When you want to lose weight, you probably think about cutting back on the number of calories you consume each day and that means eating less food. When a cat starts eating less, however, it is often a sign of a deeper problem and could be due to a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary care.
What is Anorexia in Cats?
Anorexia is simply a term used to describe a decreased appetite. The term hunger refers to a physiologically driven need for food but appetite is psychological – it refers to the desire for food. There are two different types of anorexia seen in cats – pseudo-anorexia is a condition where the cat is hungry and wants to eat, but something is keeping him from doing so. This might be related to difficulties with chewing or swallowing food. True anorexia involves a decrease in the cat's appetite.
Causes of Anorexia in Cats
The two different types of anorexia seen in cats are caused by different factors. As mentioned, pseudo-anorexia is caused by something that interferes with the cat's ability to eat – it doesn't affect the cat's enthusiasm for food. Potential causes for pseudo-anorexia may include problems with the mouth or teeth; pain in the chewing joints and muscles; nervous system problems that affect chewing; growths in the mouth; or pain anywhere on the body. Pain, even if it occurs outside the cat's mouth or throat, can affect his ability to move in order to reach the food bowl and it can be distracting as well. True anorexia is usually more serious than pseudo-anorexia, because it is often caused by systemic disease; immune system imbalance or disease; cancer or ulcers; gastrointestinal blockages; side effects of medication; or psychological issues like stress.
Treatment Options for Anorexia
No matter which type of anorexia your cat is suffering from, the key to treatment is finding the underlying cause of their lack of interest in food. This will require you to take your cat to the veterinarian who might perform a various type of tests to identify the problem. In addition to treating the underlying issue, your vet might also prescribe some kind of appetite stimulant to encourage your cat to eat. This might take the form of a medication or supplement – you can also try switching to canned food or adding broth to your cat's food to make it more appealing.
In some cases, treating the underlying cause of the anorexia might not trigger a return in appetite straight away. If the cat is unwilling to eat, he may need to be fed using a feeding tube – this may also be necessary in cases where the cat's gastrointestinal system has been compromised. If the cat doesn't receive the proper nutrients, he is not only at risk for nutritional deficiencies and dangerous weight loss, but could also develop liver failure.
Some cats eat more than others do, but it is your job as a pet parent to pay attention so that you come to understand what your cat's "normal" behavior is like. If you notice a change in your cat's appetite or eating habits, do not assume that the problem will go away on its own – you need to take him to the vet immediately for an examination to identify and then treat the underlying issue.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.