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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 22451
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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my cat is 10yrs old he hasnt eaten or drank anything for over

Customer Question

my cat is 10yrs old he hasn't eaten or drank anything for over 24hrs,hes' very unsteady on his feet when walking, and want,s to sleep outside.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.


Poor Snoope! I must say that I am quite concerned about your lad.

When an elderly cat goes off their food/water, becomes lethargic, weak, and is trying to withdraw from his family, it is a vague clinical picture that can occur with a range of issues. Now if we are able to remove oral differentials (since you haven’t noted any drooling or struggling to chew) then we must focus on those conditions that affect the body as a whole and could be making him feel nauseous or too unwell to eat. This includes grumbling bacterial infection, viral disease, pancreatitis, metabolic conditions (ie hyperthyroidism), organ disease (ie liver or kidney troubles) toxin and/or foreign material ingestion (the last two be less likely in his situation). As well, while it isn't nice to think about, we must keep in mind that cancer in cats his age can manifest as feeling unwell, poor appetite and otherwise very little else (just as it doesn't impinge on the body, only to steal nutrients from him).

To complicate matters, we get very concerned for cats who go off their food (and this is getting worrying with his sounding so weak) because cats were not well designed for the anorexic lifestyle. When they are off their food, body fat is broken down and released into the blood stream, causing their liver distress (ie. hepatic lipidosis) that can make getting them better even more difficult for us.

Now if Snoope is turning away from food, then his signs could be induced by nausea even if he has not shown any vomiting (often nauseous cats go off their food rather then eat/vomit like a dog would). To rule out nausea as an anorexia differential, you can try him on antacid therapy. There are a number of antacids that are available over the counter and pet friendly. I would advise only treating with one, but the two I tend to recommend are Pepcid (More Info/ Dose) or Zantac (More Info/Dose). This medication of course shouldn’t be given without consulting your vet if he does have any pre-existing conditions or is on any other medications. Ideally, it should be given about 30 minutes before food to ease his upset stomach.

As well, you will want to try and see if you can get him eating (as I am sure you have been). Favourite foods are allowed or you can tempt her with a light/easily digestible diet. Examples of this would be boiled chicken, boiled white fish, scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk), meat baby food (do avoid the ones with garlic powder in the ingredients) or there are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used here (ie Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity.)

Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food in. Usually we don’t jump on this after just 24 hours of anorexia, but if he is wobbly and weak then it may be a consideration here for Snoope. In that case we would often use Hill's A/D (LINK), Royal Canin Recovery (LINK), or Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet (LINK). All of these are critical care diets that are calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise. And these could just help get some more calories into her even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. If you cannot get to your vet today, then you can try wet kitten food (since it will have more nutrients then his usual diet) or even meat baby food (as long as it doesn’t have any garlic or onion powder).

On top off all of this, you do need to keep an eye on his water intake. You did note that you offered water but we do still want to keep a close eye on his hydration at this point. To check his hydration and make sure that he isn’t becoming dehydrated, there are a few things we can test at home. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether the pet has a "skin tent" when you lift the skin (example). To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE. ( They use a big dog but it makes it easier to see and the principles are exactly the same) If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have your kitty seen by his vet before this gets out of control.

In regards XXXXX XXXXX you can do to help stave off dehydration at home (though do note that if he is already then he will likely need more the oral rehydration), encourage him to drink by offering fresh water or even low-sodium chicken broth. As well, wet foods (as mentioned above) are 35% water, so getting him to eat will help us deal with water intake as well. If he isn't amenable to drinking, you may wish to offer unflavored pedialyte via syringe feeding. While we cannot do this if they are vomiting, it may be an option for this situation. A typical maintenance rate for hydration in an animal 48mls per kilogram of his body weight a day. If you do give syringe pedialyte, this should obviously be divided up into multiple offerings through the day rather then all at once. This value will give you the total he needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of his daily requirement. If he does vomits if you give pedialyte, I would discontinue this as a therapy. (since we don’t want vomiting because of our intervention).

Overall, when a cat is anorexic, unwilling to drink and lethargic, it can mean a wide range of underlying issues. If there is any chance he has been exposed to toxins, then we'd want to see him urgently. Otherwise, if you try the above and do not see improvement in 12-24 hours or he worsens (vomits, etc), then you do want to get your vet involved at that stage.They can assess hydration, check for signs of any sinister lumps/bumps or internal issues. As well, you may consider having them check a blood sample to assess the state of his organs. They can also cover him with antibiotics, anti-nausea/vomiting medication by injection and even appetite stimulating drugs if necessary. Depending on the findings, the vet will be able advise you on what is likely our culprit and what can be done to help your wee one before he just fades away on us.

Finally, just to note in case you were keen to have him seen today, some veterinary practices in our country have Sunday office hours. As well, I wanted to mention that most veterinary practices here do have contingency plans for emergency care for their patients even when they are not open. Therefore, it is worth ringing the practice. If they are open, you can get him seen today. If they aren't, then they will likely have a message to direct you on how to contact their out of hours service. And if you don't have a vet you can find one local to you, you can check you can check the RCVS Register (HERE) to find your local Vets Now (LINK) who are open all nights/weekends. In any case, if you wanted to get him checked out sooner then there are options to have him seen today too.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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