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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 22584
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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18 year old very listless hasn't eaten days , drinks

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18 year old very listless hasn`t eaten for two days , drinks a little water and wants to be outside most of the time in one position

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Was she showing progressive appetite loss before she stopped eating?

Since you noted she hasn't been successful, does she try? Or ask and then turn away?

Has she had any vomiting, retching, gagging or lip licking?

Can she keep water down? Is she drinking more or less?

Are her gums pink or pale/white? Moist or sticky?

If you press on her belly, does she have any discomfort, tenderness, or tensing?

Could she have eaten something she should not have (ie bones, plants, chemicals, etc)?

Has she had any diarrhea?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

She had a healthy appetite before. She looks at the food now and turns away. She has had no vomiting, retching but a little lip licking. Her gums are pink and a little sticky. Her tummy is not tender. It is possible she may have eaten a plant as she often eats grass.

Thank you Barry,

Now I have to say that I am quite concerned about Rio.
When an elderly cat goes off their food with lethargy/depression, they are a vague clinical signs that can occur with a range of issues. If we are able to remove oral differentials (since there has been no drooling or noted struggling to eat) then we can turn our attentions to the conditions that affect the body as a whole. This includes grumbling bacterial infection, viral disease, cancer (ie lymphoma), metabolic conditions, organ disease (ie liver or kidney troubles) toxin and/or foreign material ingestion (the last two be less likely in her situation).

To complicate matters, we get very concerned for cats who go off their food (so we want to get her eating as quickly as we can) because cats were not well designed for the anorexic lifestyle. When they are off their food, body fat is broken down and released into the blood stream, causing their liver distress (ie. hepatic lipidosis) that can make getting them better even more difficult for us.

Now if she is turning away from food, then it her signs could include nausea despite not showing any vomiting (often nauseous cats go off their food rather then eat/vomit like a dog would). That said, this can be GI based but it can also be associated with systemic diseases that have an associated nausea. To rule out nausea as an anorexia differential, you can try her on antacid therapy. There are a number of antacids that are available over the counter and pet friendly. I would advise only treating with one, but the ones I tend to recommend are:

*Zantac (More Info/Dose @ - be aware that her dose will be tiny

* Tagamet (More Info/Dose Here @

As well, we can also use calcium carbonate (60mg every 8 hours) or Milk of Magnesia (0.25tsp every 8 hours as long as doesn't have know kidney issues). This medication of course shouldn’t be given without consulting your vet if she does have any pre-existing conditions or is on any other medications. Ideally, it should be given about 30 minutes before food to easy her upset stomach.

As well, you will want to try and see if you can get her eating (as I am sure you have been). Favourite foods are allowed or you can tempt her with a light/easily digestible diet. Examples of this would be boiled chicken, boiled white fish, scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk), meat baby food (do avoid the ones with garlic powder in the ingredients) or there are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used here (ie Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity.)

Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food into her. So, with her sound to be weak from her anorexia, this would be indicated now. Often we will use Royal Canin Recovery diet or Hill's A/D. Both are available online and from your local vet. Both are critical care diets that come as a soft, palatable pate. They are calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise and this could just help get some calories into her even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. As well, for syringing food, you can use the animal version of Ensure (balanced for animals dietary requirements) called Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Die or Catsure. It is OTC at vets and some pet stores. Finally, in a pinch you can water down pate style kitten food to syringe feed. This way it would a means of getting food, staving off hepatic lipidosis, and buying you time to uncover the reason for her anorexia and lethargy.

On top off all of this, you do need to keep an eye on her water intake. Especially since sticky gums are an early warning sign of dehydration creeping in. To check her hydration status to make sure she is not becoming dehydrated there are a few things we can test at home. Further to checking her gums, we need to make sure her eyes don't appear sunken, and that she doesn't have "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE. ( They use a big dog but it makes it easier to see and the principles are exactly the same. If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have your kitty seen by her vet before this gets out of control for her.

In regards ***** ***** you can do to help stave off dehydration at home (though do note that if she is already then she will likely need more the oral rehydration), encourage her to drink but offering fresh water or even low-sodium chicken broth. As well, wet foods (as mentioned above) are 35% water, so getting her to eat will help us deal with water intake as well. If she isn't amenable to drinking, you may wish to offer unflavoured pedialyte via syringe feeding. While we cannot do this if they are vomiting, it may be an option for this situation. A typical maintenance rate for hydration in an animal 48mls per kilogram of her body weight a day. If you do give syringe pedialyte, this should obviously be divided up into multiple offerings through the day rather then all at once. This value will give you the total she needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of her daily requirement. If she does vomits if you give pedialyte, I would discontinue this as a therapy. (since we don’t want her vomiting because of our intervention).

Overall, when a cat is anorexic and lethargic, it can mean a wide range of underlying issues. And with her sounding so weak and depressed, we do need to tread with care. So, you can try the above but if we do not see improvement in 12-24 hours or she worsens (vomits, etc), then you do want to get your vet involved at that stage. They can assess her hydration, check her signs of any sinister lumps/bumps or internal issues. As well, you may consider having them check a blood sample to assess the state of her organs. They can also cover her with antibiotics, anti-nausea/vomiting medication by injection and even appetite stimulating drugs if necessary. Depending on the findings, the vet will be able advise you on what is likely our culprit and what can be done to help your wee one before she just fades away on us.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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