Why Has My Cat Suddenly Stopped Eating Dry Food?

Appetite Changes in Cats

Cats are well known for being finicky eaters. Changes in a cat’s appetite can happen for a variety of reasons. Stress, illness, dental issues, and other medical conditions can all cause a cat to stop eating their normal food. Even a change in environment like moving homes or travel can disrupt a cat’s normal eating habits. It’s important for cat owners to monitor their pet’s food and water intake daily. A healthy cat should have a good appetite and eat their normal portions at regular mealtimes. Any decrease in food consumption or unusual mealtime behavior warrants a call to the veterinarian. Early intervention for appetite issues can help diagnose and treat any underlying medical problems. Don’t assume your cat is just being a picky eater if their eating habits change dramatically. It’s better to have them examined and address any health concerns right away. With proper care and treatment, most cats will regain their normal appetite.

Transitioning Food Types

When transitioning cats from dry food to wet food, it’s important to do it gradually over the course of 5-7 days. This gives their digestive system time to adjust to the new food. Start by mixing a small amount of the new wet food in with their regular dry food. Over the course of a week, slowly decrease the amount of dry food while increasing the wet food. The portions should be 75% dry food and 25% wet food for the first couple days, then move to 50% of each, and finally transition to 75% wet food and 25% dry food (https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/changing-cats-food-how-to).

It’s important to monitor the portions and calories during this transition. Wet food often has higher calorie content per volume compared to dry. You may need to feed smaller portion sizes of the wet food to avoid overfeeding. Any sudden changes in calories can lead to weight gain or loss. Aim for a gradual transition not just in food types but also in calories and nutrients. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your cat’s ideal calorie intake.

Palatability of Wet vs Dry

Cats may often find wet cat food to be more palatable than dry food. Wet food tends to have a stronger smell and softer texture that can be more enticing for many cats [1]. The moisture content and richness of the gravy or sauce in wet food often appeals to a cat’s senses and triggers their appetite more than the dry, crunchy pieces in kibble [2].

If your cat refuses dry food, try adding some warm water to rehydrate it and make the smell and taste more pronounced. This can make it more palatable. You can also mix a small amount of wet food into the dry kibble to encourage your cat to eat. Over time, gradually adjust the ratio back to only dry food if preferred.

Dental Health Concerns

There is a common perception that dry cat food helps clean teeth and promote dental health better than wet cat food. However, recent studies have shown this may not be the case. According to research published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, there was no significant difference in the amount of dental calculus between cats fed dry and wet foods (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4494333/).

While dry food does help remove food debris mechanically through the chewing action, it does not prevent plaque and tartar buildup. The texture of the kibble plays a bigger role, with larger, harder chunks providing more teeth cleaning benefits. Dental-specific dry foods designed for mechanical cleaning can be more effective for plaque prevention (https://www.wellpets.com/blog/170-wet-vs-dry-cat-food-dental-health).

For cats eating wet food, regular tooth brushing, dental treats, dental chews, and water additives can help maintain dental health. Annual professional dental cleanings at the vet are also recommended to fully remove any plaque and tartar on the teeth, for both wet and dry food diets.

Dehydration Risks

Cats have a naturally low thirst drive compared to other animals, so they may not drink enough water to make up for the lack of moisture in dry food (source). Feeding only dry food long-term can lead to chronic dehydration over time. Dehydration can cause serious health issues like urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and constipation.

It’s important to provide plenty of fresh, clean water at multiple locations around the home if feeding dry food. Consider getting a cat water fountain, which provides running water that many cats prefer over a still bowl. Cats with kidney disease may need additional fluids under the skin (subcutaneous fluids) prescribed by a veterinarian to support hydration.

Signs of dehydration include lethargy, dry gums, sunken eyes, poor skin elasticity, and decreased urine production. If you suspect your cat is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian right away as IV fluids may be needed.

Urinary and Kidney Health

Wet cat food has more moisture content, which helps cats stay hydrated and supports kidney function. Dehydration can put extra strain on the kidneys and worsen problems. According to ZeelandiaPets, wet food like Zealandia Lamb is a good choice for cats with kidney issues since it has low phosphorus and adequate protein.

The extra fluid from wet food also helps flush out the urinary tract. This can help reduce the risk of crystals or blockages forming, especially in male cats. Blue Buffalo’s wet kidney food is designed to support urinary and kidney health.

For cats with kidney disease, look for low phosphorus, lower protein wet foods made for kidney health. Staying hydrated and reducing strain on the kidneys is key. Work with your vet for the best kidney disease diet options and products for your cat’s individual needs.

Age and Life Stage Considerations

Kittens have very different dietary needs compared to adult or senior cats. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, kittens require a high-protein, high-calorie diet to support growth and development. It’s recommended to feed kittens three times per day until around 4 months old, then transition to adult food and feeding twice a day.

As cats reach 7-10 years old they are considered mature adults, while ages 11-14 are senior cats. At this stage their metabolism changes so they require fewer calories. According to Hill’s Pet, senior cats benefit from food specially formulated with nutrients to support joint health and lean body mass as activity decreases.

When transitioning between life stages, do it gradually over 5-7 days, mixing increasing amounts of the new food with the previous food. Monitor your cat’s weight and activity levels, adjusting food amounts to maintain an ideal weight.

Food Allergies or Intolerances

Food allergies can develop in cats when their immune systems overreact to an ingredient in their food. The most common signs of food allergies in cats include:

  • Itchy skin, excessive scratching, licking, or biting at their skin
  • Recurring ear infections
  • Hair loss or bald spots
  • Scabs and skin lesions
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

The ingredients cats are most often allergic to are: beef, fish, chicken, dairy products, corn, wheat, and soy. Cats must be exposed to the allergen first before developing an allergy. Food allergies usually start when a cat is young, under age 2.

To diagnose a food allergy, vets may recommend an elimination trial diet where the cat is fed a novel protein and carbohydrate source, like duck and pea, that they haven’t eaten before. Prescription hydrolyzed protein diets are also commonly used. When symptoms resolve, ingredients are slowly reintroduced to identify the allergen.

Picky Eating Habits

Cats can be notoriously finicky eaters. Some tips for dealing with picky eaters include:

  • Try different food textures – Cats may prefer wet food, dry food, raw food, or freeze dried options. Offer a variety to find their preference.
  • Stick to a feeding schedule – Feed cats at the same times each day and pick up uneaten food between meals. This creates a routine and encourages cats to eat when food is available.
  • Separate cats during mealtime – If multiple cats are competing for food, separate them into different rooms to reduce stress.
  • Try different locations – Place food bowls in different areas around the house to spark appetite.
  • Offer treats or catnip – These can stimulate appetite in picky cats.
  • Hide medication in wet food – For cats needing medication, mixing it into a tasty wet food can help ensure they consume it (check with your vet that this method is appropriate).

Being patient and experimenting with different foods, locations, and schedules can often get picky cats eating properly again. Consult a vet if appetite issues persist.

(Source: Cat Picky Eaters: Feeding a Kitty That Won’t Eat)

When to See the Vet

If your cat stops eating for more than 24 hours or loses interest in food for an extended period, it’s important to rule out any underlying illness by scheduling a vet visit (https://www.tumwaterveterinary.com/site/blog/2021/07/30/why-wont-my-cat-eat). Your vet can run tests to check for health issues that may be causing appetite loss. Recommended exams and diagnostics include:

  • Physical exam to check for any abnormalities
  • Bloodwork to evaluate organ function and look for infection
  • Urinalysis to assess kidney health
  • Fecal exam to rule out intestinal parasites
  • Radiographs to visualize internal organs

In addition to tests, closely monitor your cat’s eating habits, energy levels, and litter box usage. Track any vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or other concerning symptoms. The longer a cat goes without nutrition from food or water, the more dangerous it becomes. Notify your vet promptly if your cat stops eating for an extended period.

Scroll to Top