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Cats cannot verbally communicate with us how they are feeling. Therefore, we have to pay close attention to their body language and behavior to gauge what is going on inside their heads and their bodies. And when something is wrong, a reduction in appetite and an increase in sleeping are common.
Both eating and sleeping are two of your cat’s essential needs. They need food to provide energy and nutrients to grow, and they need sleep to allow their bodies to recharge. Therefore, even subtle changes in their normal eating habits and sleeping patterns are a tell-tale sign something is up.
If you’ve noticed your cat sleeping all day and not eating, it can be easy to worry! But you’re in the right place. In this article, I run through all the reasons for these behavior changes – some are only minor whereas others are serious. I also share tips on what to do to help your kitty live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life once again.
What is Normal Cat Eating & Sleeping Behavior?
Before I discuss the reasons why your cat is sleeping all day and not eating, it’s important to look at normal feline behaviors. How much should a cat be eating? And how much of their day should they spend sleeping?
While all cats are different and you know your cat best of all, it is important to know a general guideline so any deviation from this receives the attention it deserves.
Normal Eating Behaviors
All cats are carnivores and protein makes up the bulk of their diet. But more than this, cats need protein to survive. This means they are, by definition, “obligate carnivores”. Some of the essential amino acids they need for survival they cannot produce and only get from food.
In the wild, cats mostly eat mice, birds, and other small prey that are high in this essential protein. They hunt and eat regularly, and have up to 20 small meals every day. Occasionally, some wild cats also eat grass to provide a healthy dose of fiber, but small rodents are their primary food source.
Domesticated cats also eat protein-rich diets as most commercial cat foods have a high protein content. However, the feeding patterns of domestic cats are wildly different. Some have adapted to having two larger meals per day to correspond with their owner’s schedule, whereas others are fed several smaller meals intermittently, more alike to their natural hunting practices.
However you choose to feed your cat, they should be eating something every single day. If your cat hasn’t eaten for 24 hours, you should start to worry. What if you spot your cat not eating and drinking for 3 days? This is a medical emergency and going this long without food and water can have dire health consequences.
Normal Sleeping Behaviors
Cats love to snooze and it is considered normal for cats to spend up to 70% of their time sleeping. This is around 16 hours every day! This sleeping happens in a polyphasic sleep pattern, meaning your kitty will have multiple catnaps each day. You’ll often experience your cat having sudden bursts of energy between their napping sessions.
This does, of course, also depend on your cat. Young kittens are extremely active when awake, but tend to sleep for more hours each day. This is because their bodies are growing and developing, which is facilitated through sleep. Likewise, older cats naturally have lower energy levels, spending more of their days napping and less time running around.
Despite their natural love for sleep, too much shut-eye is worrying. If your cat is always sleeping or doesn’t seem to react to exciting stimuli (such as you getting out their favorite toy or shaking their jar of treats) then it is considered lethargy. Lethargy is a symptom of many underlying illnesses.
Why Is My Cat Sleeping All Day & Not Eating?
As we have just learned, excessive sleeping and a lack of appetite are both indicators that something is wrong with your cat. When seen in combination, the likelihood of these symptoms pointing to a medical condition are ever higher.
So, why is my cat sleeping all day and not eating? Here are ten possible reasons, ranging from minor to major. Read the below sections and see which you think applies to your poor kitty.
1. Dental Conditions
Dental problems are common in cats, especially older felines. This is because dental diseases are generally progressive and caused by a build-up of plaque that develops over the years. As time goes on, more plaque forms, more bacteria breeds, and the more damage there is to the teeth and surrounding gums.
If your cat is not eating much but acting normal, their dental condition is likely making eating painful. This is especially likely if your cat stopped eating dry food but eats treats. Dry food is particularly rough on the gums, so they will show a preference for wet food. However, the one-off treat is often too good to resist!
Some other signs of dental conditions and poor oral health include:
- Foul-smelling breath
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Tiny sores on the gums
- Drooling from the mouth
- Open-mouth breathing
- Loose or missing teeth
2. Upset Stomach
Having an upset stomach can be enough to make your cat lose its appetite and feel lethargic. Several things can cause an upset stomach, from a sudden change in diet to your cat eating something it shouldn’t. Just like feeling sick can put you off your dinner, it has the same impact on your kitty.
Similarly, while you feel ill you don’t want to run around and play. You want to lie in bed until you feel better, and your sick cat will likely do the same. This explains their increased need for sleep. Cat sleeping positions when sick also change if they have a stomach upset, as your cat will avoid sleeping on their belly where it hurts.
Like dental conditions, it is relatively easy to notice your cat has an upset stomach. Alongside sleeping all day and not eating, your cat will show the following signs:
- Vomiting or making retching noises
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Swollen and bloated abdominal area
3. Eating Toxic Substances
An upset stomach is usually nothing to worry about – whatever has briefly made your cat sick will be eliminated quickly and your cat’s behavior will turn to normal. However, if they have managed to get their paws on a toxic substance, the consequences can be more severe.
Several common household substances are toxic to cats. This includes human foods (such as onions, garlic, and chocolate), cleaning products, some houseplants, human medications, and more! Depending on how much of the toxic substance your cat has eaten, poisoning can become life-threatening and your cat needs to be seen by a professional.
Thankfully, spotting toxicity is easy. Firstly, your cat won’t eat anything as the poisonous substance makes them feel sick. They will also have sudden and severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, start drooling from their mouth, and you might spot your cat breathing heavily while resting. Unnatural tiredness is also common, which could eventually progress to seizures or total body collapse.
Most cats will go through life coughing up occasional hairballs. This is because cats are edacious self-groomers and their specialized tongues pick up loose hair from their coat as they remove dirt and debris. Most hair is eliminated in their stools, but sometimes it can accumulate and form a hairball. The only way for these hairballs to be eliminated is by vomiting them out.
Healthy cats with normal digestive function only experience hairballs occasionally. However, if your cat has impaired digestion, grooms itself excessively, or sheds more than normal, hairballs can become a common occurrence. The excess hair can also lead to an obstruction in the intestines.
When an intestinal blockage occurs, loss of appetite is one of the most common signs. Your cat will also exhibit lethargic behavior due to the discomfort it’s feeling. Other symptoms are:
- Gagging, retching, and a hacking cough
- Vomiting up food and/or mucus
- Digestive upset such as diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
5. Bacterial or Viral Infections
Whenever you notice your cat sleeping more than usual and refusing to eat, you should consider a gastrointestinal infection. This is a group of infections caused by viruses or bacteria that infect the digestive tract, namely the stomach or intestines.
A lack of appetite is one of the most common symptoms. The pathogens make your cat feel extremely sick and uncomfortable, and so the last thing they want to be doing is eat. Lethargy and excessive sleeping is also a frequent clinical sign – your cat needs all the strength it can to fight off the infection and spends more time getting much-needed sleep.
Other symptoms of gastrointestinal infections are as follows:
- Episodes of vomiting and diarrhea
- Dry heaving or gagging after eating and drinking
- Tender abdomen, especially when picked up
- Increased hiding behavior and more withdrawn
- Dehydration if vomiting/diarrhea lasts over 24 hours
6. Parasitic Infections
Parasitic infections also cause issues with appetite and sleeping in cats. This isn’t true for all parasites such as fleas that live in your cat’s fur coat. However, any parasites that live inside and feed from your cat’s intestines cause intense digestive upset. There are a few types of worms that do just this:
- Roundworms: These worms live freely inside the intestine, swimming around the gut and living off the food your cat eats as part of its diet.
- Hookworms: These worms attach to the lining of your cat’s intestines with their hook-shaped heads and feed on the blood passing through the gut.
- Tapeworms: These worms attach to the lining of your cat’s intestines and feed on the food being digested as it passes through the gut.
All three of these intestinal worms cause digestive upset and make your cat sick. This causes your cat to lose its appetite completely, plus you’ll notice bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. These episodes of sickness will last for as long as your cat has the parasites inside its intestines.
Worms also cause lethargy. With hookworms, this is due to the worms feeding off the blood. Blood is required to transport oxygen around the body, and so the less blood, the harder it is for oxygen to get to the muscles. This makes your cat sleepy. On the other hand, roundworms and tapeworms feed on your cat’s food supply, thus taking the energy and nutrients from their diet and making them lethargic.
7. Feline Depression
Something such as depression or other emotional changes can impact your cat’s eating habits and sleeping patterns. Like humans, cats that are depressed often lose interest in eating. In fact, they are so miserable they lose interest in everything they love! This means your cat will often spend more time sleeping – there isn’t anything that brings them enjoyment, so they might as well snooze.
It is a horrible thought knowing that your cat is so unhappy. However, don’t beat yourself up about it! Cats are extremely sensitive creatures and get depressed easily. For example, cat depression after a new kitten is common as your old cat feels like its territory has been infringed upon. The loss of another pet or a family member can also lead to depression.
Alternatively, your cat might have gone through a traumatic experience you are unaware of. Depression is also one of the notable traumatized cat symptoms to watch for – perhaps your cat was abandoned or abused by its previous owner.
Aside from a decreased appetite and increased lethargy, other signs of feline depression are:
- Loss of interest in playing with toys
- Reluctance and disinterest in going outside
- Reduced interactions with people and animals
- Excessive vocalizations and whining
- Reduction in grooming and unkempt coats
- Refusal to use the litter box or more frequent peeing
Most of the reasons for your cat sleeping all day and not eating thus far have been pretty minor. At least, they are entirely manageable with the help of a vet. However, these two symptoms in combination can also point to more serious conditions, such as cancer.
Like humans, cats can develop many kinds of cancers in all different regions of the body. Early diagnosis is crucial, but cancer is undeniably hard to catch early on. Therefore, subtle changes to eating habits and sleeping patterns can be the first indication. As the disease progresses, your cat will also suffer notable weight loss as they metabolize fats for energy.
Other symptoms of cancers tend to be more localized and specific depending on which region of the body the tumors form. With that said, some more common signs include:
- Visible lumps and bumps below your cat’s skin
- Unexplained bleeding or discharge from the eyes, ears, or stools
- Withdrawn behavior and failure to thrive in social settings
- Loss of interest in grooming and a matted fur coat
- Yellowing around the eyes and mouth
- Failure or refusal to use the litter box despite being trained
9. Kidney Failure
Also known as renal failure, kidney failure is sadly a relatively common yet severe condition in cats. There are two main types of the disease:
- Acute Kidney Failure: Renal failure that has a sudden onset and is often caused by trauma, poisons, kidney infection, urethral blockages, or heart failure.
- Chronic Kidney Failure: Renal failure that occurs in middle-aged or senior cats and is caused by the gradual wearing down of the renal system throughout your cat’s life.
Kidneys are important organs in the body. Cats need their kidneys to help remove waste from the blood, concentrate urine, manage blood pressure and produce hormones. In both acute and chronic renal failure, these functions are impaired.
Therefore, two of the most notable symptoms are increased thirst and urination. Your cat can’t filter the urine and so pee out large amounts and then drink in excess to compensate for the fluid loss. The build-up of toxins also causes cats to feel sick, leading to loss of appetite. General lethargy and weakness are another common sign of renal failure, and other symptoms include:
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Bad smelling breath
10. Liver Problems
Liver problems could be the reason for your cat sleeping all day and not eating. Like the kidneys, the liver is an essential organ used for many important physiological functions. It helps to remove toxins and wastes, synthesize proteins, store vitamins and minerals, and produce bile used for digestion.
The livers of cats with kidney failure are impaired and don’t carry out these functions as they should. This impairs digestion and causes toxins to accumulate in the body. Together, these both lead to a loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, stomach ulcerations, and swelling.
Lethargy is another common sign, and your cat will sleep more often while feeling unwell. Moreover, the reduced food intake means your cat has less fuel to use as energy. Plus, liver disorders are uncomfortable and cause pain, which leads to depression and exacerbates the need to sleep more.
How to Help a Cat That’s Sleeping All Day & Not Eating
If your cat is sleeping all day and not eating, you need to book an appointment with your veterinarian. Both a loss of appetite and increased lethargy are common signs of many illnesses. This includes both mental disorders such as depression, digestive issues such as intestinal infection, and more serious widespread disorders like renal or liver failure.
The treatment offered by your vet depends on the underlying cause.
Here is a brief overview of some of the types of treatment you might be recommended:
- Deworming medication to treat worms and ongoing preventative treatment
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections of the gut
- Cleaning your cat’s teeth and removing plaque to prevent the progression of dental diseases
- Removal of damaged teeth if there is severe and irreversible damage
- Surgical removal of hairballs or other objects obstructing the intestines
- Fluid therapy to help flush toxic substances from the body
- Intensive nutritional support and prescription diets for kidney and liver disease
- Chemotherapy and/or surgical removal of cancerous tumors and lumps
- Anti-anxiety medication and changes to your home environment to help combat depression
Whatever your vet suggests, you should trust it! Using the treatment they recommend gives your cat the best chance of making a full recovery. Or in diseases that are not curable, it will provide your cat with the best life it can have with its condition, and a fulfilling last few years together.
There are also a few things you can do at home to help your cat and prevent these behaviors from arising. Now, these aren’t going to be effective in preventing the development of some diseases – they’re not a magic cure! However, they can limit the likelihood of avoidable reasons, thus reducing the overall chance of your cat suffering.
The first thing you should do is to reduce stress in your home. Reducing stress reduces the likelihood of depression, and also helps your cat cope with and recover from unavoidable medical conditions more easily. To do this, make sure you introduce any changes slowly and are mindful of how your cat feels in certain situations.
You can also help to encourage eating by making your cat’s food more delicious and enticing. Make sure you use high-quality cat food full of nutrients. Wet cat food also has a stronger aroma than dry food, and so might be more appetizing to cats. Although this won’t fix the underlying cause, it can help increase the nutrients your cat consumes while in recovery.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
If you notice your cat sleeping all day and not eating, you need to take it seriously! These are two common symptoms of many medical conditions. Some are minor and will correct themselves on their own, whereas others are life-threatening progressive diseases.
Therefore, it is always best to take your cat to the vet just in case. You can also use this article before you go to your appointment to gain a better idea of what could be wrong with your cat. And if you spot any of the symptoms noted here, don’t hesitate to book the appointment ASAP!