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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Feeding a picky, sick cat: What works?

Sweet Beorn continues to lose weight and struggle with his overall health. His kidney disease (which I've written about before) continues to progress, and often, he doesn't seem well enough to wolf down a big meal. Sometimes, he doesn't want to eat at all.

Over the past few weeks, I've worked on a number of different flavor combinations, and I've hit on some innovative dishes that this guy really likes. While not all cats might like the same menu he does, here are a few meals that seem to be big winners in this household.

Kibble with Lunchmeat Sprinkles 
Beorn seems to find the crunch of cat kibble really satisfying, but he won't dive into a meal unless there's a little something extra to spark his long-term interest. If I put about a tablespoon of shredded turkey or roast beef on a standard helping of kibble, he'll lick his plate clean. Without the topper, he'll walk away after a few nibbles.

Novel Cat Food 
Typically, cats eat the same diet with few variations. But sick Beorn has become a bit of an adventurer. He likes to try different flavors of the same brand of cat food, or different brands of the same flavor of cat food. It's something new, and it seems to remind him of a time when he really liked meals. I'm lucky, in that I have a great pet supplier with a massive supply of different foods to choose from. Otherwise, I might run out of options!

Boiled Chicken with Potatoes 
This meal came about accidentally, when I had a few nibbles of a meal left on my plate at dinnertime. I put that out for Beorn, after he'd turned up his nose at his cat food, and he gobbled that meal right down. Now, this can be a risky idea, as not all foods people eat are great for cats, but when the ingredients are simple and the spice and salt load is low, leftovers can be great for picky kitties.

Canned Clams in Juice 
This sounds totally disgusting, I know, but a can of clams can do wonders. The contents are spectacularly odoriferous, so just a tablespoon on top of almost any meal can entice a cat to eat. And the juice can go into a bowl of water nicely, and that can encourage cats to drink, too.

Baked, Organic Organ Meat
A good friend of mine has a farm, and she raises both chickens and pigs. She's been gracious enough to provide me with organ meat from her farm, so my freezer has been stuffed with unmentionables like livers, hearts, gizzards and lungs. I think it's totally gross, but if I bake it and chop the meat into little bites, I can sprinkle a few on Beorn's meals and watch him swish his tail with delight. He just loves this stuff, especially if it's warm (ew!). 

No matter what I do, I may not ever get Beorn to clamor for dinner like his brother. (Notice him perched on the railing by the back door, because I am taking too long to bring the food outside. Bad kitty.) But, taking a few simple steps to make his meals smell a little better, taste a touch more amazing or seem somehow novel might push him to eat. And if he does, that might mean that he stays around a little longer.

That's what I'm hoping for, anyway!