Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 11 August 2003 Issue
WHAT JILL KNOWS
New Cat Not Eating Enough?
I adopted a 7 year old female Siamese cat named Camella from the Humane Society on July 26th which I was told had lost her owner to death and was surrendered to the shelter on July 19th. I already had an 8 year old male cat named Rockie who experienced his own depression from the loss of my husband in April 2002. The new cat checked out to be healthy and is a very loving and purring cat which does not "hog" attention. The adjustment period between the two cats is progressing very well.
My main concern is that Camella does not eat and drinks very little. She uses the kitty box, but is very thin and Rockie is not keeping her from eating. I have provided two separate food dishes and even have been feeding Camella soft food by hand which she seems to eat but then refuses more after about 4 bites. It breaks my heart to see her grieving so badly. I know grief in cats is bad because I had to send my Rockie to my daughter's house where he was in the company of 2 female cats for 7 months and has now returned to my home with the same vigor and appetite he had before my husband's death.
As I work 12 hour shifts as an RN about 3 days a week, my thoughts were that Camella and Rockie would be good company for each other being so close in age and opposite sexes. She is just so melancholy and likes to lay on the sofa in the den or in my lap. She has not played even though we initiated playtime and she just sits and watches Rockie play with toys and a string.
I was hoping you could provide any other suggestions for getting Camella to eat better and gain some weight back. Perhaps over time with Rockie and my attention she will regain her appetite. Should I force feed her with a syringe to get the food down her throat? Thank you.
Hello and thank you for your email. Congratulations on adopting Camella from your local Humane Society-- that's wonderful! I see that you have only had Camella for a day or two. It may take your new kitty a month or two (or more) to adjust to her new home, new human guardian and new cat-sibling, Rockie. I am not sure why she is not eating much food now, but I would not worry too much about it for a while. As long as she is drinking a sufficient amount of water and eating some food, this is good.
Please keep in mind that Camella has been shuffled from her original home to a week's stay in an unfamiliar animal shelter (a highly stressful environment for any animal!) and then to a new home. These can be unsettling experiences, requiring ample adjustment time. Every cat is a unique individual, so adjustment times vary widely. Meanwhile, please be patient and shower Camella with love and kindness, to make her transition as comfortable as possible.
Do not force feed your new cat! Healthy cats will eat on their own. Have you taken Camella to a veterinarian for a check up? Did the Humane Society where you adopted her test Camella for FIV and Feline Leukemia? I recommend taking her in to your vet for an initial visit now. Have him or her examine Camella thoroughly, including her mouth and teeth to rule out dental problems. Also have your vet perform routine bloodwork to determine if Camella is suffering from a disease or other physical ailment. Then, if she passes the vet's exams and tests, give her ample time to adjust to her new surroundings and family. Camella may be missing her former human guardian and longtime home. She may also be confused and anxious about her new living situation, which is normal and to be expected.
Another important issue to consider is food. Camella's former guardian may have fed her one type of food, the animal shelter most likely fed her a different kind of food, and her current diet is probably yet a new brand and/or flavor. Switching foods in such a manner can be very difficult on a 7 year old cat, especially one who may have been fed the same brand and type of food for seven years! Feed Camella one (good) brand of food that she likes and try not to fuss over her eating habits...let her eat at her own pace, when she feels up to it. You can leave dry food out for her to "free feed" and feed her yummy wet food as well. If she stops eating altogether for more than a day, call your veterinarian immediately. But if she is eating a little now and drinking water, she may simply need time to settle in and adapt to her brand new environment.
I wish you and both of your companion cats the very best!
Love and paw pats,
Companion Animal Behavior Consultant
What Jill Knows, Copyright 2003
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