Is Your Cat Anorexic?

Dealing with Cats that Won’t Eat

The way your little tiger gulps his food when you put his dish down, you would never imagine that a cat could suffer from anorexia, a disorder in which a person or animal stops eating.

We normally associate anorexia with teenage girls who have distorted images of themselves or other psychological problems. However, unlike humans, anorexia has nothing to do with body image and everything to do with how the cat is feeling and how his body is working. Something is causing a lack of appetite, and if it’s not taken care of in 24 hours, it can cause serious problems and can even be deadly. In young animals, it’s an even more urgent situation.

Although sometimes it’s just a matter of a cat being finicky about his vittles or being freaked out by new surroundings, sometimes it’s more serious. Often, a loss of appetite is the first indication of illness. It can be caused by diseases of the esophagus, stomach, intestine, liver, pancreas, kidneys, blood, eyes, mouth, nose, throat, skin or brain. Pain can be a big turn-off as well.

When an illness is the cause, loss of appetite can be accompanied by symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or sluggishness, weight loss, labored breathing, discharge of pus or blood or sudden changes in behavior.

If you notice that your cat is not eating, take him to the vet for a physical exam, which includes looking at the gums, listening with a stethoscope, feeling the belly and taking your cat’s temperature. Based on that examination, your vet may recommend tests, including a complete blood work-up, urine test and x-rays of the chest and abdomen. A fecal exam may also be in order, so make sure to take a sample with you. There are other tests that may be given, depending on what the exam turns up.

Methods of Treatment of Anorexia

There are two general ways – “specific” and “supportive” – to treat anorexia.

Dehydration is also an issue. To combat it, some animals can benefit from being given oral rehydration supplements, such as infant electrolyte solutions (e.g., Pedialyte®). Your veterinarian will be able to tell you how much is appropriate.

How to Help Your Cat Recover from Anorexia

Your veterinarian will also advise you on helping your cat recover fully. Some common steps include:

Anorexia is a serious illness that can be deadly to your little tabby. If you see he’s just not interested in his food, no matter what you might think the reason is, better get him to the vet immediately.