Well, it appears I spoke too soon regarding Nikki's acceptance of the new-ish EVO dry food (the weight-management stuff). She WAS eating it just fine until earlier this week, but she's been turning her nose up at it for the past few days. She is also still rejecting the Fancy Feast, and hasn't liked any of the other wet foods I've offered recently. I still haven't tried the Whole Foods brand she seemed to like a few weeks back so hopefully I can get some of that soon, though I have a feeling she's just "off" wet food completely right now.
Anyway, the past few days have involved a fair bit of worry on my part, because I know cats who go on hunger strike for whatever reason are at risk of hepatic lipidosis if they go more than 24-48 hours without food. Nikki isn't fat (she weighs about 8 pounds) so she's less likely to develop liver problems than a larger cat would, but obviously it's still not good for her to not be eating.
She had a full workup at the vet's a few months back (they did a comprehensive "senior wellness" checkup, which is standard for cats over seven years old) and all her results were very good (vets often comment that Nikki, who will be nine in October of this year, seems "unusually healthy for her age") so it's doubtful she has any chronic or serious illnesses. And while certainly I would call the vet if she wasn't eating anything, or if she couldn't seem to keep anything down, or if she was having elimination issues, none of those things are true at this time, so I don't figure it's worth stressing her further with a trip to the clinic just yet.
For now I am watching her closely to note any changes in her behavior that might indicate either illness or that she's feeling better. I do suspect she's had a bit of a stomach ache this week, as she's spent more time than usual in the "hoverloaf" position (sort of an elevated kittyloaf, which cats will sometimes sit in when they feel fine, but which is also commonly engaged in by cats who don't feel well as it lets them partially lie down without their abdomen touching the ground)and has gagged even when offered some things she usually likes (such as the chicken-and-fish flavored hairball remedy gel I give all the kitties occasionally).
My tentative theory is that (due, possibly, to a recent ingredient alteration/less tasty batch of byproducts in her Fancy Feast) she went a bit too long without eating, which irritated her stomach, which led to barfing the next time she tried to eat, which led to further aversion to her usual food, which led to low blood sugar, which led to even less of an inclination to eat.
Last night I tried giving her a little bit of honey to address the possible blood sugar issue -- I put a tiny bit on her lips and paws and while she didn't seem particularly enthusiastic about this, she didn't gag and licked it all off. She seemed a bit sprightlier after that so I suspect she probably was getting a bit crashy (something I've experienced myself -- as a kid I would often refuse food to the point of hypoglycemia, and my parents would have to coax me for hours into nibbling on a piece of cheese, etc.).
This morning I offered her:
- Fancy Feast salmon again (she didn't gag, but ignored it)
- Wellness Core Chicken and Turkey wet food (she ignored this too)
- EVO dry food (sniffed it warily, picked up one piece in her mouth but spat it out)
- Purina Indoor Formula dry food (her "old" food, which my parents left when they brought her over in January -- she ate some of this, albeit without enthusiasm)
- Whipped light cream (she ran up to me meowing when I got the container out to put some in my coffee, and happily licked some off my finger)
- Shredded cheese (she ate this enthusiastically)
- Plain yogurt (I tried to trick her into eating this by putting some cheese in it but she just ate the cheese and ignored the yogurt, though she did lick off what I put on her paws -- I figured the "good bacteria" might help her stomach)
Given that litany of responses, I've concluded that she DOES have an appetite -- which is a relief. Not having any appetite at all is pretty bad for a cat, but being extremely picky is, well, par for the course for Nikki. She seems to have an extremely sensitive sense of taste and smell even for a cat, and goes "off" things very easily, so I expect this won't be the last time I'm dealing with a mass trial-and-error session. Of course she is completely worth the effort -- it's not even something I would consider NOT doing...she NEEDS to eat, and it's not like she's rejecting stuff on purpose. It's not a power struggle -- her sensory system is just set up in a way that means, sometimes, there's only a very limited selection of foods that won't trigger a nausea response. And she can't help that, so there's no sense in my getting upset or frustrated with her.
So, for the moment she's going to be getting occasional bits of cheese and whipped light cream, along with as much dry food as she wants (which isn't a lot right now, but at least it's something). I've been mixing the EVO with the Purina Indoor and while she's mostly eating "around" the EVO, she's at least not being so turned off by the smell that she doesn't eat the other stuff. I may try getting some more Innova Cat & Kitten (dry) food again since she seemed to like that a lot and it's far healthier than the Purina -- I've already had to feed her the Purina separately from the other cats so Brodie won't get into it, and that hasn't been a major hassle, so perhaps I should just accept that and not be so concerned about finding a food I can give to everyone here all at once.