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Cat that refuses to eat

Refusal to eat means, as it sounds, that a cat refuses to eat, or rather is unable to eat due to lack of appetite in various types of illnesses. As cats are very sensitive to starvation, this is a symptom that really needs to be taken seriously. There are many different reasons why cats develop inappetence. It can be very difficult to know for yourself, without the help of a vet, what the underlying problem is. Whatever the underlying problem is, food refusal can actually lead to a life-threatening condition. Even a cat that has been run away and perhaps confined in ways that prevent it from accessing food should be taken to a vet.

When a cat won't eat, the first thing to do is to distinguish whether the cat is not eating because it doesn't want to or because it can't. Cats can be fussy about their food and not want to eat if they are stressed or during a sudden change of food, but food refusal can also be a sign of more serious problems and should always be taken seriously.

A cat's refusal to eat may also be due to an underlying medical condition that causes, for example, a reduced appetite or pain when eating. Refusing to eat should therefore be seen as a sign that the cat is unwell and a vet should be consulted as soon as possible.

Cats are basically carnivores and evolved in such a way that small food intakes are distributed throughout the day. Cats' livers cannot handle the release of large amounts of fat, which occurs during periods of starvation through various metabolic mechanisms, and then becomes stored in the organ, causing a condition called fatty liver to form. Liver function is affected and the cat may turn "yellow", which can be seen on the mucous membranes, the whites of the eyes and even the skin - icterus or, in common parlance, jaundice. The medical name, hepatic lipidosis, is usually secondary to another underlying diagnosis that has led to the cat not eating. For the possibility of a recovery, inpatient care is required, in many cases for an extended period. The vast majority of patients need to be tube-fed via a tube placed through the oesophagus.

A cat that is fussy about food often gives up and eats when they are hungry enough. However, if your cat has not eaten by the day after it started refusing to eat, you need to see a vet urgently, even if you consider your cat otherwise healthy.

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