Anorexia, which is a very reduced or complete lack of appetite, can be very serious in cats states Dr. Amanda Maus, at Catalina Pet Hospital in Tucson, Arizona. Decreased appetite can have many causes including fever, intestinal disease, organ disease, or cancer. In addition to whatever the primary cause of the anorexia may be, several days of not eating well can cause what is called fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis. Even a few weeks of just eating 25-50% less than usual can lead to this state.
Fatty liver disease, although more common in obese cats, can happen in any cat suffering from anorexia and weight loss, and is the most common type of liver disease seen in cats. Jaundice or yellowing of the skin is commonly seen with this disease. This disease can also cause significant nausea leading to more anorexia and vomiting. Affected cats are often lethargic and dehydrated as well.
Quick veterinary intervention is needed for this disease and most cats will recover with appropriate treatment. The main objective is to remedy the underlying cause as well as to control the nausea and vomiting and to provide proper nutrition. Advanced cases often require the placement of a tube from outside the neck, into the esophagus, so that adequate feeding can be provided without trying to perform oral force feeding. Daily oral force feeding can not only lead to resentment of the caretaker, but also causes worse food aversion. The feeding tube may need to be left in place for up to 2 months in severe cases. In addition to antinausea medication, the cat may also require hydration therapy, electrolyte and vitamin supplementation, and liver support medications.
As you can see, anorexia in cats can be very serious and lead to severe consequences. Daily monitoring of your cat’s food intake can make a huge difference in catching diseases early on. Unexplained weight loss in cats is never acceptable. Early intervention is not only better for the cat’s health, but also can be less costly for the owner.