Loss of Appetite

by Joann
(Rancho Cucamonga, CA, USA)

First, I have to apologize but in order to ask my question, I have to tell you my story. I have 2 cats, neutered male (Smokey) and spayed female (Miss); both are about 10 year Tabby cats and have been together since they were 12 week old kittens. Eight years ago my husband unexpectedly passed away, so it was just me and the 2 cats. In March 2015, I met my fiance, and me and my cats moved into his home in October 2015; it is now April 2016. He has a 13 year old neutered male cat (KC). KC is a Blue Persian and larger than Smokey, but only has 3 legs (2 front and 1 back) so he has mobility issues. KC is a gentle soul and likes the company of the cats. However, my cats did not like him. I have to admit that we did not introduce them properly. It took Miss about 3 months to let KC get close to her and now they will sleep together and hang out. Smokey on the other hand has issues with KC. Smokey will growl and paw at KC when KC gets too close to Smokey; and KC just stands there and looks at Smokey like "hey dude, I just want to be your pal". They have never got into a fight and if KC is in Smokey's path, Smokey will go around him to avoid him. However, there are many times when Smokey will pass KC without a sound or incident. Smokey does not get a bushy tail, but will flatten his ears when KC crosses Smokey's path or get to close to Smokey. Since last December 2015, Smokey began to vomit his food and has lost about 2 pounds. I've taken Smokey to the vet and run tests and had x-rays done and all things come back fine. The next step was to have an ultrasound performed, but before I did that the vet suggested changing his food to a higher protein diet. The vomiting has stopped but I'm consistently trying new wet cat food because just when I think I found a cat food Smokey likes, after day 3 he refuses to eat it. He has no problem with the dry food (Blue Buffalo Wilderness) Recently, I did seem to find a food he liked, but then again he refused to eat it. When my fiance and I get grilled chicken for dinner, Smokey begins to beg for it. I never used to feed my cats for my plate because I didn't want to get them in the habit of eating from me. But, since Smokey's weight loss and his very finicky eating, I relented and have given him grilled chicken. I decided to take a good portion of the chicken and put it his bowl, but when I do that, he just sniffs the chicken and doesn't it. Then, I got the idea of feeding him the wet cat food he likes out of my hand. And, wouldn't you know it, he has no problem eating his food that way. He eats his dry food out of the bowl with no problem, but I don't think he eats enough of it at a sitting. I'm beginning to think Smokey's issue of being finicky is psychological because of KC. Do you think his issue of not eating the wet food out of bowl is due to an insecurity? I have tried Feliaway but I don't think it's working. Smokey seems to be more tolerable with KC, but still meows out when KC gets too close to him. I have 2 cat trees, and purchased a cat gate so that I can have a separate room for Smokey. Because of KC's mobility issues, KC can't jump over the fence. Smokey sleeps with me on my bed at night. When my fiance is home with all the cats by himself, he says that Smokey does not act like he does when I'm home. Please help. And again, I apologize for the essay.


RESPONSE:

I don't think you have anything to worry about except helping to alleviate Smokey's anxiety issues. Smokey's bond with you is weakened (in his feline perception) by moving to a new home, by sharing your attention with a new partner and his cat.

We don't think of cats having emotional problems but frequently they are acting strangely due to an underlying territory dispute. You are his territory. Cats are very territorial and it doesn't have to be just physical turf, it can include a beloved owner.

Feeding Smokey from your hand or your plate is reinforcing to him, that he matters to you. He has obviously needed the reassurance. However, unless you want this to be a lifetime ritual, you will have to find other ways to make him feel as important as he did in the past prior to the new fiancé and his cat...and a different home.

Try to find even 15 minutes a day that is exclusively devoted to Smokey. A new toy that you play with together and you put away when playtime is done so no other cat touches it. You get the idea and the direction I'm headed...make him feel special since he needs it while Miss doesn't. It helps him believe his bond with you is intact.

I have a sign hanging in the house that a dear friend bought for me years ago...it says: DOGS HAVE MASTERS, CATS HAVE SLAVES. I smile each time I go past it...it is so valid.

I think once Smokey feels his bond with you is secure that you will find him willing to eat out of his dish again.

Wishing you lots of success and perseverance in your bonding task.

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