Maggie ailing again.

To catch you up, Maggie stopped eating again which is troubling since she hadn’t really gained back the weight she’d lost when she was so ill.  Knowing how bad it can be if cats stop eating, I tried force-feeding her this morning and that went exactly as well as you might imagine.  Taking the wiser course, I took her to the vet today.  They can’t find anything wrong with her.

But she wasn’t eating. So they gave her an appetite stimulant and subcutaneous fluids.  Back at home, Maggie kept looking at the food as if she wanted to eat it but was too nauseated to consider doing so. And then, finally, she nibbled.

The problem was that she wanted to be near me and followed me from room to room.  I wanted her to hang out with the food. So I hauled my computer and a chair into the kitchen and camped out there for most of the day.  She ate a little.

The situation is that if she goes the weekend without eating her kidneys will likely begin to shut down.  There are also likely larger issues going on, but at this point the vet says that everything, except irritable bowel syndrome, is untreatable. So we’re treating it as if it’s IBS and hoping for the best.

Maggie is alert and walking without pain, if a little unsteadily.  Really, aside from the loss of appetite there is nothing apparent wrong with her.  I wish I could speak cat so she and I could talk about what was going on.

Edited to add on Friday: She has begun nibbling and had some tuna and kibble today.  Many thanks for the healing vibes.

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11 Responses

  1. Trebor

    Our cat Ford is very ill right now as well so I really understand what you are going through.

    I’ve learned a lot about cat health and sickness in these last two months that she’s been ill.

    There are a lot of reasons a sick cat won’t eat. It could be a lot of things. What diagnostic tools have they tried? I’m talking about blood work, ultrasounds, etc? What is coming back as abnormal?

    As far as caring for her yourself and getting food into her I have learned a few tricks.

    For force feeding, get a LARGE syringe (without a needle) from your vet. Cut the tip down to size if it is over large. Then get some “A/D” speciality moist cat food from your vet. That’s a prescription food designed to be more appealing. Try offering it to her first. If she won’t eat, then you can force feed.

    To force feed a cat take the A/D moist food, put some in a bowl, and then add a small amount of Pedia-lite (for humans) electrolyte replacement fluid. Mix in a little pedia-lite and then fill the syringe with the food. To feed the cat wrap a towel around her and kneel on the floor with her. Control her towel wrapped body with your knees. Force her mouth open and inject the food/pedia-lite mixture into her mouth. Don’t spray too much in at once: Give her a little “push” of food and let her chew (even if it’s very moist they’ll try to chew) and swallow. Then give her another “push” of food. I say “push” intead of “squirt” because I’ve found that you don’t want the food to be too liquidy. For example, instead of sucking the food into the syringe, I actually remove the plunger and pack it in from the other end. I add just enough pedia-lite to make the food just a little more malleable, but no so much as to make it really soupy.

    (Btw, ask for three or four large syringes. If this method does work, you’ll want to prepare two or three at a time as it’s just easier. Don’t give her more then one at a time though. Keep the other ones in the fridge in a zip-loc bag. I was told, “Smaller feedings, more frequently” work better for force feeding).

    Since today is Friday, and your vet should be open, try to get the A/D moist and a few syringes from your vet today. As you know, the longer she doesnt eat, the worse is it for her.

    You also want to ask your vet specifically for a tube of Tumil-K Gel (Potassium Gluconate). This is a potassium supplment. In addition to helping keep her potassium up, this stuff is evidently *very* tasty to cats and might be enough to get her to eat when added to her food.

    There’s one other thing you can try before you force feed her again. Since your vet is likely going to be closed over the weekend though, I suggest you ask for and get the A/D food, syringes, and especially the Tumil-K Gel pottasium suppment first. That way you have everything if this next tip doesn’t work. (And you’ll want the Tumil K for the next tip as well).

    Go to the store and buy baby food. You want Gerber Chicken or Lamb in the little jars. The chicken has more calories, so it’s my first choice. The lamb is OK if they are out of chicken.

    Take the jar of baby food and scoop *out* one spoonfull into a bowl. Then squirt a dose of the Tumil-K (1/2 teaspoon) into the jar. Add a 1/2 tea spoon of pedia lite. Mix it up. Then put the jar in the microwave for about 12 seconds. Heating it up doesn’t warm it too much, but does help release the food smell, which is important to cats.

    When the jar is mixed and ready take the jar of food and a spoon to the cat. Put a towel down on the floor or bed and get comfortable. You will want to hand feed the cat one spoonfull of baby food with the Tumil K and pedia-lite mixed in at a time. Fill the spoon about half-way and place it right under her noise. Move it around just a little so she can smell it better. When she starts to lick it, hold it for her, and when the spoon is empty, get more food from the jar and repeat.

    Get comfy as it takes me about a half-hour to get Ford to eat a whole jar. You have to be insistent in how you offer the food. It often takes her a good 10 to 20 seconds with the spoon under her nose before she decides to eat. As she’s eating, she’ll often stop and have to be persuaded again to start eating again. Once she’s eaten at least half to 2/3 of the jar you can be a little less persistent if she starts to refuse to continue eating.

    This is a little messy, especially after you’ve mixed the pedia-lite in and made the food a little more runny. Oh, and that little bit of food you scooped out and put in a bowl to make room for the pedia-lite and potassium? Just scoop it up and either offer it to her unadultered or just mix it back into the jar when there is room. But, you do want to take a little out at first or the jar will overflow.

  2. Trebor

    To make it easy, here’s a checklist:

    Buy at vet:

    A/D moist food
    syringes
    Tumil-K

    Buy at store:

    Baby food (Gerber chicken in jar)
    Pedia-lite

    Try the baby food with Tumil-K and Pedia-lite first. If that doesn’t work, force feed the A/D (or another moist food) with the syringe.

  3. Trebor

    A couple more thoughts:

    If your cat is *not* terminally ill and where her biggest threat is caused by not eating, you could talk to the vet about having a feeding tube inserted. It’s a minor surgerical procedure and allows you to feed the cat through the tube much easier then force feeding. It is worth considering if it looks like she’s going to be with you for some time to come and if the biggest health concern is her not eating on her own.

    To feed with a feeding tube use a moist cat food and add more pedia-lite. In this case you *do* want to be able to suck the semi-liquid food out of the bowl with the syringe. Open the cap on the feeding tube, give 5 ML of water or Pedia-lite, and then give the food. Afterwards put another 5 ML of water or pedia-lite through the tube to flush it and keep it clean.

    Do not push in the water or food too quickly. About 1 ML every two seconds or so. I have a hard time timing it smoothly myself, so I tend to push in a ML, pause, and then push in another ML, etc.

    When your cat improves the tube can be removed. We are now feeding Ford baby food and no longer using the feeding tube. The vet decided we should leave it in though in case we need it again soon. She’s improving, but not out of the woods yet, and we may yet need the feeding tube before all is over.

    Also, for long term care, you can also learn to give subcutaneous fluids yourself. If you’re vet is willing they can teach you how and sell you the fluids as needed. It’s actually not that difficult or that much of a production. The hardest thing is learning how to correctly insert the needle so it doesn’t hurt your cat. If she feels it, she’s more likely to pull away, and the needle can come out. I’ve given Ford Sub-Q fluids about four times now and my technique is still improving.

    The sub-Q fluids are a palative measure to keep her going while she recovers from whatever the main problem is. They won’t cure anything by themselves, but can help her regain her strength while she heals. They can also be part of Hospice care to keep her comfortable if it reaches that point. (Hopefully it wont).

  4. Amy Sisson

    Trebor, that’s a lot of good info, and I’ve bookmarked it for future reference.

    Mary, my sympathies! There’s nothing worse than having a sick cat/dog/young child who can’t tell you what doesn’t feel right.

  5. Kate Baker

    Oh Mary, I am so sorry.

    My grandfather’s cat had a similar problem. She wouldn’t eat and was getting dreadfully thin. As a last ditch attempt, my mom switched the food from wet food to dry food and the cat started eating again. All those years eating the wet food and suddenly she wouldn’t eat.

    If you’ve been sticking with primarily one type of food (the canned or bagged) it wouldn’t hurt to try switching it up maybe?

    I do hope things get better.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Yeah, Maggie has a buffet to choose from. We even, in a vegetarian household, tried cooking hamburger for her last night. No interest.

      The things she is most likely to try are her kibbles or tuna.