Feeding sick anorexic cats
Cats can be notoriously picky eaters, and this finickiness can become even more pronounced when they are sick. For owners trying to feed this type of cat, getting enough food into their pet can be a frustrating battle, as no matter what is offered (wet food, kibble, treats) the cat will often turn its head away. Unfortunately though, a cat that is not eating is not something that can be ignored, or treated as a “wait and see” type of situation. Anorexic cats are prone to developing a disease called hepatic lipidosis, and left untreated, this disease is usually fatal. For this reason, if you have a cat that suddenly stops eating, it is important to contact your veterinarian right away in order to determine an appropriate course of action.
This article will focus on ways to encourage your cat to eat, after it has come home from the veterinarian. It is important to stress that while this article will present some helpful feeding tips, it is critical that your veterinarian is also involved in this process, as he or she will be able to help you calculate your cat’s energy requirements in order to ensure that you are helping your pet to meet its daily caloric intake.
One way to encourage your cat to eat is to offer it something other than its regular diet. Good suggestions include canned diets that can be found at the grocery store, and for this purpose, the more gravy-filled the food is, the more likely your cat is to eat it. Note that this type of feeding should only be done for the period of time that the cat is unwell, as typically, these “extra tasty” foods are not as nutritionally balanced as your cat’s regular maintenance diet. However, if your cat is turning its head away from its usual kibble, offering a flavourful wet food might be enough to tempt it to eat. If your cat is still not interested in the food, try warming it up for a few seconds in the microwave in order to enhance the smell. A sick cat will often lose its sense of smell (as we do when we are sick), so increasing the odour of the food is often required.
While you are offering different types of food to your cat, remember to reduce the amount of food at each feeding. For sick cats, smaller more frequent meals are better than large but infrequent ones, as a cat with an unhappy stomach may not be able to consume a large volume of food at one sitting. Always leave some dry food out, but rotate the offered wet food frequently. If left out too long, canned food will typically harden (due to the evaporation of the moisture), and that becomes less appetizing for your pet.
Another option for getting your cat to eat is to actually force feed it. This should be done with caution, and should not be attempted unless it was discussed with your veterinarian first. For this, a high calorie wet food is typically used (Hill’s a/d and Iams Maximum-Calorie diets are both good options). The food is put into a large syringe, and is then slowly pushed into the cat’s mouth. It is important that the food is given slowly, in order to ensure that your cat has sufficient time to swallow. If your veterinarian does recommend this type of feeding, he or she will calculate how much food should be given per feeding, and how many times a day it should be done. As expected, some cats will tolerate this better than others. Even the most mild-mannered cats will often put up a bit of a fight, but one way to make it easier on both you and your pet is to wrap them in a towel cocoon-style prior to feeding (this keeps their paws wrapped up so that you don’t get scratched). For cats that don’t tolerate syringe feeding, the next option is usually a nasogastric tube that is inserted by your veterinarian. This tube is threaded through the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach, and it allows for a regular delivery of calorie-dense food without the constant struggle of syringe feeding. While it may sound painful, once the tube is in the cat will typically leave it alone, and for this reason, a nasogastric tube is often the preferred method of feeding sick animals in veterinary clinics.
Again, these are just a few tips on ways to encourage a sick cat to eat. If your cat is not eating, it is important to talk to your veterinarian in order to determine the underlying cause of the anorexia, and these feeding methods should also be discussed prior to their use.