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My cat is 17, adopted last year. Generally lively, no obvious signs of distress or pain besides mild arthritis.

She used to throw up a lot, and after a battery of tests the vet declared that she was almost certainly just allergic to something in her diet. They prescribed hypoallergenic food but unfortunately it seems she would rather starve than eat it. It is wet food, as she generally refuses dry food. I introduced it slowly with her regular food, I tried heating it a little, I tried topping it with treats; none of this provoked any interest in it. The only thing that worked a little is if I pretended to eat it, but then she only licked a little before walking off. She is clearly hungry and continues to demand food.

After two days of her not eating I bought her a tin of tuna in fresh water. She loved that and ate it all immediately, and so far hasn't thrown up.

I did try cooked salmon and cooked chicken, but she wasn't interested in eating those.

I know that tuna is not nutritionally complete and also contains a lot of mercury, however at 17 maybe I should just accept that my cat is on the way out. Certainly I don't want her to starve to death and it's better she eats tuna than nothing.

Let us assume for now that the vet is correct and she was throwing up due to allergies. Also let us assume that these allergens are in the cat food she prefers. Are there good options besides tuna?

  • you need to be careful feeding tuna as this contains elevated levels of heavy metals. – trond hansen Mar 30 '19 at 13:34
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So to complete the record I will answer with what did happen.

We tried 4 or 5 other brands of hypoallergenic food, the cat scorned them all. We returned to the vet and they said that short of more invasive procedures there are some medications that will treat the symptoms. Specifically they gave antacids and steroids to reduce inflammation and told us to feed her whatever she will eat. The cat still throws up occasionally but not as much.

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I would call up your vet and ask for alternatives to the food they prescribed. There's surely more than one kind of hypoallergenic catfood. Perhaps your cat will eat that. It's quite a common problem for cats to be picky and not eat the food prescribed by the vet, so the vet should already be prepared to work with you on this problem.

If no prescribed foods work, the only other route is to try your cat on different types of store catfood, and see if she will eat those, and if they make her throw up. I would check the ingredients list on the catfood you normally give the cat, and then try foods that have different ingredients. You may be able to figure out what ingredient exactly your cat is allergic to.

In the end, if none of these work, you'll have to accept giving the cat food that makes her throw up sometimes. The plain tuna I don't consider a long term option due to both the high mercury content and the fact that it wasn't designed as a pet food, and so may also give your cat some kind of malnutrition.

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So I’m not to sure about hypoallergenic food. While the vet is an excellent source of knowledge and expertise, I find that they simply provide more complex answers to potentially simple problems. Cats are obligate carnivores. They need meat and bone and organs. If your cat was outside, she would resort to mice, moths, bees, birds, squirrels, etc. All of these are high protein and nearly zero carbohydrates. The vegetables they get are from whatever traces of greens that are in the bellies of their prey.

Your biggest concern is her water intake. She is old and needs water more than ever. Cats need water for their organs to function. A day or two without water and their little organs begin to fail. They also naturally (are supposed to) get 80% of their water intake from food. Don’t go out and buy all these hard foods. They are high and carbs and will do nothing to help your sweet old lady. Skip the next vet trip to try a 6th hypoallergenic food. Your best bet is to feed her raw food. There are so many articles out there to help learn how to feed your cat raw food. It’s simply the best way to feed your cat. If she is healthy (other than her lack of eating), then switching to a raw diet will likely push her past a typical cats life barrier.

There are a number of commercial raw diets that are super convenient and priced fairly. I use Darwin Pet Products. You can also make your own meals for even cheaper, given you have a meat grinder. There are a number of recipes online for “raw cat diet recipes.” Lastly, to help transition your cat to the raw, I would implement the tactics you did above. Use the tuna as your “gotcha” food and mix it with the raw and slowly wade off the tuna. Perhaps even use the tuna water and even less tuna to save her from the metals.

Alas, If this route is not the route for you, the next bet would be to try a good wet food. I found that all my cats preferred “Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers” before I switched to raw. One cat would only eat that over other cat products.

Hope this helps! Take care! And give her a good pet for me.

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  • Hi, thanks for your write up. The hypoallergenic foods I have tried are wet foods, she wont eat dry food anyway. We did try a number of human grade meats and fish (chicken/salmon/haddock). none of them were eaten. – Clumsy cat Apr 12 '19 at 13:48
  • What has she been doing since this post? – Cat Drogo Apr 12 '19 at 14:45
  • I answered my own question to let people know what happened in the end. That is still the state of play at the moment. She eats the junk and the medication means she keep enough of it down to maintain her weight. – Clumsy cat Apr 12 '19 at 14:47

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