Cat appetite question
February 2, 2012 4:29 PM   Subscribe

My lovely cat is eating less. Why? Do we need to go to the vet?

For the past two weeks, my lovely little cat (please forgive the lack of photos) has been eating about 2/3 what she normally does. We feed her Taste of the Wild, which is a non-grain dry food, and she has seemed to thrive on it. Almost two weeks ago, her appetite suddenly declined. (I measure her food to prevent over-feeding, so the amounts involved are pretty clear.) She seems normal in every other way - happy and playful, fur is good, lots and lots of energy, no pain when belly is rubbed, litterbox is normal. She eats her special fancy herring treats every day just as usual and drinks the same amount of water. She does not seem to shrink back from the bowl or to be in pain when chewing.

We did have some unusual events two weeks ago and our little cat does love routine - we had a big party (she spent most of the party keeping an eye on us); everyone was out really late another couple of nights (and there's normally at least one person here; a new housemate moved in and also stored a lot of stuff in the basement near her food.

Do we need to go to the vet? I will take her like a shot if it's necessary, but would rather not incur the bill if this is more of a wait-and-see. What could it be? Could she have an intestinal blockage and still be using the litterbox normally? (I'm the only one who cleans it, so I feel confident that things are normal) I don't really need to worry about the liver disease thing if she's eating a reduced but steady amount, right?
posted by Frowner to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My vet says that sick cats do the following:
a) throw up
b) lie around a lot
c) stop eating

He also says that healthy cats do all of the above, for no apparent reason.

If I were in your shoes, I'd wait before a vet visit. Nothing looks in the least bit ominous. If her appetite for treats remains the same, and the poop situation's the same, I think that's a good sign.

That being said, I'd save up the ducats for a vet visit within a reasonable amount of time, and keep an eye on things.
posted by snoe at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2012

When my last cat (died of old age related things, no worries) stopped eating dry food, she had a bad tooth. The vet can tell you if this is the case.
posted by xingcat at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

No. Though I would take a look at her teeth and make sure they look OK. But if she eats less and less, or refuses food, or otherwise acts unlike her apparently fabulous self, take her in immediately.

Our cats go through appetite cycles, and have all their lives. It's the refusals to eat and changes in behavior that should really get your alarm bells going off.
posted by bearwife at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2012

I've had cats eat less due to a) hairballs b) deciding they don't like the old food c) dental problems d) cancer. It's hard to say.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between stopping eating and eating less. This doesn't sound like an emergency, but I'd call and let your vet know if you have a regular one so you can keep them up to speed if it changes.

If you take the cat in right now, the vet will almost guaranteed tell you to wait and see.

I'm someone who takes their cats to the vets if at all worried about them, but in this case it sounds like it could be normal fluctuation or worth waiting to see if it develops into an actual thing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:51 PM on February 2, 2012

Also, the party probably did freak your cat out and they can be fussy for weeks after a stressful event. My girl cat barely ate for a week after I moved.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2012

I would take her to the vet regardless.

I would also try and change the cat food brand to see if that makes any difference. My cat is amazingly fickle, and one day she decided that she was done with Friskies... but she would sit and beg for whatever food I was eating. I switched her brand to 9Lives and she ate that regularly for six months before rejecting that [and when I switched back to Friskies, the pattern began again] I'd imagine that cats can get just as sick of eating the same food over and over again as humans can.
posted by oxfordcomma at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2012

As long as she's still drinking normally I would probably just keep an eye on her for a little while yet. I've noticed that my cats' eating habits will be affected by lots of random things, including the weather.
posted by something something at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2012

P.S. You do realize you owe us a photo, right? Right?
posted by bearwife at 5:19 PM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

Its a cat. You have to default to taking the animal to the vet - it can't answer questions that could help you eliminate bigger potential issues that might not be easily assessed but would be in a human. I've had 5 or more cats at any one time for the past 25 years. Yeah, its expensive, but if you're going to take on responsibility for the healthcare of this animal, you need to be overprotective.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:04 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It just occurred to me that she may have eaten a couple of mice recently, which often upsets her stomach a bit. There's been a lot, a LOT of stalking behavior in the past two weeks. I think I'm going to wait and see for a couple more days and make a vet appointment for Monday - with a default to the emergency vet if anything happens.

I'm also going to inquire closely as to whether anyone else in the house has been feeding her. She got extra treats a few times when she was being moody, so maybe she's just working the system in the hopes that she will get nothing but treats if she persists.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 PM on February 2, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, its expensive, but if you're going to take on responsibility for the healthcare of this animal, you need to be overprotective.

Oh, and there was never any question of "not taking her to the vet" - she goes to the best vet in town and since I'm a total hypochondriac she would probably be there once a month if no one talked me down - and if anything serious or dramatic ever happens we will be taking a cab to the emergency vet stat. It's just that I was wondering if it would be better to wait a few days or if we had to go NOW NOW NOW.
posted by Frowner at 6:58 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

If she's eating (even at a 2/3 rds rate), drinking normally, active as usual, and eliminating as usual...I would wait it out a bit.... (4 cats here)
posted by HuronBob at 6:59 PM on February 2, 2012

Response by poster: We just had our evening pouncing and leaping and checking the closet for mice, plus an extra roar and double height vertical leap onto the bed; now it is time to nap on my feet until the 3am feather-toy chase. So yes, we're absolutely as usual.
posted by Frowner at 7:07 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sometimes cats just get weird with their food.

Stoner will eat anything in sight. However, Mall Cop will occasionally go on 'food strikes', where the food du jour is no longer satisfactory for whatever reason, and then the roommate goes searching for whatever food he will eat now - for cats do not live on Greenies alone.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2012

It might be mice, but it could always be her teeth -- does she have red gums?
posted by jrochest at 8:02 PM on February 2, 2012

Our cats also eat Taste of the Wild, and have since we got them (at ages 6 and 18 months or so, mother/daughter pair). Over the summer, it seemed that the little one (now approximately age 3) was eating very little if any kibble. At the same time, she went from total disinterest in our food to completely obsessed, to the point of tearing through plastic bags to eat our bread. Long story short, since she seemed otherwise perfectly healthy, we switched from their usual Taste of the Wild flavor (Rocky Mountain) to the other one (Canyon River), and like magic, everything went back to normal.

So, just reinforcing what others have said - give her another flavor and see if that fixes things. Mostly just pointing out that you can stay with the same brand and still offer something "new."
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:04 PM on February 2, 2012

You mentioned a new housemate moved in - no chance that he/she is feeding your cat extra treats (or scraps of human food) on the sly?
posted by missmagenta at 4:16 AM on February 3, 2012

Response by poster: No one has been feeding her on the sly. But here's something I noticed this morning:

She ate very little yesterday, which was worrying. (Normally she eats at night and finishes her dinner). She woke me up very insistently to feed her about 30 minutes earlier than normal and was very bouncy and fighty. Her food bowl is in the basement next to the pine shelves she likes to scratch(we built them ourselves, they're pretty junky and they're pretty much her scratching post - I think she likes to mark her territory by her food.)

Anyway, when the new housemate moved in (about two weeks ago) he brought a bunch of stuff to store in the basement right next to her food. Until very recently, he had a large dog (who died very sadly and much too young). So today I noticed that the cat ate a few mouthfuls and then went to scratch at a new part of the shelving right by the housemate's stuff, then mewed and got very agitated looking at all the things.

Could she be upset because of the smell of dog/change in her food space?

I would have taken her to the vet today but my partner was very strongly in favor of watch-and-wait. They'll be home today and will keep a close eye on her. I gave her some of the healthy kind of treats so that she'd have something in her stomach.

Tonight I'll get some fancy canned cat food at the coop and try feeding her in my room, which is her lair. (She gets treats and snacks in my room, but her actual food is in the basement so that she has some privacy when she's eating.)
posted by Frowner at 6:16 AM on February 3, 2012

Keep her food in the basement but move the bowl away from the shelving. I.e. keep her eating situation as normal as possible.

If she doesn't eat tonight, take her to the vet tomorrow. Eating nothing or very little is your red flag.

FYI we have a very picky kitty. The difference between a picky kitty and sick kitty is that picky kitty will get hungry and eat after a day or so, while sick kitty either won't or can't eat despite making an effort.

Also, if she is OK per vet, you really have to put up her picture. You have one, right?
posted by bearwife at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2012

Could she be upset because of the smell of dog/change in her food space?

Yes and yes. She may be uncomfortable with all the [stranger's/dog owner's] stuff that's appeared around her food. Can you move any of the stuff or her food further from each other? Also, Feliway or Nature's Miracle for anything that may smell like dog (even if you don't smell the dog, the kitty can).
posted by MuChao at 9:45 AM on February 3, 2012

Response by poster: (I have photos, but I have nowhere to host them and am at work anyway, photos on laptop at home...So I will paint a verbal picture for the present: she is a small cat but she has very big shoulders and mighty front paws; she has a pretty, triangular face with very active whiskers; she has a roman nose with a little bump; she is white-furred with a saddle of black and beige fur and one big white spot; and her fur is extremely soft to the touch rather than being sort of plush like some short-haired cats'. )

Update that is relatively good: my partner went and hung out with her in the basement and said she ate a bunch of food. She likes company while she eats; maybe since the Terrible Dog Smell has arrived, she feels that the NEEDS company. As long as she doesn't make herself sick from eating a bunch, that is a weight off my mind since it seems unlikely that a grave illness would involve being picky but eating big meals from time to time. I will adjust her food and try keeping her company a bit while she eats, plus supplement with delicious yuppie canned food; then I'll keep an eye on her over the weekend. She is a very routine-oriented cat; maybe recent changes have just been upsetting.
posted by Frowner at 10:23 AM on February 3, 2012

I suspect it's the New Thing In My Space issue (smell, people, whatever). We had builders in before Xmas and the Great Ginger He did not like it one little bit and his normally prodigious appetite went all small and pathetic . If your cat isn't losing weight and is actually eating, even if less, then keep an eye on it but try not to fret too much. Also, what's the weather like near you? If it's a bit miserable and cold and they're not as active as usual, the need for food seems to decline a bit as well.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 2:12 PM on February 3, 2012

Response by poster: And one more update: cat appetite (cappetite?) seems to be on the uptick. I think it may just have been New Things In My Space plus cat weirdness, since as long as a person is in the room with her she will eat just as normal.
posted by Frowner at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2012

Response by poster: And many months later I note two things of interest: we coaxed her back to eating by sitting with her while she ate, so I think it was the dog smells and changes in her food space that were the problem; also, she seems to go through appetite phases where she'll eat more and less. Right now it's the hottest part of the summer and she's eating comparatively little except every few days she'll get really hungry and clean her bowl. So I guess the moral of the story is that a sample size of one cat suggests that some cats may have irregular appetites with no reason for concern.

Now, of course, she is perpetually trying to lure us into the basement to sit by her and pet her while she eats. So there is that.
posted by Frowner at 8:25 PM on July 16, 2012

« Older Camera / Photography Advice   |   Working full-time for two companies at once. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.