Why Is My Cat Not Eating After Dental Surgery? (And How To Get Your Cat To Eat)

cat staring at blue food bowl

After your cat has dental surgery, it’s pretty normal for it to not want to eat much. This can make any cat owner worry but it’s a common thing.

After dental surgery, cats may experience mouth soreness and nausea from anesthesia, leading to a decreased appetite.

Stress from the surgery and side effects from medications like antibiotics and painkillers can further reduce their desire to eat.

To encourage eating, offer soft, appealing foods, ensure easy access to meals, and administer any prescribed pain medications.

If your cat hasn’t shown interest in eating within 48-72 hours post-surgery or exhibits concerning symptoms such as swelling or excessive drooling, it’s important to consult your vet for further guidance.

In this guide, we’ll talk about why cats might not feel like eating after dental work and share some tips on how to help them start eating again.

1. Pain And Discomfort

Dental surgery can be tough on your cat, often involving procedures such as pulling out teeth or treating gum disease. These changes can make it hard and painful for your cat to chew its food.

It can leave its mouth feeling sore and tender, making it hard for the cat to chew.

This pain and general oral discomfort can make it skip meals, even if they’re usually excited about food.

2. Nausea From Anesthesia

When cats undergo dental surgery, they’re given anesthesia to keep them asleep and pain-free during the procedure.

After they wake up, the anesthesia in their system can make them feel nauseous. This queasy feeling can lead to a lack of appetite.

Just like humans, cats need some time for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off completely before their stomach settles down and they feel like eating again.

To prevent nausea, central antiemetics injections are given to animals that undergo anesthesia. This helps the animal to regain its appetite faster.

3. Stress And Anxiety

Visiting the vet, going through surgery and then coming back home to recover can be a lot for your cat to process.

All these new experiences and changes can make it feel stressed and anxious.

Cats are creatures of habit and when their normal routine is disrupted, they might not feel safe or comfortable enough to eat.

4. Medication Side Effects

After dental surgery, your cat will likely be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infections and painkillers to help manage pain.

While these medications can help with recovery, they can sometimes lead to side effects, such as a decreased appetite.

Antibiotics and painkillers can upset your cat’s stomach, making them feel nauseous or lose interest in food.

For cats that are very sensitive to oral NSAIDs, it is best to use a different route to give the medication (usually subcutaneous injections).

How To Encourage My Cat To Eat?

Give Your Cat Soft Food

After dental surgery, your cat’s mouth will be sensitive, making it difficult for them to chew hard kibble. Offering soft, palatable foods can make eating much easier and less painful.

Soft foods like pâté-style cat food or canned food can appeal to your recovering cat.

If your cat refuses to eat anything besides dry food, you can add some water to soften it.

Make Your Cat’s Food Tastier

Your cat might not have much of an appetite after its dental surgery so making its food more appetizing can help.

One great way to your cat’s stomach is through its nose.

Many cats love the smell of tuna and adding some tuna water to your cat’s food can help with its appetite.

Slightly warming up your cat’s food can also make its food more appetizing. Warm food releases more aroma, which can stimulate your cat’s appetite.

You can also try feeding your cat boiled chicken meat/chicken breasts or mixing it with canned food. Cats love meat and this usually works.

Be sure to check the temperature of the food before offering it to your cat to avoid burning its sensitive mouth.

Feed The Pain Medications

The vet will most probably give your cat some pain meds to help with the pain after the dental surgery. This can help your cat alleviate the discomfort and encourage it to eat.

Understanding the correct dosage and frequency for administering the medication is important, so be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian.

Make It Easy For Your Cat

If your cat is in pain and discomfort, it probably isn’t too keen on moving about too much. If it has to walk a fair distance or use the stairs to get to its good, chances are it would rather not eat.

Place your cat’s food near its resting place so that it doesn’t have to use much strength when it is hungry.

Hand Feeding Your Cat

Your cat might need encouragement to eat after surgery and feeding your cat by hand is a great way of showing your love.

This is a method that I used after my cat’s dental surgery. He had 5 of his teeth removed and didn’t eat much for 3 days despite my best efforts.

His appetite only started returning when I fed him by placing his food on my palm which he ate off from.

When Should I Bring My Cat To The Vet?

While some discomfort and reduced appetite can be expected, certain signs can indicate that your cat’s recovery isn’t going as smoothly as expected.

  • Lack of appetite
  • Swelling, redness and/or discharge
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bad breath

If your cat hasn’t started showing interest in eating within 48-72 hours after surgery or has persistent symptoms, it’s important to contact your vet.

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