There are so, so many reasons why a cat slows down on eating or stops eating all together. According to the Cornell Online Consultant, A Diagnostic Support System for Veterinary Medicine, there are 454 Possible Diagnoses for Feline Anorexia.
You may have the best veterinarian in the world and still may not be able to discover the “why.” Keep trying. While your veterinarian is trying to diagnose your kitty, you must provide supplemental nutrition if your cat is eating a little on its own, or full nutrition if your cat will not eat at all. By assist feeding, you will give your veterinarian and your cat the gift of time. Until you discover the reason why your cat is not eating, assist feed your cat with diligence.
Listed below are some of the cat illnesses or issues associated with a cat not eating:
Acid Stomach – Sometimes the veterinarian will recommend “cat pepcid for a cat with a sour stomach. It’s really just human pepcid … most importantly it is the 10 mg Regular Strength tablets. It is incredibly important to get acid stomach under control to prevent ulcers from the stomach all the way up to the mouth.
Anemia – your veterinarian will need to do bloodwork to determine if your cat is anemic. Read the section on blood test values to help understand the blood test results.
Anorexia in Cats – This is a “Catch 22.” Your cat won’t eat and becomes anorexic. Once a cat stops eating, they lose the desire to eat again. We have to help them remember to start eating again by assist feeding.
Antibiotics – Some cats get nauseated and lose their appetite while taking antibiotics. It is important to make sure eating continues so that your cat does not become anorexic. There are specific antiobotics for different cat illnesses, so if your at stops eating and you suspect the antibiotic, ask your veterinarian what the antibiotic options are. Nancy and Jazz write “Jazz started not eating within 48 hours of being on the antibiotic Clavamox. I wasn’t concerned too much at first, but by the 3rd day I was. I tried everything… Nothing worked. After 5 days, my veterinarian changed him to Baytril 20, and the change was dramatic. Within 2 hrs of the first dose, he was begging to eat.”
Diabetes – Controlling the blood sugar levels will often bring the appetite back.
Heart Disease – Example: Cardiomyopathy – When the heart cannot pump blood efficiently, oxygen is not delivered as it should be and weight loss occurs. A cat with heart disease may have fluid build up around the heart and lungs making the cat very uncomfortable and not feeling like eating. As the cat leans forward to eat, all the pressure from the excess fluid around the heart and lungs push forward, causes discomfort and may even make it hard to breathe. If your veterinarian has not done a chest x-ray lately, ask for one as this will show any fluid build up, enlarged heart, etc.
Feline Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease) – When a cat stops eating for even just a few day, Hepatic Lipidosis can occur. This is especially true if the cat was overweight. If caught early enough, this is usually a treatable disease… the cure mainly being getting enough calories in on a daily basis. There is an underlying reason why the cat stopped eating, so assist feed your cat to provide strength and give you time to run more tests.
Here are links that have good discussions about Hepatic Lipidosis:
Dehydration – Dehydration is a very serious issue. Besides not having any saliva to make it possible to swallow food, dehydration causes the body’s electrolytes to get out of wack and cause all sorts of cat illnesses that confuse the brain and internal organs. If you cat is dehydrated, take it to your vet clinic to have subcutaneous fluids administered and please ask your veterinarian to do blood work to see what’s going on.
Hyperthyroidism – Generally a ravenous appetite is associated with hyperthyroidism, but there are some cases where the cat becomes anorexic.
Jaw – cracked, broken, tumor?
Kidney Disease (Chronic Renal Failure “CRF”) – Cats with kidney disease often feel “yucky” because their kidneys cannot filter the toxins in the blood. They also often have a “sour” stomach, which turns them off of food.
Mouth/Throat – Are there any sores, injuries or foreign objects?
Sinus Infection – Sinus infections often cause the sense of smell to be lost. Even people who have lost the sense of smell do not want to eat.
Teeth – Bad tooth? Cavity or impacted tooth? Do they do dental x-rays?
Throat Problem – Ulcers, tumors or a sore throat. If a sore through, try a little Slippery Elm Bark (SEB) for it’s soothing properties. SEB capsules can be bought at health food stores. You’ll open the capsule into cold water, bring to a boil, cool and then syringe into the mouth. I’ll look for the exact instructions.
Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
Ulcers: Mouth, throat or stomach – If your cat has ulcers anywhere along this path, internal bleeding can occur which can lead to death (trust me on this). If your cat is vomiting, that stuff is acidic and can cause tissue damage. What can be done? Try carafate for 4 to 6 weeks, even if symptoms have vanished to ensure healing is complete.
Here’s a great link:
Cornell University Diagnosis Database
Letters From Readers about Why Their Cat May Not Be Eating Send letters to: Kathy (at) AssistFeed.com
From Garry and Lewie:
I’ll explain it as best I can. The veterinarian and I feel that he IS eating, or his weight couldn’t have gone up. It’s just ME that feels he could be eating a little more, that’s why I give him a few syringes daily. Besides, it eliminates having to give him the binder directly, and as I’ve said…I think this brat enjoys all the fuss…especially the wiping-off afterwards.
As for WHY he doesn’t eat, I’ll make a comment, but in advance I’ll declare myself the most unqualified person on the planet to do so: I’m told that with cat illnesses such as kidney problems, certain components (acids, I guess) are generated for technical medical reasons I wouldn’t even try to explain. But it happens, and this acid apparently upsets the stomach, ruins the appetite. Hence, we give them the Pepcid as an h2 blocker and something to coat the stomach, just like we take products for our own “sour” stomach. Knowing this, and respecting that Lewie might be feeling what I feel during such a time, I treat him the same way. It’s a delicate time, and just like I’M not hungry when I’ve got a sour stomach, I assume he’s not, either. Nonetheless, he needs food. I’m told that MALNUTRITION (as caused from lack of appetite that happens with various chronic ailments, especially this one), kills more cats than the ailment itself! Without sustenance and nutrition, it’s a downhill slide, and I gotta run with that one. It makes sense whether it’s in some manual or not. But if you try to stuff ME with food when my stomach is in the fritz, whether I need it or not, I’d suggest you don’t stand directly in front of me. Why wouldn’t it be the same with other living creatures? Lewie, like most of the cats on here, is CRF. I hate it, but it’s how it is. His PCV was as low as 14.7% at one time, but I took the bull by the horns, and as of yesterday it was 20.8. Not good, but climbing. Given low blood count, low potassium, high phosphor, having to go pee every ten minutes… how can I expect that cat to be ravenously hungry? He can’t, it’s impossible and unthinkable. So once again, knowing all that, I help him, and I help him like I would want someone to help ME: I take it easy – a little bit of food, stop and pet him, talk to him, little more food, stop and talk with him….you get the idea. The payoff for my patience and understanding is this: Lewie is as sick as any cat on here, but he’s getting nutrition and he’s gaining weight, and I’m not losing my friend through forceful procedures.
I’m not sure if this is a help or a hinder, Kathy, but it’s what I do and how I see things. I don’t recommend it for anyone else, but it works for Lewie.
Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.