Why Did My Cat Suddenly Reject Wet Food? The Mysterious Case of the Fussy Feline

Changes in Appetite

A change in appetite is one of the most common signs of illness in cats. Appetite changes in cats can signal an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention.

As cats age, their appetites often decrease. Senior cats may lose interest in food due to dental disease and pain. Kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and cancer can also lead to reduced appetite in older cats.

Medications like antibiotics or steroids may temporarily suppress appetite. Stress and anxiety caused by changes in environment or routine can also cause cats to eat less. Even a preference for a new, more palatable food can cause your cat to ignore their previous diet.

It’s important to monitor portion sizes and weight during appetite changes. Weigh your cat weekly and contact your vet if you notice weight loss or gain. Track how much wet and dry food your cat eats each day so you can identify any decrease.

Transitioning Foods

Cats can be picky when it comes to changes in their diet. It’s important to transition slowly between foods over the course of days or weeks to give their digestive system time to adjust. According to Purina, mix a small amount of the new food (25%) with the previous food for 2-3 days, gradually increasing the ratio of new to old each day. Complete the switch within 5-7 days.

If your cat is resistant, try different textures and flavors to tempt them. Cats tend to prefer pates over chunks in sauce. Offering a few flavors like chicken, beef, or fish can identify one they find irresistible. Introduce new foods by adding a spoonful on top of their regular meal. This allows them to connect the smell with the taste. With patience, you can transition your finicky feline to a nutritious diet.

Dental Disease

One possible reason for your cat stopping eating wet food is dental disease like gingivitis, which causes mouth pain and makes chewing difficult (Source). Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums characterized by swelling, redness, and bleeding where the gums meet the teeth. With gingivitis, cats may avoid harder, tougher foods that require more chewing, like dry kibble, and instead stick to softer wet foods that are easier to eat.

If you notice signs like pawing at the mouth, dropping food, or difficulty chewing, schedule a veterinary exam so the vet can look in your cat’s mouth. Depending on the severity, the vet may prescribe treatments like a dental cleaning, tooth extraction, or medications to control pain and infection (Source). Addressing dental disease can help your cat comfortably return to eating both wet and dry foods.

Digestive Issues

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause nausea, vomiting, and discomfort in cats, leading to a decreased appetite for certain foods. IBD causes chronic inflammation of the stomach and intestines, while other common GI problems include infections, food sensitivities, parasites, cancer, and foreign bodies (Merckvetmanual.com).

Cats with GI issues may start refusing or avoiding wet or dry foods that upset their stomachs and cause further nausea or diarrhea. This discomfort leads them to be picky about what they will eat. On the other hand, some cats with GI disease will overeat due to an increased appetite from malabsorption of nutrients.

If your cat stops eating one type of food for no apparent reason, it could signal an underlying digestive problem. Consult your veterinarian, who can run tests and recommend prescription gastrointestinal foods or medications to help manage GI issues and support your cat’s nutrition (Hillspet.com).

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a common condition in older cats that can cause a loss of appetite. As the kidneys fail to filter waste properly, toxins build up in the bloodstream which can lead to nausea and inappetence. Cats may cut back on protein in an effort to ease the workload on their kidneys. Dry food tends to be higher in protein than wet food. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, “Reduced protein diets are recommended for cats with kidney disease to minimize uremic episodes and reduce workload on kidneys.”

There are specialty prescription kidney-friendly wet foods available that veterinarians may prescribe for cats with kidney issues. These foods are lower in protein and contain ingredients to support kidney health. If kidney disease is suspected, it’s a good idea to take the cat to the vet for bloodwork and urinalysis. The sooner kidney disease is caught, the more can be done to slow the progression and help the cat maintain a good quality of life.



Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This speeds up a cat’s metabolism, even though they are eating more, they continue losing weight (Cornell Feline Health Center). Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include increased appetite, weight loss, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and hyperactivity.

A veterinarian can diagnose hyperthyroidism through blood tests that measure thyroid hormone levels. Treatment options include daily medication, radioactive iodine therapy, prescription diet, and surgery. Getting veterinary care is important, as untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to secondary heart disease (VCA Animal Hospitals).


Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in older cats and can cause increased appetite paired with weight loss. This is because diabetes prevents the body from properly processing sugars and utilizing energy from food, causing cats to eat more to compensate while still losing weight.

Cats with diabetes tend to transition to eating more dry food while avoiding wet food. This is because dry food has more carbohydrates to provide quick energy, whereas wet food is higher in protein and fat which require more energy to digest. The easily absorbed carbs in dry food help compensate for the lack of energy utilization caused by diabetes.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms like increased thirst, frequent urination, and increased appetite along with weight loss, it’s important to visit your veterinarian. Diabetes requires lifelong treatment, usually with insulin injections and a prescription diabetic cat food. With proper management, most cats can live happily with this chronic condition.





Cancer is unfortunately another common reason for cats to lose their appetite, especially lymphoma which is one of the most common cancers in cats. Feline lymphoma typically develops in the gastrointestinal tract which can make eating uncomfortable and diminish appetite. Other cancers like squamous cell carcinoma in the mouth can also make eating painful. According to Pacific Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital, common symptoms of cancer include lumps, sores, rough fur, lethargy, stiffness, and personality changes.

If cancer is the underlying cause, chemotherapy and other treatments can help manage the disease and increase appetite. Diagnosing cancer typically requires imaging tests like x-rays or an ultrasound and may involve biopsying a suspicious mass. According to PetCure Oncology, some signs of cancer that warrant veterinary attention include new lumps or bumps, non-healing sores, unexplained weight changes, shifting appetite, and persistent vomiting or diarrhea. Catching cancer early greatly improves the chances of successful treatment.

While cancer can be daunting, a veterinary oncologist can provide treatment options to prolong life and quality of life. Managing cancer comes down to controlling symptoms, maintaining nutrition, and maximizing remaining time with your cat.

Stress or Anxiety

Cats are sensitive creatures and can experience stress or anxiety from major changes in their environment. This stress can lead to a decreased appetite as cats associate their eating with the stressful situation. According to PetMD, a decrease in appetite is one of the top signs that a cat is stressed.

Introducing anything new – such as a new family member, pet, or even piece of furniture – can potentially trigger stress-related inappetence. Cats form strong attachments to their territory and environment. Disrupting this can cause anxiety and a subsequent decrease in food intake. Even a change as subtle as moving the food bowl to a different location may be enough to put off some cats.

The best way to address stress or anxiety-related appetite issues is to identify and remove the source of stress whenever possible. Additionally, keeping the cat’s mealtime routine consistent and offering familiar, appetizing foods can help encourage eating during stressful periods. With patience and by minimizing environmental changes, cats will typically return to their normal appetite once the stressor dissipates.

When to See the Vet

It’s important to monitor your cat’s appetite and weight weekly. A healthy cat should maintain a stable weight and appetite. Contact your vet if your cat’s appetite decrease persists for more than 2-3 days.

A vet exam and diagnostic tests are key for an accurate diagnosis if your cat stops eating. The sooner the underlying cause is found and treated, the better the outcome for your cat. Your vet will ask about changes in eating, activity level, litter box usage, and other symptoms. They may recommend bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasound, and other tests to check major organs. Some potential reasons for appetite loss like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or cancer can be caught early through testing.

Don’t wait too long before seeking veterinary care if your cat stops eating. According to Hillcrest Animal Hospital, you should call your vet immediately if your cat hasn’t eaten after a day. The sooner the underlying cause is identified and treated, the better the prognosis for your cat.

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