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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have an elderly boy, age 17, who is in stage II kidney failure, with a slightly elevated calcium reading and a slightly low thyroid one, and who simply refuses to eat. Prescription kidney diets, Merrick, Fancy Feast, Friskies, dry or canned, warmed or room temperature — none of it matters. Rehydrating him was easy enough, as are the maintenance sub-Q fluids and the pills. We’re about to try a liquid diet when the vet gets it in, but right now we are at our wits’ end. We just want him to eat more than a bite or two and we’re rapidly running out of options. We even asked about an appetite stimulant but were advised it was discontinued due to humans abusing it (really!?). Can you offer any words of wisdom or advice to help our boy get his appetite back? He’s also FIV+ but I’m not sure that plays any role in his current circumstances. Thank you for sharing your wisdom kitties (and mama too).

~ Jewel

Dahlia when she was very sick

Cats tend to lose their appetite when they get sick. Dahlia refused to eat for days, and Mama tried everything!

Siouxsie: Jewel, we’re so sorry. We all know how hard it is when a beloved cat companion gets sick. And when they stop eating, maybe you start wondering if It’s Time …

Thomas: But a lack of appetite doesn’t necessarily mean It’s Time. If his quality of life is otherwise good, then it’s worth it to keep trying.

Bella: That’s right! My first family thought It Was Time for me because I was so sick and not eating, but their vet talked them into letting me go to a place where they take good care of diabetic kitties like me. And look what happened!

Siouxsie: We actually do have a few ideas for you to discuss with your vet.

Thomas: First of all, it’s possible that your kitty’s not eating because he’s nauseous. Nausea is a fairly common problem in cats with chronic kidney disease.

Bella: Nobody wants to eat when they think they’re gonna throw up! Well, except Siouxsie: she eats and then she throws up, and then Thomas and I get a second helping!

Siouxsie: Well, if you didn’t constantly harass me, I’d have time to digest my dinner! Thank Bast Mama’s taken to feeding you in the bathroom so I can eat in peace. Haven’t thrown up once since she started doing that.

Bella: If I chase you more, can I have your food anyway?

Siouxsie: Shut up and get out of my face, you scrawny little punk!

Thomas: Siouxsie, that’s not very nice! Come over here, Bella. I’ll protect you.

Siouxsie: *hiss* Ahem. As I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted: if your kitty is nauseous, an anti-nausea medicine could settle his tummy and make him more likely to eat. You may want to ask your vet if that’s worth a try.

Thomas: And then there’s this prescription food called a/d. Mama says she’s never met a cat who could resist it. The stuff is like crack, she says, and even the sickest kitty will want to eat it.

Bella: It really is super-nom-tastic! They gave me some when I was at the vet ’cause I’d gotten so skinny with my diabetes. Oh, some days I just yearn for some of that a/d stuff.

Siouxsie: You should be glad you don’t need to eat that crap anymore, Bella! You see, a/d is a super-high-calorie food that’s given to cats that are recovering from serious illness or injury and need that extra energy to repair their bodies.

Thomas: But it’s not something you should use long-term. According to FelineCRF.com (which is a great support site for caretakers of cats with chronic renal disease, by the way), vets will sometimes prescribe a/d for short-term use to help CRF cats gain weight.

Bella: The folks at FelineCRF have some other tips to get a kitty to eat, including putting a couple of drops of oil from a can of anchovies on the food to make it more aromatic, and putting the food on your cat’s paws or mouth to get him to eat it. You can see the rest of the list — which does include some of the things you’ve tried — here.

Siouxsie: Good luck, Jewel. We hope you can get your little guy eating again. And we’d strongly recommend that you join the Feline CRF Support e-mail group on Yahoo. They may also have some other tips to help you, and they’ll certainly have a lot of emotional support to offer you as you go through the process of taking care of your beloved kitty.