Does Anorexia exist as a medical health problem in the domestic cat? I don’t think it does and I was prompted to write this article because of an article recently written by Jo, in which the term “anorexic” is interpreted much more widely with respect to domestic cats; meaning a loss of appetite caused by an underlying illness which makes the cat feel ill, lethargic and unwilling to eat.
But for humans the term “anorexic” means a mental health condition in which the person believes that they are overweight even when they are not and therefore they stop eating or find it very difficult to eat. In respect of people, it is a problem with a person’s perception of their body shape.
People are not quite sure what causes this human mental health condition labelled “anorexia” but, on my reading of the condition, it would seem that it has a lot to do with a lack of self-esteem, confidence and self worth. It may also be related to depression which can, in fact, arise out of a lack of self-esteem. I’m not going to explore that any further because I don’t know the answers except to say a lot of commentators suggest that the cause for girls is an over-emphasis in the media on body shape and being “attractive”. Boys also suffer from it because they are also under pressure, more so these days, to have an excellent body shape.
The point of this very short post is that anorexia does not exist in domestic cat because they don’t and cannot have this human mental health condition. Anorexia is a product of the human condition, social pressures and commerce. Therefore we cannot call a cat anorexic. What we can call the cat who is consistently underweight is that they have a loss of appetite and it is up to the veterinarian to decide what is causing it. It will invariably be an illness which is quite possibly associated with old age.
Lots of geriatric cats initially put on weight because they are less active but eat the same amount and then towards the end of their life they lose weight because of chronic illness resulting in a lack of a desire to eat which is then sometimes referred to as anorexia.
You won’t find veterinary books referring to anorexic cats. You might occasionally see it online but I my opinion it’d be incorrect. However, the term is used more widely for cats as indicated in Jo’s article. This is not a criticism of her article but more exploration of the language used in relation to cat health.