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Cat Dropping Food When Eating? Here Are 9 Reasons Why

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Have you noticed your cat dropping food when eating? Or have you noticed they’re only eating on one side of their mouth

In this article, we’ll cover;

  • 9 reasons why cats drop food when eating
  • What to do if you notice it happening

9 Reasons For Cats Dropping Food When Eating

There are 9 reasons your cat might be dropping food while eating. Let’s find out about some of the possible causes:

1. Gingivitis or Stomatitis

Domestic cat with gingivitis

You might have heard about gingivitis in people. It’s a mild gum disease where the gum line becomes sore and can bleed during brushing. 

But cats can also get Gingivitis

Sometimes, if the teeth have a lot of tartar, it’s not surprising that the gum becomes inflamed. 

Cats are also prone to another type of Gingivitis. The gums become very inflamed for no obvious reason. This is due to the cat’s immune system overreacting to the normal bacteria within the mouth.

It can be severe too. 

If the redness and ulceration extend from the gum line to the tongue, inner cheeks, and other parts of the mouth, it’s called Stomatitis

If your cat has gingivitis, as well as dropping food, you might notice they;

  • Have bad breath
  • Dribble a lot, or 
  • Eat on one side of their mouth

2. Dental Disease

Gingivitis is a type of dental disease. But rather than just gum inflammation, there is tartar buildup on the tooth itself. 

As the gums become more and more inflamed, it recedes, exposing the tooth root. Over time, the periodontal ligament and bone that holds the tooth in place disintegrate. This leaves an unstable tooth. 

Sometimes diseased teeth fall out, but not always. During the disease process, your cat will be in considerable pain.

Some cats will;

  • Drop their drop food while eating
  • Favour one side of their mouth, or
  • Go off their food altogether

You might also notice a bad smell in their mouth. Your cat might dribble more than it used to.   

3. A Broken Tooth

We all know how painful toothache is, and it’s no different for cats. 

Cats sometimes fracture or damage their teeth due to trauma like a fall or RTA. 

If your cat has a fractured tooth and exposes the pulp cavity, the nerve and blood supply won’t be protected. 

This causes:

  1. Severe pain, but also 
  2. Allows bacteria to enter the tooth root, causing infection 

If this infection enters your cat’s blood, it can be life-threatening, although this is rare. 

A broken tooth could cause your cat to vocalise in pain while eating. They might also be more irritable than usual, paw at their face or eat on one side of their mouth. 

4. Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions

These lesions, known as FORL’s are craters that form in your cat’s teeth. 

As the enamel disappears, it exposes the sensitive pulp. Your cat may show signs of pain while eating, like;

  • Dribbling 
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Dropping food while eating or 
  • Eating less and losing weight

Some cats seem more prone to them than others, and once they’ve had one FORL, they’re much more likely to develop more. 

5. Trauma

injured cat wearing a vet cone collar

Injuries can be painful no matter where they are. But if your cat gets a wound in their mouth or on their tongue, it could cause them to drop their food while eating. 

If the injury happens when you’re not around, you might not notice any blood so look for other signs. Your feline friend might dribble, lick their lips a lot, or seem reluctant to groom.

6. Tumours

Cats can get lumps and bumps in their mouths. Some can be benign, like epulis, but many are cancerous. 

If your cat has a tumour in its mouth, you might be able to see it. You might just notice some bleeding or a foul smell. 

Sometimes cats with mouth tumours struggle to eat. They often drop their food and dribble. They might also lose their appetite, and therefore, lose weight.

7. Foreign Material

It’s not as common for cats to eat foreign material as dogs. 

That said, things like;

  • Cotton thread
  • Small bones
  • Fishing line and hooks

Can sometimes get lodged in the mouth. 

If this is the case, your cat might not be able to move its tongue as it should. They might also swallow, retch, or cough a lot. 

8. Ulceration

Cats can develop mouth ulcers, just like we can. 

Sometimes, it’s related to the ingestion of caustic or irritant substances. 

That said, it’s often the result of kidney disease. When the kidneys don’t work as they should, a toxic waste product called Urea builds up in your cat’s bloodstream. 

Urea damages the small blood vessels on the edge of the tongue. This causes lesions known as uraemic ulcers. If your cat has kidney failure, it might drink more than usual and lose weight. You might also find their breath smells strong, they might vomit or seem nauseous.

9. A Head-Tilt

Some cats can develop a head tilt. This is often a result of conditions affecting the inner ear or the ‘balance centre’ of the brain. 

Sometimes a lump called a polyp growing;

  1. Within  the ear canal, or 
  2. The passages at the back of the nose and throat 

Can cause a head tilt.

Other conditions include a bleed on the brain or Vestibular Syndrome

If your cat has a head tilt, they will likely struggle to keep food in their mouth when eating. They may also seem a bit wobbly and drunk when moving around, and their eyes may flicker.

What Should I Do if My Cat Drops Food While Eating?

cat being checked over by the vet

Like any change in your cat’s behaviour, it’s vital to get your cat checked by a vet if they start dropping food. 

If your cat has;

  1. Stopped eating and drinking or,
  2. Are bleeding, you should make urgent contact with the vet for advice

If they seem stable and are still managing to eat and drink, they can wait until the next working day. 

If your cat is tolerant, you could look at their mouth. Look if you can see a wound, foreign material, or other obvious cause. 

It’s helpful to make a note of any other symptoms they might be showing. These could be changes in thirst and appetite, dribbling, or signs of pain. 

Your vet will examine your feline friend, determine the likely cause and best treatment option. 

The good news is that many of the causes of cats dropping food are treatable. 


If you notice your cat has suddenly started dropping food, there are a few possible causes. 

Depending on the reason, your cat might show other symptoms like; dribbling, a head tilt, pawing at the face, or bad breath. They might even start drinking more or vomiting. 

With such a range of causes and symptoms, you might need an expert eye to get to the bottom of the problem. So, if you’re concerned about your cat dropping their food, make an appointment with your vet.

Photo of author

Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS

Hannah Godfrey is a veterinary surgeon at Bridges Veterinary Surgery in Cardiff. She has over 10 years of experience and has a passion for soft tissue surgery as well as feline and canine dentistry.


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