Cat Anorexia

"Cat anorexia is an eating disorder, which is a symptom of an underlying problem. Cats may be either unable to eat or not willing to eat, depending upon the underlying cause. In general, anorexia can be partial or complete. It can be accompanied by many disorders, ranging from psychology to pathological conditions. As a symptom, cat anorexia is noted in many conditions, and usually is an initial symptom for a generalized illness. Most commonly, feline anorexia is associated with digestive disorders, but other factors, such as pain, a cat's environment and neurological disorders can leave a cat with anorexia. Diagnosing anorexia in cats as a symptom is dependent upon the calculation of food intake for at least 3 days, and can be treated symptomatically. Treatment of the underlying cause is necessary to end the problem."

Cause of Cat Anorexia:

The exact cause of feline anorexia is unknown, but some researchers have worked out different theories about the disorder. Some believe that cat anorexia is truly a digestive disorder, calculated and caused by the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that lies below the thalamus) in the brain. Others believe, that pain, the environment, psychology and any kind of disorder in the physiology of the body are causative factors for anorexia.

Though the exact mechanism behind feline anorexia is yet to be known, different diseases like gastrointestinal abnormalities, the malfunctioning of organs, like the liver, kidney and pancreas, blood related diseases, neoplasm (tumor), skin problems and disorders of the ear, nose and throat (ENT) are some examples; which have cat anorexia as a major symptom.

It is also believed that the habits of a cat, i.e., whether it likes or dislikes food, change in food ingredients and environmental factors can lead to cats having anorexia. In such conditions, the psychology of cats needs to be addressed.

Anorexia Calculation:

A cat should be termed as a partial or completely anorexic, depending upon the amount of food intake.

If a cat intakes some food, but not enough to provide at least some energy, such as 30Kcal/Kg B.W, the cat should be termed as partially anorectic (another term for anorexia). On the other hand, a cat is a complete anorectic, if it does not eat or take food for almost 3 days. A close monitoring of the feeding habits and amount of food intake is usually required for at least 3 days, before it is declared that a cat is either partial or completely anorectic.

Diagnosis of Cat Anorexia:

Once a cat has been diagnosed as anorectic, it is usually required to diagnose any underlying cause. This may either be done by clinical examination and/or laboratory procedures. Blood tests, urinalysis, fecal examination and some times radiography are required, to diagnose the exact cause of the feline anorexia.

Treatment of Cat Anorexia:

Initially, a cat can be symptomatically treated for anorexia, in order to restore body condition. Some techniques, such as adjusting a diet by adding flavors, appetizers and fish in meals, can help. In case of complete anorexia, emergency tube feeding, forced feeding and intravenous (IV) administration of nutrients is required. Supportive or symptomatic treatment can never be an alternate to specific treatment; it can only help in restoring body conditions.

Specifically, underlying causes of  anorexia should be treated. Systemic and supportive therapies can be applied simultaneously.

Home Care for Anorectic Cat:

At home, cats should be closely monitored while they are fed. Anorexia is considered an initial sign for illness; therefore, the history of the cat is important for a veterinarian to understand. The exact cause of any disease, especially the feeding history is important.

At home, an anorectic cat can be fed warm meals. Flavored and digestible food can overcome problems, to some extent. Similarly, feeding habits of cats should be closely monitored.

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The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health

Veterinary Clinician Manual (Royal Publishers UK. 1994)