Feline Anorexia: Cat Appetite Loss

Feline anorexia occurs when your cat loses his appetite and refuses to start eating again. Cat anorexia is usually the result of an underlying medical condition, such as a digestive disorder. Psychological factors, such as changes in diet or environment, can also cause the drastic appetite loss associated with feline anorexia. Here's what you should know about feline anorexia.

Feline Anorexia Explained

Cat anorexia occurs when your cat won't or can't eat, or begins eating significantly less than usual. If your cat doesn't eat for a few days, he could lose the desire to eat, leading to feline anorexia. There are a number of reasons why cats lose their appetites in this way. Some are medical, while many others are psychological and emotional.

Physical Causes of Cat Anorexia

Loss of appetite is one of the most common symptoms of feline illness. Respiratory disorders might cause your cat to lose his appetite, especially if his nasal passages are congested, since he won't be able to smell his food and therefore won't have a taste for it. Digestive disorders can interfere with your cat's appetite, as can any illness or injury that causes your cat severe pain. Infection by viruses and bacteria can also cause feline loss of appetite.

If your cat's appetite loss is accompanied by other symptoms, he's probably sick. Seek veterinary care immediately, since anorexia can be very dangerous to your cat's health.

Emotional and Psychological Causes of Feline Anorexia

Cats can lose their appetites when placed under stress or when faced with emotional trauma. Feline anorexia often occurs in cats who have recently moved to new surroundings, and it can occur after changes in diet, especially if your cat doesn't like the new food.

Cats may lose their appetites when their owners or feline companions aren't nearby. Some cats like companionship while they eat. Some will lose their appetites and become anorexic when a companion, either human or feline, dies or goes away. 

Consequences of Feline Anorexia

If your cat is eating significantly less than normal, he's at risk of malnutrition and the many health problems that can result.

If your cat isn't eating at all, you should seek veterinary care immediately. When cats stop eating altogether, they can develop feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, especially if they're overweight. In this disease, a cat stops eating (for any reason at all) and the cat's body starts sending fat cells to the liver to be turned into fuel. Because the feline liver doesn't process fats well, they build up in the liver and can eventually cause liver failure and death.

Diagnosing and Treating Feline Anorexia

Your vet will perform a physical exam and may perform tests to rule out underlying medical causes of your cat's anorexia. Blood, urine and fecal tests, as well as X-rays, might be used.

Your vet will provide whatever treatment necessary to resolve any underlying medical conditions. Supportive measures, like hand feeding, IV drugs or appetite stimulants can help restore your cat's appetite and eating habits.