It is imperative to keep your cat eating, or he/she will be at risk of fatty liver disease. Cats need at least 200 calories per day.
Inappetence is often one of the first symptoms to appear with FIP cats. Just like people, cats who do not feel well do not want to eat. However, unlike people, cats cannot safely go days without food, or fatty liver disease becomes a serious and potentially deadly concern.
FIP cats quite often have nausea, fever, and/or anemia, any one of which will cause inappetence. Addressing the underlying issue should restore his or her appetite but in the mean time…
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Quantity over Quality…at least early on
When kitty isn’t feeling well, it’s important to get calories in him/her, so at least for the time being, pamper your cat with whatever he/she will eat. Don’t worry if it’s the cat food equivalent of McDonalds, or if it’s not even cat food.
Many owners in the various support groups have found that their FIP cats prefer gravy more so than solid food. Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers has worked well for many, as have mushy treats such as Delectable Lickables or Churo Lickable Cat Treats.
Many of us have given our cats jarred baby food when they’ve snubbed their nose at cat food. Ham and Gravy is the stinkiest and therefore the most enticing to cats, but Chicken & Gravy or Turkey & Gravy are also fine to give provided they have NO seasonings (onions and garlic are toxic to cats). Many FIP cats prefer to lick food from their human’s finger rather than eat out of their usual bowl.
Other options that have worked well for many people are boiled chicken, boiled chicken hearts and livers, homemade chicken broth (again, no onions or garlic), sandwich meats/cold cuts, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and salmon.
Goat’s milk can also be given. Unlike cow’s milk, which should NEVER be given to cats, goat’s milk is digestible for them and it’s packed with vitamins and nutrients. Not only does it provide much needed calories, but it also helps to keep them hydrated. It can be found in the dairy section of most grocery stores, and also comes in a powdered form that can be reconstituted at home. KMR is another viable option that cat’s will typically accept.
Nutri-Cal or similar high-calorie paste can also be used. Due to the extremely high concentration of Vitamin A in these pastes, they should not be given routinely or for a prolonged period of time. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and limit use to 2 weeks or less.
These suggestions are intended to be for temporary feeding only, to entice an inappetent cat to eat. Once your cat is feeling better, you can start to transition him/her back to a more appropriate and balanced feline diet.
Feeding Tips & Tricks for FIP Cats
Warm the food. Warming the food ever so slightly enhances the smell, and may help to entice your cat to give it a try.
Warm the cat. It’s very common for FIP cats to run a fever, which leaves them feeling cold. Cats will not eat when they feel cold, as they cannot digest if their body temperature is off. Wrapping or draping a blanket around your cat may provide the warmth he or she needs to spark some interest in the food.
Variety. Be prepared to offer a kitty-buffet at every meal. FIP cats might LOVE a particular food once, then show no interest in it again ever. Conversely, that food that they snubbed at breakfast may now be a personal favorite by lunchtime. They all do it. Nobody knows why.
Syringe-feeding. There may be days that kitty just flat out refuses to eat, and syringe-feeding may be necessary. A/D canned food works well, as does anything that is a lose pate consistency. It’s important that the food not be too runny, or they can get aspiration pneumonia. If you’ve never done this before, an instructional video can be viewed here or your vet may also provide instruction.
Colostrum Powder: Not only do cats love the taste, but colostrum powder is packed with immune-boosting vitamins & minerals. Sprinkle a bit on their food to entice them to eat, or mix with water and administer with an oral syringe.
Appetite Stimulants for FIP Cats
Mirataz is commonly prescribed by vets to help stimulate a cat’s appetite. The cream is easily applied to the inside of the cat’s ears, and has proven to be very effective, with little or no side effects. It’s also very desirable since it is a cream rather than a pill, so application is a cinch.
Mirtazapine is very commonly prescribed by vets as an appetite stimulant; however, this medication has known side effects that mirror the symptoms of neurological FIP. Cats taking Mirtazapine may have ataxia, tremors, and seizures as a result of serotonin syndrome. Also, this drug is processed by the cat’s liver, which is already under attack by the FIP virus. While it is commonly used, this author strongly discourages using Mirtazapine when there are much safer and equally effective options available.
Cyproheptadine is a safe and effective appetite stimulant, and also used as the antidote for serotinin syndrome caused by Mirtazapine (above).
Anti-Nausea Medication for Cats With FIP
Cerenia is commonly prescribed by vets to help resolve nausea in FIP cats. Symptoms of nausea may include drooling, exaggerated chewing, grinding/clicking noise when chewing, or showing interest in food but not actually eating.
Slippery Elm Bark is an all natural anti-nausea remedy that can be found in health stores, vitamin shops, pharmacies, and some grocery stores. It does require some preparation at home before giving it to your cat.