While your cat is sure to let you know if their food bowl is running a bit low, picking up on changes in their normal eating and drinking habits can be a challenge. Subtle fluctuations are normal, but ongoing issues or sudden changes can be cause for concern. Read our Just Cats Clinic team’s guide to how health issues may affect your cat’s food and water intake.

#1: Your cat has dental disease

Dental disease is the most common condition that affects all pets. In fact, up to 90% of cats have dental disease by 2 years of age, and if left untreated, this condition can cause significant pain and infection. If your feline friend has a periodontal problem, such as stomatitis, abscessed teeth, or resorptive lesions, they may avoid dry food and may drink less water than usual. You could also observe them chewing on only one side of their mouth or dropping pieces of kibble everywhere when they used to be a neat eater. 

#2: Your cat has kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease is common among senior cats, causing increased thirst and urination. With declining kidney function comes a decreased ability to concentrate urine and filter out the bloodstream’s metabolic wastes. As the body attempts to flush out waste products, it pulls water, causing your whiskered pal to feel thirsty and urinate more frequently. Metabolic waste accumulation also causes nausea and vomiting, so your cat may not feel like eating much.

#3: Your cat has diabetes

Diabetes is another common condition in cats, as more than half the feline population is overweight or obese. Although diabetes can also occur in healthy weight cats, they are less likely to develop the disease. A cat affected by diabetes exhibits increased thirst, urination, and hunger, because their body is unable to convert glucose to fuel effectively. 

#4: Your cat has urinary tract issues

Urinary issues of all sorts can affect cats, and these conditions are often categorized as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). Urinary tract infections (UTIs), feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), and urinary stones can affect your whiskered pal’s eating and drinking habits. Typically, cats with urinary problems drink more than usual, and because of pain or infection, their appetite decreases.

#5: Your cat has arthritis

As your feline friend grows older, a lifetime of leaping, twisting, and darting through the house takes a toll on their joints. Arthritis commonly affects older cats, but the disease has also been diagnosed in many cats who are considered middle-aged. In fact, about 60% of cats exhibit arthritis signs by age 6. 

Despite how well cats hide pain or injury signs, your whiskered pal’s food and water intake may decrease if they have arthritis. Not only is this condition painful, the condition limits a cat’s mobility, so they may struggle to bend down to reach their food and water bowls.

#6: Your cat has hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when a cat’s thyroid gland runs amuck, producing too much thyroid hormone. This hormone is key to their metabolism, so when high levels are in the body, your feline friend will be hungrier and thirstier than usual.

#7: Your cat is stressed

Cats are highly sensitive creatures and can easily become stressed over the smallest of changes in their environment, schedule, or family. Your feline friend may even feel stressed because their litter box is dirty. If your cat becomes stressed, they will likely eat and drink less than usual.

How to prevent eating and drinking problems in your cat

Although you cannot completely prevent your cat’s appetite and thirst from changing, you can reduce their illness risk. To help prevent your whiskered pal from developing an illness that affects their appetite and thirst, follow these tips:

  • Portion out your cat’s meals — Feeding your cat the proper amount for their activity level, life stage, and health status will help them maintain an ideal weight, minimizing their potential for developing diabetes and arthritis.
  • Provide fresh, clean water — Nobody wants to drink dirty, stagnant water, much less your finicky feline friend. Ensure your cat remains hydrated by cleaning their water bowl regularly. Consider providing your whiskered pal with a drinking fountain so they have a constant fresh water source.
  • Take care of your cat’s oral health — Because dental disease affects virtually every cat at some point in their life, take care of your pet’s oral health at home and through regular veterinary dental health care. A clean mouth is a pain-free mouth that allows your cat to eat and drink normally.
  • Offer plenty of enrichment — A house cat’s life can be boring, which contributes to stress and eating problems. Provide plenty of fun activities and toys for your whiskered pal, ensuring they exercise, use their brain, and remain entertained throughout the day.
  • Schedule regular preventive care — Cats are masters at hiding illness and injury, but our team can spot many hidden health problems during your feline friend’s regular wellness care visits. By performing early detection screening tests during your cat’s wellness visits, we can detect disease before the condition causes serious problems to your whiskered pal’s health and wellbeing.

Changes in your cat’s eating and drinking habits can be so subtle that they’re difficult to spot, but any abnormalities in their behavior can indicate a health issue. If your feline friend exhibits any unusual behavior, schedule an appointment with our Just Cats Clinic team.