Q: My cat has not been eating much for a few days. Should I be worried about her? She is a 9 year old female Siamese and this has never happened before. What do you recommend?
A: Loss of appetite is termed anorexia, different from the self image disorder in people termed anorexia nervosa. If your kitty has a couple of “off” days, it is generally not a big problem as long as she maintains her hydration by drinking normally. Try offering some canned food, along with giving your kitty a quiet place to eat not around any other household pets. However, pet owners should seek veterinary attention soon if any another signs of illness occur such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy or the anorexia continues into the third day. Pets with a poor appetite may be ill, and if you wait until the appetite is completely gone it may be too late for recovery. This is particularly true for cats. As appetite fades, the pet must depend on stored fat for nutrients. When large amounts of fats are mobilized to meet energy demands, they must be processed by the liver before being used for calories. The feline liver is not designed to handle large amounts of fat may fail resulting in a condition called feline hepatic lipidosis.
Your veterinarian needs to examine your cat and may recommend diagnostic testing to help identify the cause of the anorexia. Medications may also be prescribed that might be helpful in stimulating the appetite. Cyproheptadine and mirtazapine are two of the most popular medications used for this purpose.
There is absolutely no reason to stand around and watch your cat fail to eat. If necessary, calories can be provided by syringe feeding to some cats. This can be messy especially if the pet is uncooperative and some sort of paper towel or cloth bib is probably a good idea. Be sure to ask your veterinarian what kind and how much of the food you are supposed to feed.
If this method is not working, your veterinarian may suggest hospitalizing your kitty to place a feeding tube, a procedure requiring a short anesthesia time. Feeding tubes are the least stressful method of delivering nutrition by the pet owner at home. The most popular and easiest to manage tubes are those placed directly into the esophagus (E-tube) through which a blenderized diet or a prescription diet can be administered. Feeding through an E-tube does not require fussing with the cat’s face and allows her to also eat food normally when she is interested. These tubes also serve as an easy method of administering medications. A light bandage is placed and changed approximately once weekly. When the cat is fully recovered and eating normally, usually in 2 to 3 weeks, the tube can be pulled and the hole seals up. Feeding tubes are highly successful in speeding pets to recovery.
Remember, nutritional support is essential to proper recovery from whatever disorder may have caused the anorexia, and to make sure the pet does not suffer extra debilitation from malnourishment. If you think your pet has a problem with inadequate appetite, do not wait until the problem is extreme; see your veterinarian for a proper evaluation promptly. A Feline Assisted-Feeding Newsgroup is available and can be joined by going to: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Feline-Assisted-Feeding/