My cat has a very bad rotten mouth with an abscess. We noticed about 5 days ago when she stopped eating, and so we took her to the vet twice. She got a shot of antibiotics and painkillers that we give her twice a day, and both visits she also got an injection of fluids since she won't drink either.

The vet who will remove her bad teeth says that we must get her to eat to be healthy enough for the tooth extraction which is booked for 7 days away.

She is now at 5 days without food and I am very concerned. She wants to eat and has tried numerous times to eat soft food, but every time she will hiss and run away as if it causes her a lot of pain, even with the painkillers.

I am wondering how much longer she can go without food before we need to take drastic action. I have heard that force feeding an animal is bad for them, is that true? To get a feeding tube might be more than I can afford but I don't know what to do. How much longer should we wait to see if she eats? What can we do if she can't eat?

Edit- wanted to share the results in case anyone else has a similar problem. After she continued to not eat we got her into the vet the very next day as an emergency. She had a calcified lump that was preventing her from closing her mouth fully, so that explained why she couldn't eat. She was in a bit of pain after the removal, but by the next day she was eating just fine. So it seems if a cat isn't eating because of a bad tooth/abscess in their mouth, get it removed as soon as possible. If it is really bad there is no point waiting for antibiotics. She is doing so much better especially since she was otherwise healthy.

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    when my cat stopped eating i was at the vet five times in five days,on the last day my vet gave an injection with diazepam to make her start eating and it worked,it was not the same type of infection as in your cat but ask your vet about it your cat need to start eating soon or it might die. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 18:44
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    Related: How long can a healthy cat go without food?
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 21:18
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    If only someone answered that question with a number…
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 1:18
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    @Niahc thank you for the good news,glad to hear all is well with her. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 19:18
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    Reminds me of the doctors that told me to exercise to strengthen my hip. The hip that wasn't strong enough to hold me to walk.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 1:48

8 Answers 8


As someone with 5 cats, one of whom recently lost a lower front tooth, I'd be inclined to get a 2nd opinion from a different vet. My reasoning is that she can't eat anything because of the pain in her mouth. She can't drink anything because of the same problem (unless you can get her to try warm water), so how is she to "get healthy" enough for the extraction? After the extraction, I would think your cat would be more happy to chow down and not be in pain. Plus, your vet making your cat suffer for another 7 days is very stressful for her (and you). That's just not right.

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    That makes sense. The vet was worried about the risk to sedate her now but obviously if she cant eat it isnt going to get any better. We will have to get her in as an emergency case. I think the vet just underestimated how bad it had gotten already
    – Niahc
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 19:29

Go back to the vet and explain the problem or seek a different vet if you've lost faith in this one.

It seems mostly likely that the vet has underestimated the severity of the situation. If you're cat hasn't eaten for 5 days that is an emergency of its own that needs attention.

Also, I'd suggest asking for electrolytes so that your cat can get some essential nutrition by drinking it.


I don't know of force feeding being bad but I'm no expert. I'd assume your cat would like to have something in her belly. When my cat had teeth/gum issues and wouldn't eat, my vet recommended that I feed him using a giant plastic syringe (not expensive). I'd take his normal wet food (pate), put it in a bowl, add water and mix it up so that it's liquidy enough to squirt out of the syringe, and heat it to warm (not too hot!) in the microwave. Suck it up into the syringe and insert and slowly squirt into cat's mouth. Hopefully there's a side or spot in her mouth that's not affected where you could put the syringe with minimal pain. Hope this might help get a little bit in her system!

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    You can put some silicone/rubber tube at the end of the syringe too. Should feel softer to the animal's mouth.
    – bobflux
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 22:24
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    After reading about the risks of not eating I think we will have to try this. It seems like it would be very stressful but for the best. Its too bad the painkillers dont work better she reacts like crazy to anything touching her mouth so it will probably hurt her no matter what :(
    – Niahc
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 6:58
  • There are some cat treats (eg churo) sold in a paste form. Unfortunately the ones I've seen aren't nutritionally complete, but if the cat isn't eating at all anything tempting that has calories is a good thing. These can be squeezed into a finger or licked directly from the tube; my cat loves them, and since it isn't the food bowl yours might try it.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 1 at 4:38

I don't think forcefeeding is an option here. Forcefeeding a cat with no mouth problems is already dicey as it is naturally stressful for them, which can lead to a further aversion to the food. You also run the risk of the cat accidentally inhaling the food, which can lead to respiratory problems and even pneumonia.

But forcefeeding a cat with an abscessed tooth would be torture for them. Seriously - you're likely causing them pain and you're definitely going to cause great fear, in addition to the normal stress and risk of aspiration. In addition, it is unlikely you can get enough food into this cat by forcefeeding to make up for 5 days of not eating.

If this cat has not been eating at all for 5 days and is also not drinking, she needs medical attention, stat. And you definitely need a new vet. The approach he has taken is simply awful. The idea that you should be trying to give your cat any medicine by mouth is additionally awful (for the cat and for you).

Note a feeding tube is not the best option in a case like this as they often have to insert it using anasthetic (possibley a general anasthetic, depending on the type of tube), which introduces the same risk that removing the tooth would. And the TOOTH is the problem!

Anyway, take this cat to a good vet NOW

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    Agree that force feeding a cat with mouth pain is not ideal. However, nasogastric feeding tubes can often be placed with only local anesthesia, so it's still a possibility in this case.
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 21:32

I have had to force-feed several cats. It is not bad for them if done right, and certainly better than the alternative of starving. As superstar said, it's done with a large syringe, you make the food very liquidy and warm, gently squirt it into the cat's mouth. It usually takes some practice to get it into the mouth rather than all over yourself. Do a search on YouTube for "force feeding a cat" and you'll get all the help you need.

  • Not looking forward to this but we will have to try. Right now it takes 3 of us to hold her down to take her painkillers and she hissed and freaked out after. I think either we are not doing it right or it is just painful for any liquid to be in her mouth at all. If we cant do it we will see if the vet can help us
    – Niahc
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 6:53

Get a liquid or gel food replacement for cats (it's not even terribly expensive). Some of the high calorie gel foods only need 1 tablespoon per day for a reasonable calorie intake.

Even if you need to feed this with a syringe, it will be a lot easier to feed a small volume than a larger one like with regular soft cat food.


My cat has multiple bad teeth. 20 years old. Waiting for bloodwork result in the morning. Hoping it's a go with with extractions as she is in pain and can't eat anything unless it is baby food texture. I wouldn't continue to go to any vet that is OK with a cat suffering for that many days. There are also (more expensive) dental specialists as well. I'd call and get some feedback from a few. Another tip is buy Gerber's chicken with gravy baby food and warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds. .98 a jar at Walmart. If it's a tooth issue, they will probably eat that. It's the dry and canned with chunkier pieces (and cold) food - it is creating even more pain for them. My cat was sent home (waiting for the bloodwork results) and they gave me a can of Hill's Prescription Diet® a/d Urgent Care (Chicken). I warmed it up and she ate it like she hadn't eaten in days.


If you're successful in getting her painkillers down, try cyproheptadine while you're at it. It's an prescription-only antihistamine. It's not effective for that purpose and makes them sleepy and hungry. Here's where it gets good. It's incredibly effective at stimulating the appetite. I have first hand experience with force feeding cats, and both were successfully saved with treatment of cyproheptadine, hydration (we gave IV fluids) and force feeding.

With my first cat we went to a vet that didn't really want to do anything at all, so we went to a different vet. The other vet was kind enough to show us about about IV fluids and force feeding. We were able to 'maintain', but it was hard on us and her, and we just HAD to get her to eat on her own. The cat had not eaten or drank on her own in 5 weeks. She was generally lethargic and would leave the room when we put food out for her in the room.

Google led me to someone that talked about using cyproheptadine. I didn't know it was so readily available, so I went back to the first vet and demanded the prescription, which they relinquished and acted like I was on my own. I took it home, "crammed" 1 pill down her throat, and then gave her some food and fluids. She ran off like usual and I went about my business. 4 hours later, she climbed to her partner's empty food bowl, and demanded food. I offered her some of her favorite wet food and she began eating on her own. She continued to eat on her own and then became comfortable with drinking again later in the day.

My male cat's story is different, but with a similar ending and results. He hadn't been eating for about 4 days. I force fed and gave fluids for 3, then I used my leftover cyproheptadine. He was eating on his own the next day after his first dose.

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