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How to get cat to eat.

Species: Cat
Breed: stray
Age: 5-8 years
I have a cat that developed anorexia. She lost so much weight that she developed Colangial hepatitis. She is being treated for hep, and is recovering, but will not eat. She will eat when she is relaxed. She lives with other cats who bother her while she is eating. Eventually she stops. how do I get her to eat?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear that Marli is not feeling well. The biggest problem with cats with liver disease is that they don't want to eat. Then, it becomes a vicious cycle because if they don't eat the liver gets more and more sick and the cat can end up getting fatty liver which is even more serious.

The first thing I would recommend is to make sure your vet knows that Marli is not eating. They know her case best and they may have some suggestions that are specific to her situation.

I will often prescribe an appetite stimulant called Mirtazapine (Remeron) to help cats eat in a situation like this. It is something that can be given every 2-3 days and often really works. This is a prescription medication so you need to get it from your vet. Other vets will use something called cyproheptadine.

Your vet may also prescribe an anti-nausea medication. Many times cats with liver disease will have nausea. They may not be actively vomiting, but the nauseous feeling can keep them from eating.

Also, some cats with liver disease benefit from going on steroids such as prednisone or prednisolone depending on the nature of the illness. This helps with inflammation in the liver and can help cats to feel better.

Sometimes it helps to feed a small amount of a cheap low quality cat food such as Friskies or Fancy Feast. It's not something I would recommend for the long term, but often just getting them to eat something breaks the cycle of not eating and feeling ill. Heating up the canned food for a few seconds in the microwave can help. Be careful not to heat it too long as it doesn't take long for cat food to get really hot.

I have seen some cats regain an appetite if offered small amounts of shrimp, tuna, or baby food (that doesn't contain onions or garlic). Again, this would be a short term measure.

You have also mentioned that the other cats bother her. You might want to consider using a product called feliway which helps to lower anxiety levels in cats. It may also help to keep her in a separate room just until she is recovered from the hepatitis.

If none of this is working, you might want to talk to your vet about placing a feeding tube. It may sound drastic, but most cats handle it well. The idea is that you feed small amounts through the tube until the liver has repaired enough for Marli to feel well enough to consistently eat on her own.

I hope this helps and I hope she is feeling better soon!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you! She is on Prednisone, but I will ask about the Remeron. It does seem like soft food makes her nauseated, so we've avoided it. We tried tuna, she did not want it. This cat is super picky. We're using feliway, she is still anxious.

I am going to take her to my other home tonight, she is familiar with this home to see if her own big space helps relax her enough to eat. She is always relaxed enough after she spends time away from home, and goes to the vet. (Ironically.)

Thank you again, you've been wonderful!


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.