One of the most common situations you find in feline practice is the cat that is not eating. And sometimes that’s it.. It’s also very frustrating for clients, who sometimes feel really distressed when their beloved cat is refusing food.

So how can you help these cats and make the owner happy? This article is going to discuss this.


Why isn’t the cat eating?

Of course this is the bottom line, right? And you will often need further testing to find out metabolic causes. But never forget to start with the simple things: a full examination and thorough history, and trying to understand if there is something in the environment and diet that could explain why the cat isn’t eating.

There are some common medical causes for cats to stop eating:

  • GI upset. A good proportion of cats has underlying gastrointestinal problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease or food intolerance resulting in chronic gastroenteritis. These patients may have an intermittent appetite
  • Fever. Cats with fever (infections, abscesses) become lethargic and have a poor appetite
  • Renal disease. Cats with chronic kidney disease may have uremic gastritis and nausea, which makes them vomit and show intermittent appetite
  • Cat flu. Cats with prominent nasal congestion and discharge have an impaired sense of olfaction. When cats can’t smell the food, they are reluctant to eat it


Trying to get cats to eat

When you have addressed the primary cause of poor appetite, you now need to get the cat to eat. There are some tips you can give your clients to try to help them make food more appetising for their kitty cats:

  • Offer smelly foods, such as tuna and sardines
  • Try the cat with treats – cats that eat treats are not anorexic, they are hyporrhexic
  • Offer wet food and ask to warm it in the microwave for a few seconds


When they still don’t eat

Depending on the condition of the cat, they may be able to go a few days without food. But when they are not picking up, you need to give them some nutrition. You have several options for this:

  • Place a feeding tube. This can be an oesophastomy tube or a naso-oeosphageal tube
  • Use appetite stimulants. In the UK, mirtazapine is commonly used. Other options are diazepam and ciproheptadine


Don’t forget that appetite stimulants can’t and shouldn’t be used in certain situations.

Also don’t forget that cats should never be force-fed. This can result in food aversion and that’s something you don’t need in a cat that isn’t eating well! If you want to read more on food aversion, there is a nice short article about it here.

How much do you know?

Why don’t you head to UK VetSchool and test your clinical knowledge? You just need to register for free, test yourself and then challenge your colleagues!

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