Everyone’s appetite can fluctuate from time to time. You might be starving by dinnertime one day and only feel like having a light meal the next. However, when we give our pets food each day, we usually expect them to eat it right away.
Cats can actually go through similar appetite fluctuations as humans at times, but it’s harder for us to understand because our cats can’t simply say they’re not hungry, they’re feeling sick or something else. For this reason, it’s important to pay close attention to when our cats eat and how much they eat to ensure they are staying healthy.
If you notice your cat poking around its bowl but not eating a ton, here’s what you should know.
Reasons your cat isn’t eating
There are a few different reasons why your cat might not seem too interested in its food. Some reasons are harmless in the short term, while others are more severe.
Your cat just might not be hungry! Appetite can change over time, and even an always-hungry kitty might not be interested in eating a big lunch from time to time. This is normal and usually resolves itself in time.
On a similar note, your cat might be feeling picky. This is especially common if you recently changed your cat’s food or if it has gotten used to eating a lot of table scraps and treats. Its everyday food might not seem very appealing after all those goodies!
If this happens, you can entice your cat to eat by making the food more appetizing. Add a little water or broth, heat the food up or mix some wet food in if your cat typically eats dry kibble.
Just like humans, cats experiencing stress may have a reduced appetite for a short period of time. If you recently moved, lost or gained a family member or pet or had another major household change, your cat may not eat as much as it processes the changes.
Cats can even be affected this way due to seemingly minor changes in routine or other things that disrupt their day-to-day lives even slightly.
The most concerning thing about a reduced appetite in cats is the fact that inappetence is a common symptom of illness. Many pet parents actually notice that their pets are sick by identifying a rapid change in appetite first.
Inappetence can happen alongside both minor and severe illnesses, and it’s difficult to tell the difference just by looking at a cat. If your cat isn’t eating as much or at all, try to examine it for other symptoms that may indicate it is sick. If inappetence persists, illness is likely.
How long is too long for a reduced appetite?
Since appetites can sometimes wax and wane, you shouldn’t worry too much if your cat doesn’t seem interested in its food for a short period of time. However, if more time has passed and your cat still hasn’t eaten, it may be cause for concern.
It can be normal for cats to not want to eat much over the course of a few hours. It might be stressed or not feeling well, or, it might just not feel like eating right away.
If your cat still hasn’t eaten any food after 24 hours, then you should make an appointment with the vet. Longer periods of reduced appetite can indicate health problems in cats, and they can cause them, as well. Hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, can occur in cats after just a few days of inappetence. Weight loss is also a major concern.
Ways to more closely monitor your cat’s eating habits
Depending on your cat’s feeding schedule, you may not actually notice how much or how little your cat is eating every day. This can make it very difficult to identify changes in appetite.
This is particularly true if your cat free feeds on dry food throughout the day. If you’re concerned about how much food your cat is actually eating, switch from free feeding to feeding it only at specified times of the day. This allows you to supervise the eating and note exactly how much food is given and eaten.
You can do this for both wet and dry food. Wet food usually needs to be taken away shortly after it is provided (within an hour or less), which makes it much easier to keep track of your cat’s appetite. However, the same system can work with dry food.
By paying attention to how much food your cat actually eats every day, you will be better equipped to take fast action to prevent health problems and catch illnesses in their early stages.