Normal Eating Behaviour for a Newly Toothless(ish) Cat?
December 2, 2014 9:52 AM   Subscribe

A hair over 3 weeks ago, our almost-15 year old mushpot of a cat went in for some long overdue dental work, which turned out to include 8 extractions. Since then, he hasn't been eating much and it's driving me crazy.

He was eating even on the first night home, but his appetite over the subsequent period seems to have taken a bit of a nosedive, and any eating is followed by a lots of face licking, some paw grooming with face-rubbing, etc.

On our follow up visit with the vet, he showed us his gums - still a bit inflamed - and gave another round of antibiotics, which he seems to think will resolve the issue.

Despite the drop in food dish consumption, he still happily takes treats and tuna juice, and he will eat of his own volition, just not very much. He doesn't seem hungry and unable to eat, just disinterested.

I've tried soft food, softened soft food, grinding up crunchy food with water, tuna, baby food... maybe I'm trying too much?

There's lots of information around on the-few-days-after recovery from extractions, but not much as longer-term recovery goes.

Any other toothless-ish cat owners care to put my mind at ease (or not)?

Obligatory picture of mister mushface here.
posted by to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd try warming the food a little. It will make it smell better to your cat which might encourage him to eat. I'd stick with soft food and maybe add a little warm water to make it runny so he can lick it up a little if he is finding chewing hard to do. This is based on a dog that had dental surgery not a cat though. I do know with cats it's important to make sure they do eat enough so maybe putting out a few options. If he really likes a particular type of dry food I'd soak it instead of grinding it, as it would be easier for him to still pick up a small piece of it, or you could try hand feed him them one at a time once softened which might encourage eating.
posted by wwax at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2014

My parents had a toothless cat for about 10 years, and she never ate more than a tablespoon of food at a time. They were retired, so they would actually dish her out a little spoonful of wet food (rotating flavors, of course) every other hour or so, and she would sometimes eat it and sometimes not. The warm water (or warm low-sodium chicken broth, for extra appeal) is probably worth the effort, but I'd stick with one type of food for a while and see if he settles down to it.

White Kitty would generally eat an appropriate amount over the course of a day - she was always a solid lady.

If he's not losing too much weight, I wouldn't sweat it too bad.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:21 AM on December 2, 2014

My little Binkleton had ALL of her teeth out this time last year actually.
She had severe stomatitis and was clearly in pain - but weirdly enough she could always eat her food like a trooper.

She was eating and drinking perfectly immediately after the surgery, but about 10 days later she stopped eating altogether and I could tell she was in immense pain. She was trying to eat, then she would yelp and run away and hide.

The subsequent few days were just awful. She had a big mouth infection PLUS her gums were still massively inflamed. Not good. She did another round of antibiotics which cleared up the infection, but the gum inflammation remained and actually seemed worse than before! During this time she would be able to eat treats and Tuna Juice, but not much else.

We really thought we might have to put her down because she was in so much pain, but then my vet said that sometimes, cats have severe food allergies which can affect their gums, so we immediately took her off any food that had chicken, turkey, fish or beef in it (EVERYTHING she was eating!)

Instead, we put her on a special diet. Now she can only eat Lamb, Duck, Pork, Venison, Rabbit, Possum (!), Pheasant – she eats better than I do!

But let me tell you, her gums cleared up almost immediately. It was - miraculous – for want of a better term. I’m not saying that your cat has food allergies, but ours definitely did and it was weird that all the foods she ate just fine before she had her teeth out, really negatively affected her afterwards.

If you’re interested in the food allergy stuff, memail me – I have a list of foods you can try if you think it might be something worth doing.

Food allergies aside – we used to warm the food for her before serving and this was very effective in getting her to take a couple of bites.
She also spent a LOT of time licking her lips and rubbing her face after eating once she had her teeth out. It became QUITE the ritual!

The good news is, in the long term (one year down the line with no teeth) Mrs Binkleton is absolutely THRIVING, she eats voraciously and she eats everything; wet food and dry treats and the occasional slice of ham. So perhaps your kitty just needs some time to adjust? Or maybe there’s something else going on here… either way, good luck!
posted by JenThePro at 11:01 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try pulverizing some freeze dried salmon or chicken product and using it as a topping for any food normally eaten. Like a cheese or a dressing, just a bit. Sticks to the tongue and encourages more interest.
posted by Freedomboy at 11:12 AM on December 2, 2014

Almost one year ago (Dec 15), we took in a toothless cat off the street (obligatory pic). Alice is about 12 years old and lost her teeth who knows how or when, so she's clearly had time to get used to it, but she is the biggest pig of the four we have.

I used to mush up canned food into a paste for her but she started turning up her nose at it. Now I just add a little water so it's not quite so hard but not completely goopy either. She seems to like that. But what she really likes is kibble. Can't get enough of it. Despite her quite fervent desires, I won't let her eat out of a full bowl like a normal kitty because I'm worried about her choking if she grabs up too many pieces at once in her little toothless mouth since she can't chew them. But if I sprinkle ten or twelve pieces at a time on a plate or in a bowl, she'll hoover them up and beg for more.

All of which is a longish way of saying I think your cat probably just needs time to adjust to the new situation. Give him time and I'm sure he'll be back to normal soon enough.
posted by roosterboy at 11:18 AM on December 2, 2014

My cat also had stomatitis several years ago- two vets recommended a full mouth extraction and he only has his canines left. I think after the initial two weeks post surgery of mostly wet food, I put him back on mostly kibble with occasional wet food. He did not really go through much of a not-eating phase and has always been very food oriented- this did not really change after the dental work.

Is mmushface clearly losing weight?
posted by tangaroo at 1:58 PM on December 2, 2014

Aww, look at that little face!

My cat had all his teeth removed but his canines a couple of years ago. Everything turned out fine.

Have you tried feeding mushpot soft food with chunks? (Look for mention of "gravy" on the packet.) Mine will eat both soft and hard food happily, but he struggles to eat mushy food because he doesn't have anything to pick it up with. I can recommend Royal Canin Ultra Light Pouches; my cat would eat ten a day if I let him.
posted by Georgina at 5:43 PM on December 2, 2014

I, too, have a relatively toothless older cat!

We reclaimed her from an ex (who wasn't taking care of her and who's step kids were abusing the crap out of her) almost exactly one year ago. My very astute son immediately said, "I think her mouth is hurting her when she eats," so we added dental work to the endless vet routine and she had 14 extractions done this past February. She has four or five of those micro-teeth right in front on her lower jaw. It's so pitiful, it's cute.

My toothless cat is addicted to food, no two ways about it, but she definitely took some time off the food bowl stalking after she had her teeth removed. It was a pretty huge body trauma for her and took her some time to recover, both physically and mentally. She lost weight (much needed) and wasn't very enthusiastic about anything for about a month but then returned to eating with great fervor.

We do feed our cats canned food but when she was punky in addition to her regular food (Nature's Balance Ultra) she also had tuna and/or tuna juice in hopes of getting her to eat.

It just took time.

I hope your mr. mush is a happier kitty with a less painful mouth!
posted by Mysterious Trousers at 6:58 PM on December 2, 2014

Our old cat developed some dental infection problems not long after adopting us. The dentist had us try a course of antibiotics but it was fairly obvious that the infection came back pretty quickly after they were done - he was a food oriented cat but I watched him take a mouthful of new food then run out of the house like he had been hit. the dentist then removed all his teeth and he was eating hard biscuits again within 36 hours. So cats can eat hard food on gums if they are healthy, though I guess personal taste can still play a part in whether they will. It makes me think that the problem might be that your cat is still getting discomfort that is putting him off harder food, especially if he still has some appetite for softer treats. Make very mushed up tuna and tuna water available when ever he wants it. Stick with the antibiotics as recommended and see whether things pick up, if not then take him back to the vet to have a look and see about going beyond the standard antibiotics. Our vet missed one of Fatty's teeth when extracting so that might be worth checking.

Fatty was still a gannet for his remaining four years after his teeth were all sorted out.
posted by biffa at 3:37 AM on December 3, 2014

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