How Can I Get My CRF Cat to Eat?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have an elderly boy, age 17, who is in stage II kidney failure, with a slightly elevated calcium reading and a slightly low thyroid one, and who simply refuses to eat. Prescription kidney diets, Merrick, Fancy Feast, Friskies, dry or canned, warmed or room temperature — none of it matters. Rehydrating him was easy enough, as are the maintenance sub-Q fluids and the pills. We’re about to try a liquid diet when the vet gets it in, but right now we are at our wits’ end. We just want him to eat more than a bite or two and we’re rapidly running out of options. We even asked about an appetite stimulant but were advised it was discontinued due to humans abusing it (really!?). Can you offer any words of wisdom or advice to help our boy get his appetite back? He’s also FIV+ but I’m not sure that plays any role in his current circumstances. Thank you for sharing your wisdom kitties (and mama too).

~ Jewel

Dahlia when she was very sick

Cats tend to lose their appetite when they get sick. Dahlia refused to eat for days, and Mama tried everything!

Siouxsie: Jewel, we’re so sorry. We all know how hard it is when a beloved cat companion gets sick. And when they stop eating, maybe you start wondering if It’s Time …

Thomas: But a lack of appetite doesn’t necessarily mean It’s Time. If his quality of life is otherwise good, then it’s worth it to keep trying.

Bella: That’s right! My first family thought It Was Time for me because I was so sick and not eating, but their vet talked them into letting me go to a place where they take good care of diabetic kitties like me. And look what happened!

Siouxsie: We actually do have a few ideas for you to discuss with your vet.

Thomas: First of all, it’s possible that your kitty’s not eating because he’s nauseous. Nausea is a fairly common problem in cats with chronic kidney disease.

Bella: Nobody wants to eat when they think they’re gonna throw up! Well, except Siouxsie: she eats and then she throws up, and then Thomas and I get a second helping!

Siouxsie: Well, if you didn’t constantly harass me, I’d have time to digest my dinner! Thank Bast Mama’s taken to feeding you in the bathroom so I can eat in peace. Haven’t thrown up once since she started doing that.

Bella: If I chase you more, can I have your food anyway?

Siouxsie: Shut up and get out of my face, you scrawny little punk!

Thomas: Siouxsie, that’s not very nice! Come over here, Bella. I’ll protect you.

Siouxsie: *hiss* Ahem. As I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted: if your kitty is nauseous, an anti-nausea medicine could settle his tummy and make him more likely to eat. You may want to ask your vet if that’s worth a try.

Thomas: And then there’s this prescription food called a/d. Mama says she’s never met a cat who could resist it. The stuff is like crack, she says, and even the sickest kitty will want to eat it.

Bella: It really is super-nom-tastic! They gave me some when I was at the vet ’cause I’d gotten so skinny with my diabetes. Oh, some days I just yearn for some of that a/d stuff.

Siouxsie: You should be glad you don’t need to eat that crap anymore, Bella! You see, a/d is a super-high-calorie food that’s given to cats that are recovering from serious illness or injury and need that extra energy to repair their bodies.

Thomas: But it’s not something you should use long-term. According to (which is a great support site for caretakers of cats with chronic renal disease, by the way), vets will sometimes prescribe a/d for short-term use to help CRF cats gain weight.

Bella: The folks at FelineCRF have some other tips to get a kitty to eat, including putting a couple of drops of oil from a can of anchovies on the food to make it more aromatic, and putting the food on your cat’s paws or mouth to get him to eat it. You can see the rest of the list — which does include some of the things you’ve tried — here.

Siouxsie: Good luck, Jewel. We hope you can get your little guy eating again. And we’d strongly recommend that you join the Feline CRF Support e-mail group on Yahoo. They may also have some other tips to help you, and they’ll certainly have a lot of emotional support to offer you as you go through the process of taking care of your beloved kitty.

  • Joanna

    My baby girl Amber (almost 23) is doing the same thing now.. She’s still being demanding, but she only eats a bite or two (maybe) and then turns her nose up at the dish.. What she will eat (making Mama cook for her) are boneless skinless chicken tenders..

    When she refuses kitty food (she gets 100% grain-free canned), I’ll take a tender out of the freezer, put on a plate & cover (so it doesn’t dry out), and nuke for about 2 minutes (all it takes to cook done & very juicy), then cut up fine.. As soon as I put the plate down, she’s at it.. usually eats about 1/3 to half right away, and the rest is gone within an hour or two.. Then, I might be able to get her to eat some kitty food afterwards, since chicken by itself isn’t complete, but she does eat it.

  • marty

    I like using nutritioal yeast and/or bonita flakes, that helps somewhat. I have a beginning, just recently, picky 19-yr old IBD kitty. She’s eating HIll’s dry TD the most. I don’t like any vet food, but I might try the A/D!

  • Catherine Murdoch

    If your kitty is feeling nauseous (and please note I said IF) the are they able take ginger tablets? Humans can take ginger for stomach nausea and I am just wondering if kitties can too. After all, some kitty medicines and some human medicines are exactly the same. If your kitty can take ginger then you can buy it at the chemist (pharmacy) which might be a bit cheaper than the vet. I would definitely check with your vet first though.

  • Al

    My dear Duke a seventeen year old Persian was in kidney failure and lost almost half of his weight.

    I resorted to feeing him, human baby food with a spoon and from my fingers.
    He did gain a bit and started eating canned cat food.
    After a few months, his condition became worse and we had to say goodbye.
    We now have three rescued kitties. A, huge, Snowshoe, a Siamese girl, who was snatched from
    death row and a Siamese boy who had been injured by the fan belt of the car engine,
    upon which he had been sleeping to avoid freezing to death.
    All three are happy and healthy family members and true, cuddle kitties.

  • Jen

    Puss, my eldest (about 12ish) has liver, heart and thyroid problems and he sometimes refuses to eat, so every now and then i’ll get a roast chicken and save the breast and give him the rest (de-boned of cause) ,… then he’ll get the breast too !! lol (over a few days, not all at once) and he LOVES it, he cant eat it fast enough !! -he’s started putting on a little weight but because he cant take the thyroid tablets, hasnt been able to get back up to what he should be (yet) :D

    good luck Jewel x

  • charlene

    My cat was diagnosed with renal failure 4 months ago. I came so close to putting her down. She hardly ate, couldn’t even walk without falling over. I searched the internet and read about a product called Transfer Factor that helped another cat with renal failure. I ordered a bottle and had it overnighted. Started her on it immediately, within 24 hours I saw she was responding. She is 14 years old, and is now jumping on my kitchen counter. You would never know to see her today that she was near death. Hoping others will save their pets too. I gave her Transfer Factor for humans, it worked for Natalie!

  • AnitaB

    So sorry about your kitty, Jewel. Seems he’s lived quite a long time with not only FIV but now kidney failure. You might want to try baby food (meat) in a jar and make him lick it off your finger or get a large syringe and use it. Baby meat is soft on the stomach and they usually love it. But both diseases are fatal and your kitty just might be succumbing to them. I’ve tried last minute things on my cats who have passed but none of them worked. The Transfer Factor might be interesting and worth a try but make sure he has water (fluids and syringe feeding) and try the baby food temporarily. My Patches died at 18 after 3 sucessful months of fluids. Her kidneys could just no longer function. I know she was suffering. Don’t let him suffer to long.

  • DianneD

    I had the same problems with my 20 plus cat a few years ago and now sometimes with my 17 year old cat. Neither will turn down the juice from a 3 oz. pouch of cat food. I had the best luck with a really cheap brand called Pet Pride that I get at my Fry’s (Kroger) grocery store. It costs 3 packs for $1. I also bought the really expensive pouches and had pretty good luck with them. One from Petco called Solistic worked pretty well. I’m not sure if they still have it, but they might. With the Solistic it was more natural with lots of juice and finely shredded meat. I could mash the meat until it was almost all liquid and then ended up feeding it through a syringe in the final months of my 20 plus year old cat. My cats will drink the juice but not eat the meat but it’s calories and that’s what counts.

  • Gail

    Sorry, but I need to ask a Question. I do not mean to be mean. But if a poor Cat, at such a good ole age is in stage II Kidney failure, is it not the most humane thing to start thinking…maybe?
    My very first ever Furbaby, that I had after I left the family home, was 20 years old when this happened to her – the vet told me this was the kindest thing to do.
    I now feel robbed, if this could have been prevented. Okay, so it was over 15 years ago, but I still miss her like crazy.. I vowed and declared I would never get another cat. I couldnt cope with her loss. In all honesty, I grieved for her more than I did my father when he passed away.. Please dont hate or judge me over this.
    I did however get another cat, who is now 10 years old and only eats a mouthful or two and keeps vomiting.. I have had him at the vet and the vet says he is why doesnt he eat/
    Perhaps I should have put this up somewhere else, but like I said I now feel slightly robbed, if I could have done something, even for a little while.