Cats & Changes in Eating

Monitor your cat's eating habits so that changes can be addressed.
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Many factors can influence a change in your cat's eating habits, including a number of health conditions, illness, side effects of some medications, transitioning through life stages and changes in her environment. Determining the explanation for your cat's new eating patterns or preferences will enable adjustments for continued healthy dining.

From Growing Up Through Aging Gracefully

A cat’s normal appetite varies slightly through life’s stages. As an exuberant kitten, she dives into her food with gusto and devours every morsel to keep up with her high level of activity. Tearing around the house faster than a speeding bullet requires boundless energy, which is achieved with high calorie food to fuel her metabolism and nourish a growing kitten's body. By the time a cat is geriatric, daily nutritional requirements have diminished to a third of her younger adult years. As health conditions that are common in older cats set in, further decline in appetite may result. Senior cats with a decreased sense of smell also will be less enticed to dine.

Could She Be Sick?

Any change in appetite could be a sign of illness and should prompt a visit to the veterinarian. Increased appetite can signal hyperthyroidism or diabetes; decreased appetite can be a sign of kidney or liver disease. Sudden refusal to eat dry food while gingerly licking at canned preparations can be telling of a dental problem. Many illnesses can be treated or controlled through medication, restoring your cat's appetite. Keep in mind that a number of medications come with the side effect of a sharp increase or decrease in appetite. Whenever your veterinarian suggests a prescribed medication for your kitty, always ask him about its potential side effects.

It Could Be Stress

Stressful situations plunge some people into a gallon tub of ice cream while others experience an appetite shutdown. Cats react similarly to stress. Noisy home improvement construction projects, a new baby or pet in the household and the death of a beloved human or pet family member are all potential stressors that can propel your cat toward feast or famine, usually the latter. Even if you identify an obvious source of your cat's stress, the situation warrants a mention to her doctor who can make recommendations to motivate your kitty's appetite if it has diminished. No cat should exceed 24 hours without eating; this can lead to a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.

Your Observations Are Important

Your cat should consume a daily diet that is formulated for her age and lifestyle and measured to satisfy her nutritional requirements. If she repeatedly refuses a feeding of what was always her favorite meal, or if your well-mannered kitty suddenly turns to a life of petty crime as she ravenously pilfers food from every source she can get her paws on and clamors for more, bring these new developments to your veterinarian's attention. By ruling out causes and pinpointing the reason for these changes, you can make adjustments to her diet, and provide the physical or emotional care that she needs to resume normal and healthy eating habits.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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