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Why Is My Cat Not Eating After Dental Cleaning or Dental Surgery?

If you notice your cat’s appetite is decreasing or their trips to their water source are less, it could mean your cat has an oral problem. If you have broken a tooth, have a cavity, have rotten teeth, or have gum diseases such as periodontitis or gingivitis, you may not want to eat or drink because your dental issues cause you pain and discomfort. This is the same for a cat. Your cat can develop bad breath due to oral bacteria buildup.

If you have had a dental procedure done, such as a dental cleaning or dental surgery, you may find it difficult to chew or eat for at least 24 hours. Sometimes, the dentist may tell you not to drink anything excessively hot or cold and only eat soft foods depending on the procedure. Cats are no different. Cats can fracture their teeth the same as a human. They have teeth extracted and abscesses drained the same as any human being.

Dental issues such as inflamed gums for a cat can be just as painful as it is for you. Increasing dental pain decreases your cat’s quality of life, causing decreased appetite for food and water. Your cat should have a dental cleaning every six months to every year for these reasons.

Why Is My Cat Not Eating After Dental Cleaning or Dental Surgery?

Ordinarily, after a cat has dental cleaning or surgery, they start to eat again within 24 hours after the procedure. In most cases, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic and pain pills for a few days after the dental procedure. It will not hurt your cat if they refuse to eat for a few days following dental procedures.

Your cat will be groggy from the anesthesia given before its dental procedure. This anesthesia takes several hours to wear off and be eliminated by the body. All cats act differently after receiving anesthesia. Some cats have weird and strange behaviors for a few hours, and they cannot handle solid foods at this time. Your cat can act out of its normal behavior, and if it is in pain, you may notice the following.

  • Aggressiveness
  • Refusing to be touched
  • Anxious
  • Cranky
  • Crying
  • Pacing
  • Agitation

Anesthesia can cause stomach upset and vomiting for a few hours. Drooling before and after a dental procedure is possible. Your cat may still be in pain for a few days due to the procedure, so eating remains uncomfortable for the cat for a short time. While it takes up to two weeks or less for a cat’s mouth to heal, it should be able to eat soft foods during this healing process.

Your cat may be hungry, but cannot handle any food it must chew. You can try giving your cat moist cat food with a pate texture or baby food for the next five to seven days. Your cat should not try to eat solid foods, especially if it has sutures. The vet will most likely want to see your cat in a few days after a dental procedure to ensure its gums heal properly and there is no infection brewing.

Why is My Cat Not Drinking After A Dental Cleaning Or Dental Surgery?

After a cat has a dental procedure such as cleaning or oral dental surgery, it is not unusual to have some pain and discomfort. Some cats who suffer from oral pain before surgery or dental cleaning may find terrific relief, and while an element of pain and discomfort is present, it may be at a lower level because the vet took care of the problem.

However, if your cat refuses to drink, it can become dehydrated quickly, and the vet may have to give your cat a bolus of water. A bolus of water is where the vet pushes fluids under the skin at the back of the neck. The cat will have a large lump for a couple of hours, which is harmless and painless. These added fluids will perk your kitty up in no time and, in many instances, give them back the desire to drink more water.

What To Do If My Cat Is Not Eating Or Drinking After A Dental Cleaning or Surgery? 

I have taken care of cats since 1992 and have gone through many different types of dental problems that required a surgical procedure to fix oral problems. I have also brought my cats to the vet for a dental cleaning, and I cannot remember any of my cats going without food or water for more than 48 hours. The vital thing to do is allow your cat to rest after bringing it home from the vet. Going for a car ride is stressful enough for many cats, let alone enduring a dental cleaning or surgery.

You can have soft food and water available in the cat’s usual eating spot. Please do not give your kitty hard kibbles or treats for at least a week after surgery and 48 hours after a dental cleaning. On occasion, I tried a few of the following approaches after my cats had a dental cleaning or surgery. You may also find these tips helpful to your kitty.

  • Do not give your kitty dry, hard kibbles. If your cat loves moist food, that is great. If your cat eats only dry food, you could try mixing the dry kibbles with low sodium tuna or chicken broth. Let the food set for a time until the kibbles are soft. Moist food also adds water to the diet.
  • Keep fresh filtered water next to the cat food.
  • Cat water fountains work wonders.
  • Try a variety of dishes. For example, some of my cats will not eat from plastic containers, only glass. Some opt for plastic.
  • Increase water supplies by placing more water dishes around your house.
  • Be sure to wash the water dish at least weekly.
  • Be sure to fill the dish to the top every day.
  • If your cat allows you to do so, you can fill a small feeding syringe with water and aim the needleless syringe into the cat’s cheek away from the surgical site. Try two to five ccs of water at a time if your cat allows you to use a syringe. Never wrestle with your cat as it has had enough trauma.
  • Wet the tip of your finger with water and try to apply a drop or two of water to the nose or lips.
  • It is vital to know your cat’s water preferences. Notice if they prefer a bowl of water versus a cat fountain. My six cats like to drink from our central cat water fountain. My Mia has her own bowl of water available during the night hours. However, she makes daytime trips to the water fountain. This is her preference.

Never allow your cat to go past 36 hours without drinking. Your vet needs to intervene with additional fluids until your cat gets back on track with drinking and eating.

Signs and Symptoms of Cat Dehydration

Dehydration is a serious matter for your cat, and you should never let your cat go beyond 36 hours without drinking water. You may notice,

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Dry, pale mucus membranes
  • Thick saliva
  • Panting
  • Sticky gums
  • Sunken eyes compared with bright and alert eyes

Tips For Better Oral Care

  • Buy Feline Dental Greenie Treats and give them as directed to help cut down on plaque.
  • Try dental finger wipes.
  • Try Petrodex Dental Kits for Cats (toothbrush and toothpaste).
  • Oxyfresh Dental Care is an additive added to your cat’s water to help decrease plaque.
  • Purina Dentalife may help increase your cat’s dental health.
  • Some cat parents find Vetriscience Perio Support Teeth Cleaning Powder for cats helpful.