(The following is an actual email letter I sent to another person who was new to the CRF scene, and was having difficulties coping with the all-too-frequent anorexia that accompanies CRF. At the time this letter was written, Jolie was still alive.)
"I just wanted to let you know that in deciding to treat & manage your cat's CRF diagnosis, you automatically climbed inside the Mad House of CRF Feline Appetite - complete with spinning walls, funny mirrors, and mazes of mis-directions. Just so you know you aren't alone, or crazy, I'll share with you the appetite madness Jolie puts me through. It's not her fault, I know that this disease makes her nauseous and takes away her appetite via problematic stomach acids and unbalanced blood chemistry.
Example: Yes, in the morning she will LOVE WITH ALL HER HEART Food "A." In fact, for a whole week she will have been quite content with Food A. That afternoon, when I give her another portion of Food A, she'll recoil in disgust & horror, and give me the "How could you???" look. That's when we play, "WHAT do you want to eat, Jolie?" This game entails opening up each container of dry food (we have ten! different kinds of dry food), and letting Jolie sniff each type until she settles on her preference. Sometimes, after mouthing a few selections (and letting the kibbles fall limply out of her mouth), she'll decide that Food A was the best choice after all, and what was she thinking!!!??? So, I close up all the bags & dish out some more of Food A. Or, she'll pick a new favorite food, and that will be her one & only consumptive for the next period of time, be it a week or a month. These days she won't touch canned food of any kind. Two months ago she wouldn't eat dry food. Again, what she scarfed down one day was completely uninteresting to her the next day. And vice versa. This is new and baffling behaviour for both of us.
One notable day I came home and found my frantic husband on the kitchen floor surrounded by seven bowls of different dry food, five different kinds of canned food, tuna, baby food, cat treats, potato chips, and hot dogs - all in a futile attempt to tempt Jolie into eating anything. My husband had that Crazy Mad Man look, and Jolie had that Excited Game look. At that point I realized that offering her so many choices ended up being counterproductive by confusing her. These days we don't play the "What Do You Want, Jolie?" game to that point. Well, hardly ever.
Half the time these days, Jolie will not eat unless I'm sitting by her side, praising each mouthful, providing plenty of pets and reassurance. It's almost a rhythm: she takes a few bites, I give her two pets, she takes a few bites, I give her two pets and a "good girl!". Sometimes my husband & I have to take turns sitting with her, as our buns get kinda sore sitting on the kitchen floor. I've actually fallen asleep leaned up against the refrigerator - but HEY! Whatever makes her eat, right? There was a period of time when she would NOT eat in the kitchen as she always has done, but would eat on our bed or other room. Fine. We carried the food wherever was necessary to spark her appetite. Now she's back to eating in the kitchen again. I have tried to establish a time-to-eat routine, so that Jolie gets conditioned to always eat at certain times of the day. She does occasionally nibble at other times, but I have to perform my other household responsibilities, so it works better if she's mentally prepared to eat when I'm able to spend the time with her. If I'm between chores, or just feeling the need to be close to her, I'll sit with her if I happen to see her at the bowl. It would be nice if we were rich enough for me to stay home and nurse her all the time, but the reality is, we are working class folks, and have to attend to the rest of our lives.
For a while we had success with warming Jolie's food in the microwave. That little trick doesn't seem to work these days, although I'm sure one day it will again. For a while Jolie would eat turkey baby food. No more. Same with people tuna. I have found that she will NOT eat food that's more than an hour or two out of the bag. In fact, she has to actually SEE ME PUT THE FRESH FOOD IN HER BOWL, or she won't eat it. If her back is turned while I'm pouring the food in, she won't eat it, even if she was standing right there as I did it. Go figure. We have also found, as have other list members, that sometimes when Jolie won't eat cat food, she will eat people chicken; we have been known to allow her to "steal" food from our plates that we somehow left on the floor, or we've been incredibly "fumble-fingered" at the table, and have allowed chunks of chicken to fall from our hands onto the conveniently placed paper on the rug.
Our vet is of the opinion that, while Jolie is at the beginning of CRF, it's better for Jolie to eat anything, rather than eat nothing, just to maintain a level of nutrition - especially since she lost two pounds in two months at the onset of this condition (20% of her body weight). So, I've decided not to obsess that she only eat a kidney-diet (low protein). I have had some good success with getting her to eat better quality foods overall, but if all she'll eat is Fancy Feast or Kit 'N Kaboodle or Chef's Blend, then so be it. Luckily, she's taken quite a liking to some of the better quality dry foods, including K/D, and has also come around to eating the better quality canned foods, too. I've found that if I use a small food scoop, I can better control how much dry food goes in the bowl, as well as have a better idea on how much she actually is eating. Perhaps later, when Jolie starts declining down that dreaded slippery slope, we'll be managing her diet differently. For several months we didn't have to give Jolie cyproheptadine (Peractin), but lately her appetite has really fallen off, so I'm back to giving her the cypro. No matter what, I cannot allow her to starve herself.
So, all of this is a long way to say, your cat's appetite is probably forever changed. What was once loved will be spurned. What was once only fit for immediate burial is now consumed ravenously. Days or weeks will go by and your cat will barely pick at the food, and you will wonder how your kitty is managing to stay alive. Your cat will obsess over one food, and won't even sniff anything else. Then, without warning, the taste buds will change and what was once delicious in the morning will be totally repugnant in the afternoon. There is not pattern to this that I've been able to detect. Please don't become disheartened at the ebb & flow of your cat's appetite. Almost all of us are experiencing the same inconsistency, you are not alone, your kitty is not unique in this trait.
JJ & Jolie (who thinks Mommy is really cool for making mealtimes such fun times!)"
How Jolie & I found each other
How Jolie came to be diagnosed with CRF
How CRF changes a cat's appetite (an amusing take on the subject)
How to analyze your CRF cat's blood test results
Do animals have souls? Maybe?
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