monitor your kitty's eating habits (and bathroom habits as well). Sometimes a cat will suddenly stop eating; other times it's a gradual or sporadic refusal to eat. Your cat's lack of appetite can trigger a vicious cycle — the less he eats, the worse he feels, and his appetite drops off even fur- ther.

O This is a downward spiral you don't

want your feline family member to get caught in, so every effort should be made to encourage him to eat. Unlike dogs, cats can't safely go without food for more than about 16 hours.

Has Something in Your Cat's Life Changed? The first thing to consider with a cat

who isn't eating is whether there's been a change in her environment or routine. For cats, change is stressful, and a stressed kitty will often lose her appetite. Stressful events for a cat can include:

• A new member of the household, ei- ther two or four-legged

• Parties or lots of visitors

ne of the first signs of illness in cats is lack of interest in food, which is why it's so important to

• The sudden absence of a family mem- ber

• Neighborhood cats that are visible to your cat or that she can hear or smell

• Moving to a new home • The stress of getting older

• A change in your daily schedule that has you home at different times or less often than your cat is used to

Sometimes something as simple as

changing the location of your cat's food bowl or litterbox can create stress. If you suspect a change is behind your cat's loss of appetite, if possible, return things to the "old normal" and see if the situation improves. Alternatively, keep kitty's "new normal" as consistent as pos- sible and give her a few days to adjust.

5 Tips for Stress-Free Feline Dining There are several simple steps pet parents can take that can help promote a healthier emotional eating environment for the cats in the family.

• Offer food in a variety of ways that gives your cat more control over her environment. When possible,


smaller, frequent meals throughout the day, instead of two larger meals. Use food puzzles, hunting feeders (my favor- ite), or other novel methods that encour- age her to actively look for food and burn calories in the process.

• In a multi-cat household, feed every- one separately. Establish multiple feed- ing locations that provide solitary access to food. Food puzzles, hunting feeders and regular bowls/saucers containing small amounts of food can be placed in different spots around the house to help satisfy the natural feline desire to dine in different locations. It also encourages cats to spend time hunting for food and allows them to be in control of their food intake.

• If feasible, feed your kitty from an el- evated location, since cats tend to feel safer in high spots where they can see what's going on around them. Food can be placed on elevated platforms, in hideaways, or in/on cat towers that en- courage jumping up to the food. These

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