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The number one reason cat owners take their cats to the animal emergency room is for vomiting.
Can you guess what the second reason is?
It’s when a cat is not eating. The “not eating”, also known by the medical term “anorexia”, is often accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and/or lethargy. A cat who won’t eat is a common symptom and can be caused by many different diseases. For example, refusing to eat can be caused by a viral infection, various toxins, cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, liver problems and just about anything else.
Because not eating is so common, it is likely that it will affect your cat at one time or another. This article will cover tips on how to plan for, treat, and prevent this problem in your cat.
What to Do if Your Cat is Not Eating
- This is basic but important. Make sure you know where your local emergency room is or how your vet deals with an emergency. Keep this information (phone number, hours, address and directions) handy.
- Next, make sure you know your cat’s medical history and any medications he is on. If possible, have copies of any important information.
- Observe your cat for all abnormalities, food changes, toxins, and more. Make sure you carefully observe your cat when he is not eating. If you have to take your cat to your vet or to an after-hours or emergency clinic, they will want to know when the last time your cat ate, and if his lack of appetite is associated with any other symptom such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, collapse, trouble breathing…or anything else. Monitor the litter box and make sure he is urinating okay and observe the bowel movements for abnormalities such as diarrhea, evidence of blood, or worms. Check the trash to ensure that he has not been exposed to any toxins or other objects. Note if there has been any change in your cat’s diet or new treats. If your cat is on medication, has his medication changed recently? If your cat goes outdoors, keep him where you can keep an eye on him.
- Encourage your cat to eat. You can offer fresh food and fresh water. Some cats respond to “fresh food” from the bag or a new bag. Canned foods, especially fish flavors, pouched food, new and different dry foods, chicken baby food, and/or canned tuna will stimulate some cats to eat. If the problem is minor — a cat may eat well and quickly be back to normal. If the cat doesn’t’ eat or still acts lethargic, the problem may be more serious. If you are worried, the best recommendation is to have the cat evaluated by a veterinarian.
- Talk to your vet. If you call a veterinary clinic, you may hear some advice. If your cat is acting sick or you are concerned, the recommendation is always to bring the cat in for evaluation.
- There is no good way to “prevent” the lack of appetite unless you can prevent the underlying cause. To keep your cat safest, prevent exposure of your cat to trash, table scraps, and other foreign objects that they may be inclined to chew on. Buy only safe toys and ensure your cat does not ingest on any objects around that house which he could swallow (such as thread, yarn, ribbon, or strings) that he would be unable to digest causing a possible obstruction. Make any food changes gradually and over several days.
What Does it Cost to Take a Cat That is Not Eating to the Vet?
How much will it cost to see the vet if your cat is not eating? Because there are so many possible causes, most veterinarians will recommend some basic blood work and possibly a urinalysis to help determine the possible underlying cause. Additionally, radiographs (X-rays) may also be recommended.
The prices at different clinics around the country vary but without treatment, the emergency fee, blood work, and X-rays can range from $425.00 to about $800.00. Again, this does not include any treatment. Depending on what the tests reveal and the underlying cause for the not eating, various treatments may be recommended. Fluid therapy may be recommended for dehydration, and other treatments may be recommended to treat additional symptoms.
Unfortunately, cats can be expensive and this can be a substantial expense for some cat owners. If you don’t have pet insurance – how often can you afford to do this? How many times could you afford to cover cat emergencies out of pocket like this? How about even more costly emergencies? Have you looked into pet insurance yet? If you have not done so, take a minute and find out how pet insurance can save you money.
One last thing, many emergencies of this type are caused by exposure to toxins, owners feeding cat’s table scraps and cats getting access to trash. Please be very careful what you feed your cat. Also, do not give your cat any medications unless instructed by your veterinarian.