How to stimulate a cat's appetite?

My friend has a 16 year-old cat who seems to have lost her appetite (the cat lost its appetite…friend is fine). The cat has thrown-up with alarming regularity (a few times a day on average). More often than not the cat only throws-up bile. My friend has taken the cat to the vet already (more than once actually). The vet has the cat on IV (yes IV) fluids once a day (my friend does this…the cat remarkably sits patiently while she gets stuck for the ten minute routine). The vet has also told my friend to give the cat a Pepcid pill (1/4 of one) to try and ease stomach discomfort.

Despite all of this the cat seems lethargic and will not eat much at all. My friend has cat grass out which I questioned thinking it might induce vomiting. Her take on it is the cat will induce itself to vomit if it feels the need and it is best left that way. On this point I have no clue what is better.

She has also tried different food for the cat in an attempt to find something she likes but so far to no avail. The cat will nibble on fresh chicken (cooked chicken humans eat) which is good but not quite enough to count as a proper cat meal.

I suggested trying to get the cat to play. The cat at 16 is hardly kittenish in her enthusiasm for play and not spry by any stretch but I was thinking just a little somthing to get the cat engaged and lift her spirits a bit and perhaps stimulate a desire for food.

So, it occurred to me to ask here and see if any Dopers have any ideas on this? You need not qualify statements with “Ask your vet first”. I consider that assumed and absolutely would consult the cat’s vet before doing anything remotely unusual.

The cat is skin and bones right now…so sad to see. However, the cat is alert and seems in no pain and likes cuddling and getting pet and is “chatty”. Except for this one issue she seems like she should have a few more years in her and of course that is what we hope for as long as the cat is happy.

I had a similar problem with my cat. I think he was 13 at the time, and he just wouldn’t eat. He was going to die. So I started force-feeding him. There’s special nutrient-dense food you can get from the vet, and this is mixed with water and injected into the cat’s mouth with a syringe. You can wrap the cat up in a towel, burrito-style, in order to straightjacket it into compliance.

After a month of this, 3 times a day, he actually started to look forward to it, and he’s been eating on his own ever since, about 3 years now. He wouldn’t eat the force-fed food (I’ve since learned that cats are prone to food aversion) but he eats the finely-ground and not-so-good Fancy Feast with gusto.

BTW, he’s had high liver enzymes for years, and no one knows why. Sounds like your friend’s cat might be suffering from a similar liver disorder. However, a blood test would reveal it, and I’ve got to think that’s been done.

There are a lot of different routes you can try. Boiled chicken is good, though some kitties prefer turkey. We have pretty good success with offering warm baby food. They seem to especially like lamb and veal, and not be so crazy about the pureed ham. If she won’t eat from the bowl, try hand feeding her. If she’s still grooming, you can try dabbing a bit of food on her nose or paws. She should lick it off, and sometimes that’s enough to get them eating. Sometimes, though, it just makes them pissy.

Sometimes they have difficulty with the physical processes of eating. If that’s the case, and kitty is still drinking well, you can try putting food in the blender with water and making it into a drinkable paste. (Think runny milkshake consistency.) I’ve had some success with this for neuro patients who can’t work their mouths very well and dental abcess kitties whose mouths hurt too much to chew.

If none of that works, I’d consider the force-feeding route Doomraisin outlined. There are also things like feeding tubes, but I don’t know if your friend’s kitty is a good candidate for something like that.

Back when I was trying to fatten up my previous cat, I found some nutrient rich gel at Petsmart intended to give a boost to nursing or sick cats. It had the consistency of vaseline or petromalt but was loaded with vitamins and calories. I’d put an inch or so on my finger and the cat would lick it off and come back for more. You might give something like that a shot.

Go to an oriental food store and buy some stinky cuttlefish. The cat will jump on you and be you bestest friend.

When I lived in a household with cats, we used to treat them with a few whole whitebait from the fishmonger; it was like crack cocaine to them - in fact you had to watch your fingers when you gave it to them, as they would claw your hands in their eagerness to get at it.

Or try tuna fish out of a can. I have a ten-year old cat who isn’t as bad as what you describe, but she’s pretty skinny. She’s been on dry food her whole life, and when we tried various canned cat foods or that wet food in the little packets, she just showed no interest. She’d barely sniff at the stuff and then ignore it. We tried a number of different brands and flavors. We tried chicken baby food. The cat ignored everything.

Then we tried tuna fish. She went after it with gusto! Give it a try.

Try fish based canned cat food. I do not recommend any people food as it just isn’t smelly enough. Cats that have sinus infections and can’t smell their food have been known to starve to death. When it comes to cat food, the smellier, the better. I’ve also had to do the syringe routine. The vet should be willing and able to supply you with what you need.

Try some asparagus or soybeans, our cats go crazy for that. They are vegetarians and we try to accomodate them as much as possible.

Failing that, I wonder if marijuana would have the same effect on cats as it does on humans.

Well, maybe, but who wants to listen to a cat yak on at length about the deep philosophical implcations of Star Trek?

My 14 year old cat just quit eating this week. We force fed her for a couple days and in the past that had worked, but this time it didn’t. It turns out she had stomach ulcers brought on by stress. The vet prescribed Sucralfate(sp?) and she’s been eating like crazy the last couple days.

Vegetarian cats!!! I was under the impression that feeding cats a vegetarian diet is a REALLY bad idea. Dogs can manage a vegetarian diet with close attention to what they are fed but I thought cats 100% required meat in their diet as they simply cannot metabolize what they need from vegetables (IIRC they will go blind at the least and maybe even worse things than that…like dying). This is not to say that a cat can’t eat vegetables…just that there had better be some meat in there somewhere.

It’s late so I will do a Google on this later unless someone else chimes in first.

Thanks for all the replies so far. I have forwarded these to my friend and she will give some a shot (she has tried the baby food…cat ignored it…will try more stinky things).

They won’t touch whole meat, fish, or chicken at all. (Well, one of them will eat fish). They’ll eat certain dry foods, but the more meat it has, the more they turn up their noses at it (or worse, puke it up). So we feed them IAMS along with whatever veggies we’re cooking for ourselves.

I have no idea where they picked this up, we’re not vegetarians and we didn’t train our cats to be. They will actually do things that they hate in order to get vegetables (such as voluntarily entering the pet carrier and allowing the door to be closed).

I’m just popping in to say that doomraisin is an ubercool username.

I looked it up and cats simply cannot be pure vegetarians (see below). My guess is the IAMS gives them the bits that cats can only get from meat. As long as they have a steady supply of that I am guessing (especially given your cats) that the bulk of their diet may be vegetable. There appear to be supplements that can be added to a vegetarian cat’s diet but it seems the original source of what they need will be from animals and not synthetic or vegetable.

I would suggest that the cat has a problem with her teeth (that was the case with one of our cats), but I suppose the vet has ruled that out already?

Has the vet looked at thyroid levels in a blood test?

I have a 14-year-old who had the same symptoms. Once the report from the blood clinic came back with indications that his thyroid was out of whack, the vet gave us a supply of tiny pills which we give to the cat, one daily. His problem has cleared up, he eats happily, and has put on a bit of weight.


Back to the OP: Looks like a blood test is a good starting point. I’m kind of curious - if the cat’s been to the vet about this, I’d think they would’ve already done that. Did they? What were the results?

I asked about liver problems and was told the cat is fine in that regard. As mentioned in the OP the cat is getting a daily shot off of a “Lactated Ringer” bag (basically an IV she is hooked to for about 10 minutes a day or maybe it is every other day…I forget). The bag is nothing more than saline solution and my friend told me that this is to combat some kidney issue. During the cat’s last visit to the vet (last Thursday) my friend was told that there seems to be no kidney issues. Pretty much the vet seems to have given her a clean bill of health insofar as no obvious problems are showing via blood tests and exam.

Near as anyone can tell her problem is she is just old. I asked about mouth pain and stomach ulcers that may be contributing to this but my friend has no clue if either of those is the case. The cat is taking Pepcid so she assumes an upset stomach should be managed by that but what do we know (we’re not vets)? That the vet has not offered anything else seems to suggest the vet doesn’t think so either but I do not think any specific tests along those lines has been performed.

The cat’s vet is a specialized cat clinic (City Cat Doctor on Wells for those familiar with Chicago…just outside the Loop). One would hope given the upscale clientele this doctor gets added to their focus on just cats they are on top of their game and we certainly have no reason to question their abilities. That said one hopes for more answers than we are getting. Unfair to them perhaps as I do not expect them to be omniscient cat doctors able to perform miracles but hoping for more answers cannot be helped.

I figured as much.

Well, if the cat’s otherwise healthy, and can’t be tempted to eat on its own, then I still say force-feed it. Like I said, my cat was a goner as far as the vet was concerned. We were just supposed to try and keep him comfortable. The vet suggested the force-feeding as sort of a last-ditch effort to jumpstart the appetite. That was three years ago, and he’s doing fine. Spry as a kitten. Good luck!