Why Do Cats Stop Eating Suddenly?

close up of a grey tabby cat eating a saucer of chunky wet food

Cats are usually creatures of habit but they can get bored like ourselves. Has your cat just stopped eating out of the blue? Has it become obvious enough that you have noticed a sudden stop in your cat’s eating habits or appetite? Why do cats stop eating suddenly? 

Is this natural behavior or is there an underlying condition or problem giving rise to this sudden abrupt change in behavior?

In this article, we will unpack the likely causes of your cat’s sudden loss of appetite and identify what you can do to get them eating like normal quickly. 

We will identify when you should be worried that your cat’s eating habit has suddenly changed and how long your cat can go without eating.

Why Do Cats Stop Eating Suddenly

There might be various reasons why your cat suddenly stops eating. Some are likely to be food-related reasons and others may be due to health problems. Let’s check out some of the likely reasons for this change of behavior :

A Sore Mouth

a red and white cat lying on back chewing on a toothbrush

Your cat might be put off from eating due to dental issues. We all know how bad a sore tooth can feel and the same might be happening with your cat.

Your cat could have a dental problem that has got to the stage where eating is just not on the table or they may have had a sudden problem develop with their teeth. 

Cats suffer gingivitis like us and advanced gingivitis can lead to tooth loss. If your cat eats dry food there is the potential that they have bitten down and cracked a tooth which over time has developed a painful cavity. 

If your cat has bad breath or you can visually see missing teeth or wobbly teeth then a dental problem could be the issue.

Respiratory Issues

Has your cat got a respiratory problem? Maybe your cat can’t smell or taste as well as previously because they have developed a minor respiratory infection?

We all know how boring food can be when you have a bad cold or flu – your cat could be suffering a loss of taste or unable to breathe and smell great due to an allergy or a mild respiratory infection.

Notice any sneezing lately? This could identify the issue for you.

Foreign Body Problems

dilute calico cat eating chicken bones under a tree
Dilute Calico Cat Eating Chicken

Maybe you have a long-haired cat or a cat that sheds a lot and they have developed bad hairballs. Perhaps your cat has eaten an object that is blocking up the GI tract and is leading to a loss of appetite such as a random bone.

Hairballs can simply make a cat feel full in the stomach and your cat might reasonably assume they are not hungry enough to eat.

A piece of vegetation or wool or fabric that your cat has eaten by accident may block their digestive system causing a backup that reduces their appetite.

Many foreign objects pass through your cat’s system without causing issues but some may lead to a decrease in appetite or cessation in eating.

Digestive System Issues

The digestive system is made up of components that can develop issues. 

Your cat may have sensitive stomach due to some food ingredients it has been eating over time and suffers from gas, reflux, or aches when exposed to these ingredients. This may be enough to put your cat off eating for a short period.

More significant problems can occur with your cat’s digestive system putting them off their food. Tumors, pancreas problems, liver problems, bacterial infections, and bowel problems can all affect cats and lead to a drop-off in appetite. This is why keeping an eye on your cat is important so you can head problems off early.  

a cat eating from a metal bowl on a kitchen counter

Food Flavor

Your cat might just be bored of the flavor of the food. As cat guardians, I think most are guilty of being fairly repetitive with our pets’ food. Once you identify that kitty likes a certain brand or flavor or type of food we tend to be guilty of just constantly getting the same food in. But your cat might have just got bored and gone on strike!

Alternatively, a manufacturer may change the ingredients of your cat’s food and suddenly it just isn’t as nice anymore. Or worse the quality of ingredients may have declined or ingredients have gone off and your cat – with its feline sense of smell – has decided the food is not appetizing anymore. If your cat licks food but doesn’t eat this could be because the aroma smells good but the flavor or texture isn’t quite right.

Food Texture

Some cats may be sensitive to food texture and shape. So if your normal cat food changes in texture due to age or a change of ingredients this may be enough to put your cat off their food. 

Likewise, if you buy kitty chicken-flavored Purina wet food in sachets and then buy the version in cans the following week believing that the flavor is the same just the packaging is different then you might find your cat goes off the food because the chunks are a slightly different shape or consistency when canned versus those in sachets.

a grey cat investigating a pot of raw fish
These smell fishy to me!

Food Aroma

The aroma of the food may be too strong or off-putting for your cat. If you change brands or styles (go from gravy to jelly) then your cat might react to the changing aroma of the food. Likewise, the food may be pungent enough to convince the owner that the food is really full of flavor but, with a cat’s sense of smell 16x better than ours it may just be too much to put up with!

A Change Of Diet

This is one of the biggest non-health-related reasons why cats go off eating. You try to change their diet due to lack of availability of their usual food, a special deal, or just because you think the latest option is healthier or better in some way. The problem is the cat may reject the new food because it is too much of a change all at once. 

Often in such scenarios, you have to carry out a phased introduction of new food by mixing with the usual food choice for a while before your cat can be converted to the new option. 

If you have just assumed your cat will tuck into anything you give them then this might be their issue.

an over the shoulder view of a grey cat eating kibble from a metal bowl

When Should I Worry About My Cat Not Eating?

If you keep your cat indoors and it shows no sign of eating for 24 hours there is likely to be a significant problem.

If they show hunger without eating by visiting the bowl but not eating this can be a clue of a problem with the food or their mouth. 

If they show no hunger and no interest in the food bowl this could mean they have some kind of illness going on. 

Missing the odd meal is nothing to be concerned about. If your cat is eating less than normal but is eating several meals a day then this is probably just a passing situation.

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Eating?

Your cat can develop hepatic lipidosis in a few days if they stop eating. 

This is when the body mobilizes stored fat and it clogs up the liver giving a fatty liver. 

Cats are very prone to this. Fat cats are more likely to get into trouble than thin cats due to levels of stored fat. 

Fatty liver disease can kill a cat quickly so making sure they are eating something is very important.

close up of a cat eating from a bowl
Do you mind moving the water bowl? It’s putting me off…

What Can I Do To Get My Cat To Eat More

If your cat suddenly stops eating and you are sure there are no health problems at play (you have had a vet check-up) then you probably have a sensitive cat that has decided that there is something wrong with either the food you’re providing or the surroundings in which you are supplying the food.

In these instances you are going to have to try a variety of foods to see if you can tempt them to eat, look at the food you’re feeding them and rectify any issues like brands, style of food, canned or packet, etc and try to reverse the situation to where they were eating well before.

It is also worth considering relocating food to try to eliminate situational issues. Try to feed your cat in a quiet place, in clean bowls, away from water or the litter tray, and see if you can resolve situational issues that might have led to your cat stopping eating suddenly.