Chester, who is sitting next to me as I write this, went through a funk late last year when his best buddy, Karma, passed on. For a while, he got very fussy about eating. At first, he suddenly developed an aversion to the food I had been feeding him all his life. Gradually, I was able to tempt him to eat, but I had to try all different kinds of food to get his interest.
During this time, I was also aware that Chester not only had to be tempted to eat, he also seemed to need to be reminded to eat. I also had this happen with another orange cat of mine toward the end of his life. I wondered why this happened. As it turns out, there are many possibilities.
We cat lovers know that changes in eating habits can mean a number of things — illness, disease, even dementia in a senior cat. Because a cat can get into trouble very quickly (in a matter of days) if he doesn’t eat, or eats less, always go to the veterinarian right away. You’ll have solid information, and you may know what is or is not going on. An exam and possible blood work will give you baseline information to help you make decisions as you move forward. In Chester’s case, his blood work (including thyroid) were normal. So one guess of mine was that Chester was simply grieving.
I’ve also considered that what seems to me to be forgetfulness about eating, might, in Chester’s case, be the desire for more frequent and smaller meals. My vet once told me that older cats seem to want several smaller meals a day. I have found this to be true with Chester.
Here are some tips for helping a reluctant eater get enough food:
This seems to be my mantra in so many cat things. If I learn to pay attention, I realize what the cats are trying to tell me. In Chester’s case, he just came and sat next to me as I wrote this. My first (egocentric) thought was, “Gee, he loves to hang out with me.” And that is true. But after some time, I realized that this is Chester’s quiet way of telling me he’s ready for one of those small meals. And so, I learn to pay attention, and I feed him whenever he wants. He’s not overweight, and he’s not like the rest of my cats who are pretty tuned in to the twice a day feeding regime — though he eats a little with them, too.
Cats love routine, even cats that seem to be “forgetful.” So, I keep all the cats on the regular feeding routine (morning and night) as well as giving Chester a snack whenever he seems to want it. Chester is tuned into the normal feeding times, and stands at the ready with everyone else for the morning and evening feeding tradition around here.
Some might call me, or us, crazy. It’s not exactly convenient to feed my cat whenever he decides he wants it. Others would say he’s manipulating me. But I don’t think so. Chester is a sweet cat and he’s given me years of sweetness and joy with his collaborative personality. If I can get him the food he needs, I’m willing. It works well, since I work at home.
Some of my solutions are very unconscious. Chester nibbled on some canned food this morning. Then he got disinterested and walked away. I moved the dish a little. This sometimes seems to work. Perhaps it’s something like, “Oh, I’m eating again, but it’s new, because I’m in a new place.” I don’t know why this works, but it has helped.
Chester is also very distractible, and a little bit nervous, so I make sure that he gets to eat alone. Some of the other, faster eaters go into their cat carriers, for example, at mealtime. Then Chester knows that he can be secure while eating.
Not to promote a brand here, but in Chester’s case, Fancy Feast is his absolute favorite food. When he’a acting fussy, I can always count on this food to save the day. There was a time I would have refused to buy it (because I was attached to other, “purer” brands of food), but I needed him to eat, and this did the trick. Every cat will be different. Chester loves the Fancy Feast pate, but not the chopped or sliced varieties.
Remember, if your cat is “forgetting” to eat, there may be more going on than you realize. Go to the veterinarian immediately and rule out, or pinpoint, any number of causes.
Does your cat forget to eat? What do you do? Share your insights, please!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.