"Help! My cat has stopped eating!"

A healthy adult cat should be eating roughly one can (6 oz) of wet food or a cup of dry food each day. Quantities differ, according to the cat's weight and level of activity and most cat owners soon find out just how much their own cat requires. What happens when a cat loses his appetite? What if your cat stopped eating altogether?

When an animal stops eating, the condition is referred to as anorexia. Feline anorexia is not a disease in its own right. It simply means that the cat has stopped eating. Sometimes the cat shows an interest in the food, sniffs it and even licks its lips, but doesn't do much more. Other times, the cat shows no interest in the food whatsoever.

What does it mean when your cat stops eating?

Cats can stop eating for many reasons. It can be a symptom of a disease or the results of stress. Here are some of the possible reasons for a cat to stop eating -

Medical Causes For Feline Anorexia

1. Problems affecting the cat's sense of smell

Cats rely on their sense of smell when deciding if a substance is edible or not. If a cat loses his sense of smell, loss of appetite soon follows. A stuffy nose, due to a respiratory infection is all it takes to get a cat to stop eating. Any obstruction in the nasal cavities can have a similar result.

2. Nausea

Feeling nauseated is enough to put a cat off his food (as it would a human). In some cats, licking their lips and smacking their mouth can be another indication of nausea but oftentimes loss of appetite is the only symptom. Nausea can be caused by many diseases and may also be the a side-effect of medication.

3. Sore mouth

Tooth decay, gingivitis and stomatitis can all cause a sore mouth, as can an injury to the oral cavity. When a cat's mouth is sore, he may avoid eating altogether, or try to lick his food but not take in any. Drooling is often another sign of a sore mouth.

Gingivitis and stomatitis in cats
Cat dental care

4. Malaise

Sometimes a cat just isn't feeling well enough to eat. It can be general malaise due to infection, or the after-effect of a medical procedure such as surgery or even vaccinations.

Other Possible Causes For Feline Anorexia

1. Disliking a food

Sometimes it's as simple as flavor or texture preference. Strange as it may sound, some cats would rather starve than try a new type of food. Other times, the food may be a bit "off" or even spoiled.

2. Associating the food with fear

Cats may avoid feeding in a certain area of your home, or even from a certain dish, if they associate the feeding with something scary. The emotional trauma can be enough to make them stay away from food and go without.

3. General stress

Stress in itself can cause a cat to lose his appetite and stop eating. Read here about stress and what may cause stress in cats -
Is Your Cat Stressed Out?
Potential Stressors In Cats The Ultimate Checklist

Is It Dangerous For My Cat To Stop Eating?

In a word, yes.

Cats are built to consume food on a daily basis. Once calories stop coming in, the liver begins to process the cat's fat reserves. Unfortunately cats only do this for a short while. When too much fat reaches the liver, it begins to "pile up" in there, in essence causing liver inflammation. This condition is called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, and in cats it can be very serious and even fatal. Their liver simply isn't built to deal with burning fat into energy for long periods of time.

The symptoms of hepatic lipidosis include fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of skin, eyes and gums) and depression. It can soon turn into a vicious circle, as the cat's simply not feeling well enough to eat. Without intervention, the cat will die within a few weeks.

It is an emergency?

The onset of hepatic lipidosis is a medical emergency. The process begins within 24-48 hours of lack of food. The good news is that it's reversible if caught in time.

This is why it's very important to try and get a cat that's not eating to eat. Regardless of the trigger for the anorexia, you should encourage a cat to eat, and if needs be, have a vet insert a feeding tube and force feed the cat that way. Never let your cat go without food for more than a day or two.

Next read this: How to get your cat to eat again