I have a cat, at least 16 years old, who is not interested in food. On Sunday when I noticed it she had some food in the morning and none for the rest of the day. In the morning she puked everything up and tried to go to the bathroom in inappropriate places. She was also extremely sluggish, sleeping a lot. She also had discharge from both her eyes.

I took her to the vet on Monday and since she hadn't eaten anything I asked they do bloodwork.

The vet looked her over and the bloodwork came back normal.

When I took her home she was slightly perkier and ate some. Tuesday she started out perkier and ate a little but then refused to eat later on.

Today she is basically eating nothing.

The vet suggested maybe IBS (but that doesn't explain the sluggishness...) and recommended an X-ray. I don't want to put her through tests that seem pointless (if this actually makes sense sure). She seems sick to me. On monday he checked her temperature but I guess found nothing. One time I was cuddling her and her ears seemed warm (odd they usually seem cold). Also she seems to really want warmth much more than usual (another sign of a fever).

She had hyperthyroid and was treated with radiation. She has become increasingly disinterested in food, but the sudden change recently is a dramatic shift.

Any ideas?

I'm calling another vet at the office.

  • Related How long can a healthy cat go without food? Jul 23, 2014 at 23:15
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    Did the vet check to see if she was dehydrated? (Do you know how to do that yourself?) Did he feel for obstructions in the GI tract? Jul 24, 2014 at 1:03
  • I'd think being dehydrated would show up in the bloodwork as excessive electrolytes.
    – Dan S
    Jul 24, 2014 at 1:44
  • 1
    If she has any kind of issue that's affecting her sense of smell, her food may not smell like food to her - you could try strong smelling food and see if that attracts her, particularly if the vet tests don't return anything specific.
    – Kate Paulk
    Jul 24, 2014 at 11:37
  • 1
    dehydration is very easy to check - pull the skin by the neck and see how elastic it is, if it does not return to normal animal is dehydrated.
    – AquaAlex
    Jun 4, 2015 at 9:55

2 Answers 2



IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. In other words, there is no bloodwork or test (other than a surgical biopsy) that can be run to confirm IBS, so what the vet will try to exclude other possible problems before finally determining that they've ruled out everything else, so it must be IBS.

When a cat has gastrointestinal problems, an X-ray can show several possible conditions that may explain why your cat is not feeling well.

  • GI system filled with gas
  • GI blockage (hair, fecal mass, etc)
  • Structural GI abnormalitiy (mesoesophagus, some tumors/cancers)
  • Presence of a foreign body (needle, string, etc)

Armed with this information, your vet can proceed to make a diagnosis with more information than they previously had. An X ray is a perfectly reasonable thing to do with a cat who has been sick for multiple days with normal bloodwork. If your vet has modern X ray equipment, it should be a relatively fast procedure (they can adjust contrast digitally on a poor film instead of retaking it), and it is not an invasive procedure (no sedation, or cutting, or anything risky).

As a side note, it's probably also reasonable at this point to redo the bloodwork since whatever is causing her illness may have progressed to detectable levels.

Supportive Care (i.e. Getting Her to Eat)

If I'm reading this correctly, your cat ate on Sunday (vomited it) and Tuesday. It's now Wednesday. Whatever is causing your cat to not eat, she is in danger of developing Feline Hepatic Lipidosis.

A cat at the beginning stages of hepatic lipidosis will feel nauseous and will not want to eat (even if the initial problem was a cold and has resolved on its own). Your goal is to just get enough calories into her to prevent hepatic lipidosis and reverse the nausea of the early stages.

If you've given her malt based hairball remedies previously with good results, then I recommend getting a tube of Nutrical and giving it to her. Nutrical is a high density caloric supplement that should help prevent hepatic lipidosis. It can be given the same ways that you would give a malt based hairball remedy. Some cats will eat it directly out of the tube, or you can smear it on their paws and have them lick it off.

If your cat is not familiar with this type of treat, or did not take to it favorably, some rescue organizations will mix it with kitten milk (KMR) or baby food (withOUT garlic or onions) to create a slurry and then syringe feed that to the cat.

At this stage your vet should be able to help with medications to stimulate her appetite and decrease her nausea.

  • 1
    What she said. You need to get calories into the cat ASAP. I've used Nutrical for this, and (at my vet's guidance; YMMV) plain chicken baby food. There's also prescription food you can get from your vet that's designed for this (nutritionally and being easy to digest); a couple cans of that could help get past the immediate problem. Jul 24, 2014 at 1:14
  • She puked up what she had on Sunday, and ate on Monday and Tuesday (but less than usual). I thought on Monday and Tuesday morning she was heading to being more normal but by Tuesday evening she was turning her head up at food. Today I gave her treats, dry food, she ate some treats. Then I gave her an appetite stimulant in a pill pocket. After that she turned her nose up at dry food and two kinds of kitty treats but I did get her to eat some of the gel with glucosamine and a little of a different flavor of wet.
    – Dan S
    Jul 24, 2014 at 1:47

What kind of food is she fed now? If it's wet food, maybe it's a bad can. Or maybe she's just decided that no, she doesn't like that kind of food any longer, she wants something different. Try small cans of a few different types of food, see if she'll gravitate toward anything.

For the super-short term, try giving her a few of her favorite treats and see if she'll eat those. It's not a long-term healthy solution, but it is food. Just make sure you don't exceed any daily recommended doses on the packaging.

Also, this is going to sound weird - but go find some baby food and see if she'll eat that. It generally has a garlic base, and cats respond to food they can smell. Maybe she's got an incipient cold, and so she can't smell her food and thus it's not at all appetizing? The lack of interest in food and discharge from eyes makes me think it could be 'kitty cold'.

If this keeps up and you can't somehow get her to eat in 24 hours, ask your vet for appetite stimulants and help force-feeding her a little bit of food, just for that one day. I think those only come in pill form, though - so you may need to either figure out how to give her a pill, or find a pill pocket that she'll actually eat. Yes, it will be traumatic - but cats can't go too long without food, without it really negatively affecting them.

And keep asking for alternative opinions - she sounds like she's somehow unhappy, and maybe another vet has seen similar behavior.

  • she tends not to like the wet, but now she is not even eating the dry, and she only ate a few kitty treats and decided not to eat any more of them. The first day I snuck an appetite pill into her food and she ate it but since then no such luck
    – Dan S
    Jul 23, 2014 at 23:26
  • she is >16 years old (I don't know her exact age I picked her up off the street 14 years ago). She had hyperthyroid and was treated with radiation, she has become increasingly disinterested in food, but the sudden change recently is a dramatic shift.
    – Dan S
    Jul 23, 2014 at 23:28
  • Wow, that totally sucks. That would scare me intensely. I hope you find some answers and help your kitty get better!!
    – user2505
    Jul 23, 2014 at 23:34
  • I got those pill pockets, spritzed catnip spray on it and got her to eat that. I've put out treats, dry food, and dried shrimp... so far she is showing no interest. I don't think x-ray or IBS sound sensible but I'm desperate. I'll take her in tomorrow at ~5PM for the x-ray. There is a variety of puke in the basement but one of them has a furball so that seems "normal". I can't stand that she doesn't like eating.
    – Dan S
    Jul 24, 2014 at 0:09
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    Do NOT feed baby food containing garlic to cats. Garlic is poisonous.
    – Zaralynda
    Jul 24, 2014 at 0:39

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