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Pink Panther May 2nd, 2006 01:01 PM

Cat starving itself - Answered by Dr. Van Lienden
I live in Grenada, West Indies, where there is not a lot of veterinary help - but there IS a veterinary training school! However:

Jess (aged 13? neutered female) stopped eating about a year ago. It is as if she has ceased to recognise food. She is starving, crying for food by day and night,and has lost weight alarmingly. Sometimes she is so weak that she just staggers. She refuses dry cat food (which she's eaten for years), tinned food (which she's never liked), cheese, milk, chicken (cooked / uncooked), mincemeat, eggs and all but one kind of fish. These fish are called 'jacks', are a bit like sardines, and have become very difficult to obtain.
My other cat eats everything she leaves, and is becoming pony-sized. So the food is OK!
Routine: Jess screams for food, I give her any of the above, (except jacks, which are usually acceptable); she glances at the food and resumes screaming that she's starving.
At the veterinary training school, she has had three blood tests: nothing abnormal except high white cell count, so fighting infection?
They've taken some (infected) teeth out: no change.
They put her on steroids: very effective at first, but decreasingly: and if she eats, she is clearly in pain shortly afterwards. Jacks seem to cause least pain.
She has been scanned and x-rayed: nothing found.
Thyroid, diabetes, blockages ruled out.
Copious vomiting follows any overenthusiastic eating: sometimes she will eat something recently untried, but either vomits it out, or goes off it after about two days.
Somehow, she summons the energy to catch grasshoppers and even the odd mouse, which she eats greedily and completely. (And then sometimes but not always vomits out again.)
I thought that strong-smelling foods were most likely to be 'recognised' as edible, but she is inconsistent.
When 'jacks' are available, she relaxes, and puts on a little weight. But I can only get enough to freeze for about a fortnight at a time, and she sometimes goes off jacks too within this time..
She usually drinks a lot (water)
Ideas, please! Jess has been a good friend to me over so many years. Many times I have been on the verge of having her put down , but then she rallies strongly for a few days. The medical school vets (she has been seen by three) say 'We are running out of diagnostic options', which means they don't know!

cpietra16 May 2nd, 2006 04:24 PM

Ok...I'll ask! What are jacks??

rainbow May 2nd, 2006 04:53 PM

They're sockeye salmon here in B.C. but I don't know about in Grenada.

cpietra16 May 2nd, 2006 07:45 PM

OMG..I lived in BC for 20 years and this is the first time I hear sockeye referred to as Jacks

Pink Panther May 4th, 2006 04:24 PM

Pink Panther
PLease please could someone advise me about Jess's self-starvation. I do not know what jacks are, only that she will sometimes eat them. While the jacks discussion goes on, she is still not eating.

ZonkaDaisy May 4th, 2006 06:23 PM

A friend of ours had these EXACT symptoms with her elderly cat.. it turned out her kidneys were failing. The only symptom you don't mention is hair falling out and shedding wayyy more than normal.. her vet put her cat on a special dry food diet for cats with kidney problems.. Can you possibly get something like this from the vet school??

starr May 6th, 2006 11:50 AM

Your are describing the symptoms of this to a "T". Our cat, who has recently been diagnosed hyperthyroid was identical. Get your cat to a vet and have her blood tested. They can check for kidney, liver and thyroid levels.


Our cat was lethargic, however, so sometimes not all symptoms apply. However, being ravenous and yet still not eating is classic. Some sites describe it as "feline anorexia". Basically what we learned is that when the thyroid is off it affects the taste of the food to your cat so she won't eat. Also, even if the cat does eat it won't gain weight (loses instead) due to the overactive thyroid.

Check it out and if your cat is hyperthyroid maybe we can share notes and experiences and help each other out. My cat is on a transdermal gel medication, not a pill. You put in on the skin on the inside of the ear. Much easier than pilling and it doesn't have the side effects to the gi tract.

Let me know how it goes.:)

BTW, ZonkaDaisy, hair falling out can also be a symptom of hyperthyroid. Just an FYI.

Pink Panther May 8th, 2006 12:18 PM

Thanks to those of you who have changed the focus back from the fish to the cat! She has stopped eating jacks as well now: has fasted for five days.
As I said in my original note: she has had three blood tests, and thyroid is OK. As I forgot to say: liver / kidneys are OK too. That's why the vets (three of them) are baffled.
I am on the verge of having her put down: IF she eats, she may be fine, or may be in almost instant pain. If she does not eat (the last five days!), she can be her old, affectionate, confident self: but screaming for food.
If she eats for a few days at a time, she does put on weight. But then she stops again. If / when she starts eating after a long time without, there is a lot of vomiting at first (stomach shrunk & unused to food?)
I understand the point about taste. Can a cat have a thyroid problem without it showing up in the standard tests, I wonder? Does anything else 'remove' the taste of food?
Thanks for trying..

ZonkaDaisy May 8th, 2006 12:37 PM

Just a thought but for nutrients in her does anyone have an opinion on giving her the liquid kitten food suppliment for kittens that are abandoned?? or possiblly human children pediolite?? that way it is liquid so stomache doesn't have to work to hard to digest it but still get electrolites and nutrients?? Maybe ask your vet about it??
On the other.. sometimes it is in the best interest of the animal if they are suffering that much to let them go. Not good for us but have to think of the animal.. What does your vet suggest in this area??

rainbow May 8th, 2006 01:30 PM

Pink Panther...first of all sorry for dicussing jacks earlier.:sorry:

Have you had your cat checked for stomach ulcers? If not, I would definitely get that done.:pawprint:

cpietra16 May 8th, 2006 02:11 PM

I really don't know what may be wrong but can you use a syringe and feed her a liquid diet until the vets can figure out why she has stopped eating all together. (on this site a lady wrote in) She went on vacation and when she got back she found out that her cat had not eaten due to the depression she had when she was left alone. has anything changed in your cats life to have caused she to stop eating? COuld this be psychological other than physiological

petdr May 9th, 2006 06:07 AM

This is a puzzle, the two main features that strike me are pain and vomiting.

Frequently diagnostic tests do not come back with the answer, and I always ask myself, "Is this test really negative/positive, or is it just a false result?",and "What other tests can I run to seek out the answer?"

It is always important to look at the history of the patient and then do the physical exam--serially if need be. There is something painful that is causing your cat to starve itself, it is crying out for food, but the pain is worse than the hunger.

I would focus on the mouth (potentionally there could be some deep soft tissue reason such as a tumor, sinus infection, unerupted/impacted/broken root tooth problem, temporal mandibular joint problems, esophagitis secondary to reflux/hiatial hernia/diaphragmatic hernia, pyloric disease, and so on. If I was working this case up, I would do dental x-rays, a skull MRI (rules-out tumors/sinusitis/TMJ/, endoscopy to examine the esophagus /stomach/pylorus for various disorders/damage/foreign bodies/masses.

Certainly certain dietary deficiencies could be at play here also, given the diet heavy in a single ingredient.

If I was absolutely at a dead-end because of finances/lack of testing, then I would put your kitty on a course of glucocorticoids, antibiotics, proton ion pump inhibitors (Nexium), sulcrafate and potentionally a narcotic.

Nevertheless I would prefer to actually have a diagnosis before doing symptomatic treatment.
We do what we must under circumstances, we do not live in a perfect world.
I hope this helps.

Dr. Van Lienden

Dr. Raymond Van Lienden DVM
The Animal Clinic of Clifton
12702 Chapel Road, Clifton
Virginia, U.S.A. 20124

chayes October 6th, 2009 11:17 AM

i have a cat that is going throu something like that,but know what the problem is.About a month ago he tried to cough up a hairball but it got caught.Took him to the vet and had it removed.a few weeks later he keep throwing up and unable to shallow anything,found out that his throat was damge a bit and scar tissue has added up closing his throat for him not able to swallow anything.The vet said it be 800 to fix him and another 400 the second time for the fix if he needs it.But i dont have the money im flat broke and trying everthing i can to help him.Its been 4-5 days now and he is getting weaker by the second im going to try liquid diet but not sure what to use.And not even sure if he can get that down till i found a way to pay for the fix.But you might want to check that out.but what you said im not sure it be that but it is a thought.

Dr Lee October 6th, 2009 06:47 PM

[QUOTE=chayes;833748]... found out that his throat was damge a bit and scar tissue has added up losing his throat for him not able to swallow anything.....Im going to try liquid diet but not sure what to use.[/QUOTE]

I have not read the rest of this post but scarring (or fibrosis) of the esophagus (food tube) is very serious and can be difficult to manage. I would recommend that you purchase Science Diet a/d food which is a high protein recovery diet that is a liquid diet. There are other diets out there, but this is a common one that will help. If he cannot swallow this, then a feeding tube may need to be placed. a/d can easily be syringed through a feeding tube and due to its calorie dense nature is a good choice.

Whenever a pet has difficulty swallowing, then the possibility of pneumonia is always present. Pneumonia in cats can be difficult to recognize, they usually do not cough and may or may not run a fever.

Cats must have nutrients at least twice daily or they can start to run into problems much faster than dogs.

I hope this helps. Keep us posted. :pawprint:

MrAbaxua September 6th, 2010 03:32 PM

Cat starving
My female cat has a suspected tumour and fluid build up around stomach and intestine. The vet removed 600ml of fluid a week ago. She was eating very well the last 2 months of this condition, yet gained no wait. The test turned up negative for any illness - thyroid, kidney etc as mentioned above. This last week though, she has eaten virtually nothing. Each type of food once and then no more including medical, salmon (human canned), etc. She nibbled lightly on fresh cooked fish, cheese in last 2 days and drank lots of water. She seems to have an infection in her mouth which has smelled very strong in the last 3 days. Now she can barely stand. As with the other writer here, there seems to be no answers. Before when she was eating, she still had some energy to walk and climb, but gained no weight.

Archie-Neil September 17th, 2010 03:09 PM

My 13 yr old male cat died August 15/2010 from lymphoma/bowel mass. Some of these symptoms sound very much like his. His appetite decreased significantly. He was always a picky eater and would only eat a certain type of food, but once the lymphoma diagnosis came and he got sicker, for a while he would eat nothing but tuna, and then near the end, he would not even eat that.

We knew he was ill because he started eating the kitty-litter so we took him to the vet and they did blood work and his white count was elevated. The vet tried a 10 day course of anti-biotics in case of infection, and then redid the blood work to find out the results were worse. We treated him with oral doses of chemotherapy and prednisone for a few months but the cancer won in the end.

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