this is not normal behavior. She does not go outside. Has this been going on for more than 24 hours? What should I do?” This question, often fraught with worry, is indeed something that necessitates attention and appropriate response. It could be symptomatic of many different issues, ranging from a mild change in habits to a more serious health problem.
Understanding Your Cat’s Normal Drinking Behaviour
If your cat has stopped drinking, the first thing you should understand is what constitutes normal cat drinking behavior. This provides the essential baseline from which to detect any notable differences. Typically, a cat’s water intake depends on their diet. Cats on dry food diets tend to drink more water than those that receive a moist diet. This is due to the lower water content of dry foods.
Increased thirst in cats can actually be a cause for concern as well, a topic we’ve explored in our article on Why Does My Cat Drink More Water?. That said, if your feline friend has significantly decreased her water intake, or stopped altogether, it’s essential to consult with your vet.
The Possible Implications of Not Drinking or Eating
One vital thing to remember is that cats aren’t just small dogs. In fact, their metabolism and their body response to fasting are remarkably different from other pets. If your cat stops eating, she can rapidly develop a serious liver condition known as hepatic lipidosis. Dehydration can also quickly become life-threatening in cats. If neither eating nor drinking behavior normalizes within 24 hours, medical evaluation is necessary.
A prolonged decrease in water intake might be symptomatic of kidney disease in cats – a fairly common health issue in the feline population, especially in older cats. The indicators include changes in the quantity and frequency of urination, decrease in appetite and lethargy. You can read more about this in our article, Kidney Disease in Cats.
Steps to Take if Your Cat Exhibits Changes in Eating and Drinking Habits
Observing an abrupt change in your cat’s eating or drinking habits should trigger several immediate steps: offer her fresh food and water, monitor her behavior closely, and contact your vet. Regular vet checks are the essence of keeping your cat healthy: they are preventative measures rather than reactive ones. If haven’t done so just yet, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Here is a guide on Regular Vet Checks for Your Cat that covers the process and expected routine in detail.
If your cat is experiencing dehydration despite having access to fresh water, talk to your vet about her dietary needs. Your vet may provide advice on how to ensure an appropriate water intake, perhaps by transitioning to a wet food diet, introducing a cat water fountain, or mixing water into her regular meals. To get a deeper understanding, check out our article, Does Your Cat Need to Drink More Water?
Remember: multiple factors can affect a cat’s appetite and thirst. Changes might be short-lived and negligible, but they might also signal underlying health issues. Always consult with a vet when you’re concerned about your pet’s behavior. Pets, as with people, often show indications of discomfort before a more serious symptom manifests. Wise pet owners don’t overlook small changes – because even small changes may end up making a big difference to the health and happiness of our feline companions.