Tips for getting cat to eat?
October 26, 2021 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Fostering a cat in early renal failure, after a temporary med change she's being a picky cat and wants a lot of prompting to eat even though she's hungry. Tips?

Kitty is on renal wet food and (usually) LOVES it. Recently, we tried to take her Prednisone dose down from every day to every other day and she very visibly stopped eating as much (usually she would eat maybe 2.5 cans wet food a day and she was down to maybe 1.5, not meowing for food, etc). We went back to a daily dose of pred but she's still being kind of a diva about her food. While she wasn't eating, I stuck Temptations in her food to get her going, because it seemed like she didn't realize she was hungry but once she got going would eat more than she expected. Now she either wants: wet food that has been served out of the can RIGHT THEN, and will not eat any older food, or treats in her food. Older food within reason (like if it's been refrigerated that's no good lately though it's been fine in the past). I have been feeding maybe half cans and don't want to waste a lot of this food because she's not eating the serving and won't eat it later.

Things I have tried to get her to eat more/eat independently:
-heating food (she is not a fan)
-raising the food bowl (seems to be comfier)

The most competent person at the foster org is busy and the other folks have been like, "I don't know, keep going with the treats?"

I wouldn't worry because she needs to gain weight anyway so getting a few treats with every meal isn't the worst thing ever, but I'm going away for 5 days at the end of the week. I have a cat sitter coming daily for her pills but I'd rather not have the poor guy entice her to eat like I have been.

Today for example I was trying to get her to eat without prompting but she let her food sit without touching it while meowing at me that she was hungry until I stuck treats in it. 🤦Am I just getting played? Tips?

Thank you!
posted by clarinet to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My cat is not interested in his prescription food and i presume it's because it was not as delicious as fancy feast or whatever so now i just zhushj it up.

I use freeze dried chicken treats- you can kind of grind them into a powder with your fingers but at this point i grind them up in a blender. I sprinkle the chicken dust both under my cat's perscription food and on top, which i refer to as "Pet Pawmesean". This freeze dried chicken dust is irresistible.

If i need to feed him a pill, i can get the freeze dried chicken treat ground to small chunks in my hand, slip the pill in there and he licks it right up none the wiser.

The dust is more like an over-all flavor enhancer rather than a treat, which works for us. Good luck!
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:35 AM on October 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

Food toppings that worked with varying degrees of success when my cat was in renal failure:

Tuna juice
Yogurt (plain, whole milk)
Alllllll the treats
Bonito flakes (dried fish flakes, Asian markets have them)
Little cut up bits of banana Laffy Taffy
Roast chicken
Salmon skin
Heartfelt pleading
posted by ananci at 8:38 AM on October 26, 2021

Best answer: I'm not your vet, but I'd be inclined to try other wet food, even if it's not renal approved. Cats can get tired of a specific wet food pretty quickly and my sense at least is that keeping them eating and holding weight is more important than addressing their specific issues. I've ended up approaching my own cat's early renal issues that way - but keep in mind that I may absolutely be wrong here.
posted by wotsac at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

Adding warm water to wet food and mixing it into a stew often worked for our elderly cat with renal failure. We gave up on the prescription food and switched back to a rotating variety of store options, on the assumption that imperfect food is better than uneaten food. Sugar free whipped cream (half fill a jar with whipping cream and shake vigorously for 5 minutes) was the only reliable way to get her to take in some calories toward the end. Sympathy and best wishes.
posted by eotvos at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2021

Maybe you can serve the can without dumping it into a bowl? It won't dry out as fast, and you can scoop the rest into a bowl later.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2021

Can you get a prescription for mirtazapine? We used that successfully for my cat in liver failure. It comes in a cream you can rub on the cat’s ear. With a glove, since apparently it’s a potent appetite increaser for people as well (according to our vet).
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2021 [6 favorites]

If you can talk to this foster org's vet there are appetite stimulant meds available - may be fewer side effects with those vs pred. And depending on kitty's renal numbers, they may tell you to prioritize getting them to eat over the renal diet or vice versa.

The chix dust idea above is brilliant - if you try it, I'd be curious to know how it goes with this kitty!
posted by esoteric things at 8:53 AM on October 26, 2021

Response by poster: Getting in touch the vet is a pain because I have to go through a middleman from the foster org but I'll reach out to our vet contact again now that she's still being picky after the med change back. Wotsac I agree and am thinking about picking up Fancy Feast even if just for this weekend while I'm gone. Until then I have just ordered some chicken treats because I guess they're healthier than Temptations. Thanks for the suggestions so far.
posted by clarinet at 8:53 AM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

When my cat was older, she had a difficult time eating out of a bowl, or didn't like it. Feeding her on a small plate helped alleviate that, and she ate more (though it made quite a mess). Maybe a different bowl or a plate?
posted by hydra77 at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2021

Best answer: Our late senior kitty had multiple health problems and was a VERY picky eater.

Things that worked:
- heavy rotation of canned food - like, new flavor every meal.
- There were a few years where she only ate sea protein, and others where she primarily wanted land protein.
- The half trays from sheba were nice from a quantity/waste perspective.
- Scritching her while she ate.
- Flatter bowls that didn't bother her whiskers.
- People chicken - literally, the cheapest chicken we could get at the grocery store, cooked in a pressure cooker, shredded and frozen in small quantities, warmed up for her meals.
- Chicken stock - homemade, plain.
- prescriptions - the cream on the ear that's an appetite stimulant. Also one that was sprinkled on her food to make it enticing.
- treats in every bowl.
- fresh dry food every day in a separate bowl from the wet food.

This cat was spoiled, we admit that. We accepted that she was going to eat what she was going to eat, and she couldn't tell us what that was going to be beforehand, so there was waste. Towards the end, she ate treats for meals and people chicken sometimes. To us, that was ok because anything she would eat was better than nothing; we knew that we were hospice.

Our other (current) cat will eat anything, including competing with the dog for a dropped carrot.

Good luck, feeding picky cats is hard.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have a CKD cat who was stage 4, but has now moved to 3. She has had worrying periods of lack of appetite, right now she is eating normally. Here are the things that worked:

--don't worry about how many treats you are giving, if that spurs appetite. Better to eat than not. Greenies seem to be a bit healthier than Temptations, so you could try that, but I wouldn't be overly worried about a lot of Temptations.

--I am not a fan of renal food. I know this is counter to most vet's advice, but I don't think it is healthy and cats don't like it. Healthy in the sense that a lot of the ingredients are not what cats would ordinarily eat. (I also don't think most vets understand or have spent anytime learning about nutrition so I take most of what they say regarding nutrition with a grain of salt). I think that a high-quality, wet food that your cat will eat is the most important thing. You could aim for low phosphate, like chicken, that does seem to help with regard to CKD.

--as mentioned above, mirtazapine really does work, but it does make cats unhappy in that they are always hungry and it must feel unpleasant. If you go that route, try much smaller doses than what is prescribed and not every day. Oh, and if your cat only wants to eat food right out of the can, well, fair enough, I would just do that.

Vitamin B also seemed to really help with appetite. But that might be too much to add right now.
posted by nanook at 9:24 AM on October 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding mirtazapine. Using it now with a cat who's got serious kidney disease. Seems to work very well. And yes, use a glove. Last thing I need is an appetite stimulant...
posted by jzb at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2021

Response by poster: Last update- she wants it on a plate but fresh out of the can. Will not eat straight from the cat (that would be nice)!
Also I agree about the renal food. I am kind of hamstrung because I don't own her and whoever adopts her will be getting vet care covered by this same vet- I don't want to get her on a good routine against vet advice and then adopt her to someone who has to use the same vet? If that makes sense. I know it's silly. Fostering is hard 😓
posted by clarinet at 9:32 AM on October 26, 2021

Best answer: Nthing mirtazipine if you can get it. Another thing that worked for my cat when he went through a recent hunger strike was Churu treats - it is a paste that comes in tubes, and you should be able to get it from the pet food store.
posted by Preserver at 9:32 AM on October 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When the Late Great Zach was in his last year, he had early renal failure as well - and I found this site, which is like Feline Renal Failure Wikipedia. One of the parts of the site deals with diet, and how to cope with picky eaters who turn up their noses at the prescription foods. The blogger's motto is "the best food for a cat with kidney disease is whatever they will eat", and they break down what kinds of nutritional information to watch out for, and why, and - most importantly - they have a list of different brands of prescription diet foods, and even NON-prescription foods which would be okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2021

Mirtazapine also comes in pill form and worked wonders on a renal cat. I crushed up the pill and used a syringe to squirt in the crushed pill mixed with water. Just give enough so that the cat eats but doesn't feel hungry afterward.
posted by Ferrari328 at 11:00 AM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've been spreading churu paste as a kind of frosting over my cat's food, that's worked better than hiding treats inside.
posted by 100kb at 11:50 AM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Get some fresh crab from a grocery store. Be ready to serve it AS SOON AS you cook it -- the aroma used to give my cat a powerful sense of urgency to eat :)
posted by amtho at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2021

One of our cats lived her last year on Gerbers Chicken baby food.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2021

Things I have seen varying levels of success with:

Flat, elevated plate (maybe even a small cutting board) in case it is a whiskers hitting the edges issue
Bonito flakes
Churu “icing”
A spoonful given at a time - one right when the sitter comes in, another after pills, another after pets and attention
Cutting the food up if there are chunks so it is more of a purée texture
Mixing warm water into it (cool water does not work)
Sitting on the floor to plate the food and acting like it is not the cat’s and when they try to eat it they are getting away with something
Moving where the food is to a spot with coverage over the cat’s butt and back, like console table against the couch or wall, or with vantage points like a mantle or bookshelf
posted by Mizu at 3:02 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The caretaking and eating tips offered on the site linked by EmpressCallipygos helped save my cat's life. She didn't have renal failure but she wasn't eating or doing well for other reasons and there's a lot of information there that's applicable across a number of different conditions. But since your cat DOES have renal failure it's even more perfect.
posted by Anonymous at 8:05 PM on October 26, 2021

My cats go nuts over this stuff. I had a cat in renal failure so I feel your pain with the picky eating. Those treats didn't exist when I had him but I'm confident he would have gone gaga over them too. I add them as a topper/mix-in for wet food my cats are less than thrilled about. Works like a charm. Baby food (human baby, chicken flavor) or straight up boiled chicken also worked really well on my old kidney kitty back in the day.
posted by danapiper at 8:06 PM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Previous clients have used Science Diet for Kidney (wet), perhaps it's what you're using now.

I would definitely try mixing with a high quality standard food and or maybe a cat mousse.

It seems like such a basic answer, but it is really decent and seemed to extend longevity. I am so sorry.
posted by firstdaffodils at 8:26 PM on October 26, 2021

Ask your vet about Fortiflora if you don't want to go straight to additional medication. Non-prescription but there may be reasons it's contraindicated for your kitty. It's a probiotic powder that can be sprinkled on food (we call it yummy powder in my household).

Also try making smoothies with whatever cat food she'll eat plus extra water and tuna juice - sometimes it's a texture issue and a smooth puree can be lapped up rather than bitten is more successful.
posted by bunnysquirrel at 11:06 PM on October 26, 2021

Watching this space with great interest as my cat (17) has been losing appetite over the past 4 months - and I've been trying everything I'd seen. When this started, I took him in for the resulting constipation issues and his Vet said nothing when specifically asked about appetite stimulants.

Wet food - He likes broth and will lick any chunky food until all gravy is gone, then walk away. So, I make broth with a half to 1 food can of water pulverized in a blender. Had been using a 1:1 ratio with water/food for the past few years, but reduced to .5:1 for more flavour /to coax him to eat it. Have tried most brands on the market to see him walk away. Recently Fancy Feast, chunk tuna (blended), and Sheba are all that he will eat. Sheba was new and the only one of the 10 varieties I've tried that he'd approach. (Blue, Royal Canin, Hills, Purina etc - all examples of expensive misses over the years and now, again, more recently)

Dry - This week, tried pulverizing Friskies and sprinkling over his regular brand (Royal Canin Digestive Care, with each piece split in 2). This coaxed him to eating it again after 2 days of only eating wet. This for a cat who disliked Friskies most of his life.
2-3 weeks ago. Tried various brands of Kitten Chow - Purina was the only he'd eat. Until he stopped again and I retried his old brand.

Oh. as of 5 years ago - Also has to be pet /brushed while eating. At a minimum, watched.
The less said of his reaction to prescription kidney care the better.
posted by gardenkatz at 12:48 PM on October 27, 2021

Response by poster: Update on this: cat ended up on Fancy Feast and is now adopted and doing great with excellent bloodwork. While we were still on the kidney food, Churu paste and various cat broths worked the best to keep her eating. Thank you all!
posted by clarinet at 6:20 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]

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