Best Appetite Stimulants for Cats

Best appetite stimulant for cats
When your cat is suffering from anorexia, there's always something you can do to help improve her appetite.

Just like in humans, cats also tend to lose appetite due to various reasons. If your cat has recently started avoiding food or eating very little of it, it will be due to various underlying causes that need to be checked to restore its feeding habits. The following sections deal with this aspect and how to go about solving it. There are several appetite stimulants for cats, and one may be appropriate for you depending on the cause.

Can I stimulate my cat’s appetite?

When other methods for addressing the cat’s lack of appetite have failed, you will need to find ways of stimulating its appetite. There are various drugs manufactured to specifically take care of this issue. However, vets recommend that most of these drugs are only used as a last resort given that they may have side effects on your cat.

Unknown to many people, the cause of a lack of appetite in a cat may not necessarily be a health condition. Some causes may be as a simple as dirty feeding bowls or changes in the location of the food bowl. Cats get quite choosy when it comes to their food and other aspects. You should keep an eye on that to keep them comfortable.

When cats lose their appetite, the solution lies in dealing with the underlying issue. If it is a disease, you need to have it treated. If it is due to changes in the diet, you need to make the needed changes. Only use the appetite stimulants with the advice of the doctor after a proper diagnosis of the causes of this condition.

5 Best appetite stimulants for cats

When your feline friend is acting up and won’t eat, it is time to try out appetite stimulants. This is after considering all the other causes and establishing that the needed solution is an appetite stimulant. If the cat is sick, you should have it treated first. Also, you need to provide the other care such as rehydration if there is diarrhea. At times, the solution may lie in providing nutrition intravenously as the cat heals.

If the solution is an appetite stimulant, the vet will recommend one of the following drugs:

1.   Cyproheptadine

Cyproheptadine has been clinically proven appetite stimulant for cats, especially when the affected party is not thriving health-wise and there is no underlying organic disease. By lack of thriving, it means that the cat (or child) is not gaining weight according to its age and has poor feeding habits which have led to the loss of weight and poor nutrition.

The primary outcome for the use of this drug is a gain in weight while the secondary outcome is change in feeding behavior for the better.

The drug is administered twice a day with the total amount being 0.25mg/kg each day. These doses are to be given at least 8 hours apart for the best results (and to avoid overdose).

When using this drug, care should be taken and the following should be avoided at all times. If any of them already exists, the drug in question should not be administered:

  • Medications that interact with
  • Neurological impairment of the cat.
  • Medications that affect appetite (meaning the drug is to be used alone in stimulating appetite).
  • Not to be used in kittens.
  • Not to be used when there is an underlying organic disease.

The use of Cyproheptadine in stimulating appetite has been proven with clinical trials also showing positive results in human children.

2.   Periactin

This is a drug that has been created to work as an allergy medicine and exists in the form of a gel, liquid or tablet. In cats, it also serves as an appetite stimulant when cats act up or are sick.

You can administer it either as a pill through the mouth of the cat, or by rubbing the liquid or gel on the cat’s ear tips.

3.   Valium

Valium, also called Diazepan, has the primary role of serving as an antianxiety drug in humans. In cats, it has the work of stimulating appetite.

Like all medicines for stimulating the cat’s appetite, you need to follow the dosage strictly. Otherwise, it will have adverse effects on the animal.

4.   Vitamin B

Vitamin B is used to stimulate appetite even in human beings. It works even better on cats given that it works by stimulating the olfactory senses of the recipient. As such, the food will smell better if you crush a vitamin B tablet in it and offer it to the cat.

Better yet, given that vitamins are good for the health of the cat, use a multivitamin tablet for the best results.

5.   Mirtazapine/remeron

In humans, Mirtazapine is used as an antidepressant. In cats, however, it has the properties which have seen it used for appetite stimulation and reduction of nausea.

The dosage for cats is either 1.88 mg or 3.75 mg with the administration being oral. This drug has various side effects when given in large doses, or when given to cats that do not need it in the first place. To avoid this issue, it is advisable that the vet divides the medicine into the exact doses so that the owner of the cat only needs to administer the drugs.

Besides these drugs, your vet may prescribe various other medications and interventions such as:

  • IV fluids
  • Painkillers
  • Steroids to reduce inflammation
  • Antacids

These are just some of the drugs the vet will advice you to give to your cat. When administering them, ensure you know the exact side effects of each drug.

Natural appetite stimulants for cats

If you are worried about the side effects of the drugs described above, you can go for natural appetite stimulants as they do not have any of the side effects associated with appetite stimulants in drug form. These include:

  • Catnip: this appetite stimulant comes from the catnip plant and is added to the food of the cat to stimulate its pheromone receptors.
  • Tuna fish or sardine: besides the nutritious nature of the fish, sardine or tuna fish has a strong appetizing aroma which will entice the cat to eat up.

If your cat has a favorite meal and you have recently changed it, it is advisable to give it to him/her this same meal at such a time.

Symptoms of feline anorexia

Anorexia refers to a loss of appetite. It is not a disease as such. Rather, it is a sign that there is something wrong with the body of the affected party. When your cat is anorexic, it can be due to stress, sickness or mere fussiness. To know the exact cause behind this condition, you will need the skills of an expert (a veterinarian) who will carry out the needed tests beforehand.

After the tests, the vet will recommend the appropriate care routines among them anti-nausea medicine, nutritional support, appetite stimulants and others.

Feline anorexia manifests in various ways including starting off with the eating of less food to completely refusing to eat, or the reduced appetite going on for a while. You need to keep an eye on your cat’s feeding bowl since failure to eat for more than 12 hours spells a danger on its life. The moment you notice that, call a vet as soon as possible.

How to diagnose feline anorexia

To establish that a cat has a reduced appetite, you only need to be keen on its feeding habits. However, for the vet to establish the same, they need to carry out various diagnostic tests on your cat including:

  • Physical test; these tests are meant to check for abscesses, wounds, internal and external masses and other physical anomalies. They also entail abdominal palpitation to ascertain the shape and size of the cat’s organs.
  • Baseline tests; these are the most probable tests to be carried out and they are meant to check for neoplasia, inflammations, infections, general diseases, and metabolic disorders. They include establishing the cat’s biochemical profile, a blood count, and urinalysis (analysis of the cat’s urine while checking for anomalies).
  • Buccal exams; these are examinations carried out on the mouth of your cat to look for any dental or gingival diseases, foreign bodies, broken teeth, tumors and injuries. You may notice excess drooling.
  • Thoracic exams; these tests include ultrasound and X-ray tests to look for any abnormalities in the shape and size of organs and diseases of an infectious or inflammatory nature.
  • Abdominal exams; these are X-ray and ultrasound examinations carried out on the abdomen to check for neoplasia (abnormal growths), gastrointestinal obstruction, and the shape and size of organs in the abdomen.
  • Fecal exams; the vet will also check the contents of the stool of your cat for parasites, blood or other anomalies.

The symptoms of anorexia in cats

The symptoms of a lack of appetite in a cat include the following:

  • Anemia; anemia is the decrease in the number of the total blood cells in the blood of the cat. To establish whether your cat is anemic, the doctor will carry out a blood test. Physically, you should look for pale gums, a pulse that is faster than normal, loss of weight, tiredness, weakness, listlessness, a lack of appetite, and black and tarry stool.
  • Diarrhea; diarrhea simply refers to frequent and watery stool from the cat. Various conditions can cause this condition hence the need to verify the other symptoms of anorexia before concluding.
  • Depression; you will know your cat is depressed when you observe boredom, loss of appetite, less activity, avoidance behavior, and if the cat is overly temperamental. You need to differentiate this behavior from the normal behavior of your cat to know if it’s depression in the first place.
  • Lethargy; another sign of feline anorexia is a lack of energy and enthusiasm which is referred to as lethargy.
  • Vomiting; vomiting is a symptom of feline anorexia that you can easily take note of especially when the cat has other symptoms of anorexia.
  • Poor appetite; a lack of desire to eat is other sign of feline anorexia that is easy to notice. While there may be episodes when the cat refuses food, you should be worried when they become too frequent.
  • Too much time spent with the owner
  • Loss of weight
  • Hiding

Most of these signs are easy to notice especially when you are used to your cat’s routine.

What causes anorexia in cats?

Similar to humans, a loss of appetite can be due to various reasons among them sickness, stress or fussiness. If your cat is feeling any of these aspects, it will most likely avoid food.

  • Stress can be caused by many different things among them changing the cat’s environment, moving house, bullying by people, dogs, or other cats. Physical injuries can also lead to stress.
  • The cat can also become fussy when you put its food on dirty bowls, when you change its diet, when it has to share bowls with other cats, when you change the location of its bowls, when you change its bowl and other aspects.

On the medical side, there is a long list of causes of anorexia in cats.

  • Addison’s disease; when the cat’s body secretes insufficient amounts of adrenal hormones, the resulting health condition is referred to as Addison’s disease.
  • Abscesses; these are collections of debris including blood within the tissues of the cat’s body.
  • Anemia; a condition in which the cat’s blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells due to the loss of blood or a disease.
  • Medications; the use of some medicines may drive down the appetite of the animal as per the side effects they have.
  • Bacterial infections; infections from E-coli, salmonella, leptospirosis and other bacteria may also lead to feline anorexia.
  • Coccidiosis; this is a protozoal infection which is common in kittens before they reach the age of six months.
  • Feline diabetes; diabetes in cats is also known to cause anorexic symptoms.
  • Mouth pain; pain in the mouth can be due to various reasons among them tumors, mouth ulcers, gum disease, gingivitis, tooth abscess, stomatitis and many others.
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers; also known as peptic ulcers or gastric ulcers, these are open sores in the deep layers of the stomach. The causes of these ulcers are excessive digestive enzymes and the hydrochloric acid found in the stomach.
  • Haemobartonellosis; a bacterial infection by mycoplasma which causes the destruction of red blood cells in the body.
  • Glomerulonephritis; this is a condition in which the filtering units of the kidneys, the glomeruli, are infected.
  • Heartworm; this is a case whereby the womb is infected by parasites. This is a life-threatening condition which needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency.
  • Hypercalcemia; if the cat’s blood has too much calcium, the resultant condition is called hypercalcemia and is among the causes of anorexia.
  • Histoplasmosis; histoplasmosis is a condition in which fungi infect the gastrointestinal system and the lungs of the cat.
  • Poisoning; while cats are famed for having the proverbial nine lives, the ingestion of poison by the cat will have the symptoms of poisoning such as anorexia. It will likely die if the poison is strong enough and no medical care is provided.
  • Intestinal obstruction; while it is rare for the cat’s gastrointestinal system to have a blockage, it occurs with the symptoms being anorexia.
  • Kidney failure; when the kidney fails, toxins build up in the body leading to various symptoms among them anorexia.
  • Neoplasia; this is the formation of cancerous tumors in the body of the cat due to cancer.
  • Viral infection; all viral infections affect the appetite of cats in various ways. The most common ones include the feline leukemia virus, calicivirus, feline panleukemia, feline herpesvirus and others.
  • Nausea; nausea will lead to food aversive behavior in the cat.
  • Pancreatitis; the inflammation of the pancreas also causes anorexia in cats.
  • Pyometra; this is the bacterial infection of the uterus.
  • Portosystemic shunt; this is a condition characterized by an abnormal development of the liver.
  • Vaccines; after vaccination, all animals tend to feel unwell for a short while depending on the strength of the vaccine. This condition should go away after a day or two.

For these causes of feline anorexia, the expertise of a vet is required in their diagnosis and treatment.

When the stimulant isn’t working

When both the medical and natural stimulants fail to revive your cat’s appetite, the first step is to take him back to the vet for further checkup. However, you need to try the following:

  • Heat the cat’s food before giving putting it in its bowl.
  • Try feeding the cat with your hand rather than simply placing the food in its bowl.
  • Feed the cat foods that are highly palatable such as shredded chicken, tuna or prawns.
  • Feed the cat on smaller food portions but more frequently.
  • Add tuna juice to the cat’s food.
  • Use a syringe to feed the cat.
  • Add grated cheese to the cat’s food.
  • Always clean the cat’s food bowls.
  • Place the food bowls in their usual places for the cat to reach.
  • If the cat’s nose is blocked, use a humidifier to discharge the nasal blockage so that it can smell its food.
  • Give the cat a sense of security from bullying either from people or other animals.

All in all, you need to keep an eye on the cat’s behavior to take note of his feeding habits including his favorite meal. If the cat falls sick, you will need such knowledge to nurse him/her back to health.

Possible side effects of using appetite stimulants

Each drug has its own side effects depending on the characteristics of the cat including its age, weight, cause of anorexia, any other drugs being used and many others factors. The most known side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Agitation (hyperexcitability)
  • Sedation
  • Vocalization
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Ataxia; loss of body control.
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid Herat rate
  • Less urination

Before purchasing and using any of the appetite stimulants above, you need to know beforehand how they will affect your cat.


Anemia in Cats. Pet Health Network.