Why Is My Older Cat Losing Weight?

Why is my older cat losing weight? If you’re worried about your senior kitty losing a few pounds, keep reading. In this post I’ll be revealing some of the common reasons why your kitty may be looking a bit thin, and what you need to do. I’m not a veterinarian, or medically trained, so any advice given is from my own experience, or research. Always see your vet for advice if you’re at all worried about your cat, as early diagnosis can make a big difference.

Just like humans, cats start showing subtle changes in behaviour as they reach their senior years. Your cat may have slowed down and become less active, and as a result may spend more time sleeping. In this post you’ll discover many reasons for weight loss in older cats including certain diseases and health conditions. Plus, you’ll also discover ways to avoid some of them, and how to encourage your skinny kitty to eat

When an older cat losing weight is normal

why do older cats lose weight

If your kitty is very elderly and considered geriatric, losing some body fat over time isn’t unusual. This is because your cat’s digestive system won’t be as efficient as it was, and her ability to digest fat will be affected. In addition, her body won’t be able to absorb nutrients as well as it once did, and this can have a marked effect on appearance.

This is why you often see very old cats looking skinny with fur in poor condition. It’s often not down to neglect, but a natural aging process. Sudden weight loss is different though, and must always be reported to your vet.

Why dental problems could be causing your cat to lose weight

why dental problems can cause weight loss in older cats

An older cat losing weight may not always be down to disease or reaching geriatric age. Tooth decay or inflamed gums could be making it painful for your cat to eat. Imagine trying to chew your favourite foods with toothache! Just as with people though, dental disease in cats can be prevented in many cases.

Could arthritic joints be making your cat lose weight?

elderly cat

Arthritis is a very painful condition, and more common in cats than was once believed. As cats are living longer, so the chances of developing arthritis are increased. If you’re in any pain you know how it can put you off your food. Well, the same goes for your feline friend. Stiff, arthritic joints can be treated, giving your kitty a better quality of life.

Signs your cat could could be suffering from arthritis include problems jumping up on the sofa or bed, and peeing outside the litter box. You can find out more about arthritis in cats here.

What if your cat is eating normally yet losing weight?

If you notice your cat is eating normally, yet losing weight there are several possible reasons. One of the most common is hyperthyroidism, and fortunately, this can be successfully managed. Other symptoms include hyperactivity, and an increase in appetite. Intestinal parasites are easily preventable with regular worming, but if your cat is suffering from them, she will be losing weight.

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is fairly common in the elderly. Apart from losing weight, your cat will probably be vomiting, and suffering from diarrhea. IBD can be treated with a combination of diet and medication, but your vet will need to carry out tests first. Possible causes can be weakened immune system and poor gut flora.

You can help strengthen your cat’s immune system and improve gut health with diet and probiotics. Just like people, cats need a healthy diet to fend off illnesses, and keep well. Deficiency in proteins such as taurine and carnite can weaken a cat, especially if it’s elderly. Gut health is also vital, and maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria is important.

You can buy probiotics especially for cats, such as pet ultimates. Never give human probiotics to your pet! Give your elderly kitty the best food you can afford, and avoid cheap, low grade foods as most have little nutritional value.

Chronic kidney disease

kidney disease and weight loss in older cats

Chronic kidney failure or CKD is very common in seniors, and can be a reason for weight loss in older cats. As it’s a slow progressing disease, your kitty’s weight loss will be gradual. Other signs include drinking and urinating excessively. Providing early diagnosis is made, there’s a good chance the disease can be managed.

Feline diabetes.

While diabetes in cats is fairly rare, it can lead to weight loss. If your cat is in her senior years there’s a greater chance of her developing the disease. Inactivity is one of the biggest causes, and despite an increased appetite, your fur baby will be losing weight. As with people, exercise is important for reducing the risk of disease, so getting your cat to exercise will reap huge benefits.

Can environmental factors cause weight loss in older cats?

can environmental factors cause weight loss in cats

If your cat has been checked over by the vet and given a clean bill of health you’ll need to look for other reasons. Stress can cause changes in your pet’s behaviour, sometimes resulting in loss of appetite. As I’ve often mentioned, cats are highly sensitive animals. Even the slightest change can affect your fur baby’s wellbeing. A new pet, bereavement, bullying from other cats, or even moving food bowls can upset your kitty.

It’s not only humans that suffer depression, but our pets as well. The only difference is, they can’t talk about their feelings. If your cat is less sociable, doesn’t play, is off her food, and spends more time sleeping, she could be depressed.

Try and work out the cause of depression to help your cat feel better if it’s at all possible. Bereavement after the death of another pet is normal and will pass. Bullying can be helped by talking to your vet or animal behaviourist. Avoid moving litter boxes or food bowls as it could stress your senior kitty.

Make sure you spend quality time with your cat, and try to encourage interactive play. Even if she’s not very mobile and finds it hard to jump, feather wand toys are a good way to stimulate your fur baby.

If your elderly feline can’t jump on the windowsill anymore she could be missing out on all the exciting wildlife!! Create a comfy perch she can easily access and be able to look out the window from. You can buy pet steps, or make your own from empty boxes. Anything that helps your cat lead a normal life is a positive step.

How to encourage your cat to eat

Aging cats often suffer a reduced sense of smell, and this can have a profound effect on appetite. This is because your cat relies on her sense of smell as it helps with tasting food. Illnesses that affect the respiratory system are more common in the elderly and a reason for weight loss. Other terminal illnesses responsible for weight loss include cancer and brain tumours

Providing nutritionally balanced and tasty food is the key. In addition, homemade foods such a piece of cooked chicken with white rice can tempt your poorly kitty. In fact many vets recommend it. However, make sure the rice is thoroughly cooked, and only serve a small portion.

Most cats including mine love tuna, but it should only be given as a treat, or absolute last resort if your cat won’t eat anything else. Only ever give your cat tuna canned in water, and never oil. You can buy toppers to sprinkle on top of your cat’s food, with a variety of flavours. The best idea is to try a few out on your kitty and discover her favourites. If you’re worried about the amount of food your cat should be eating, talk to your vet. Sometimes it can be hard to know if you’re doing the right thing.

What if your cat refuses to eat

If your cat refuses to eat anything, there’s not a lot you can do. In very sick, elderly cats it could mean the end isn’t far off. However sad and heartbreaking, your vet will always put the cat’s welfare first. I’ve been through the loss of several very elderly and much loved cats, and it never gets any easier.

I hope I’ve helped you understand weight loss in older cats, and that often, treatable conditions can be the cause. We’ve looked at a variety of common diseases including kidney and dental disease. In addition, we’ve also looked at changes in your kitty’s environment that could be related to weight loss, including bullying from other pets. Lastly, we covered how to encourage your cat to eat when she’s off her food.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please share. Also, if you have any questions or experiences to share, please leave a comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day

16 thoughts on “Why Is My Older Cat Losing Weight?”

  1. Hi Kathy! Great article. We have an elderly cat that has lost quite a bit of weight, I wouldn’t say it happened quickly, but he’s very skinny and straggly fur, but he eats like a horse! I thought it might be parasites like you said, but we gave him worm medication and the vet gave him the ok, says he is ok, but it’s hard to see him so skinny! Your article gave so much great information and actually put my mind at ease a bit, it’s nice to be able to rule out anything serious! Thanks!

    • Hi Stephanie, Glad you enjoyed my post:) I’m happy that your cat is ok, even though he’s lost some weight. At least he’s eating well and his health is fine. Sometimes parasites can be hard to get rid of, and it can several weeks before they’re completely gone.

  2. Hi Cathy. Thank you for your hard work and detailed information. I appreciate that you are not a vet but the information provided covers a lot of problems, the reasons why and the solutions. There is obviously a genuine care for cats. It is something I will certainly keep and read. It will relieve me of any early anxiety and leave the vet as my last call.
    Thank you again,

    • Thank you Stephen:) I’m glad you found my post useful, and that you’ll be able to keep the information as possible future reference for your cat:)

  3. I remember my old cat and his problem with losing weight because of dental problems. We did the best to make it easier for him, but I guess because of the pain it was hard to eat for him no matter how much we tried to soften the food. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post.

    • Thank you Ivan:) Yes, eating with a painful tooth would be hard, no matter how soft the food is. Very similar to us if we suffer toothache!

  4. Hi Kathy,
    Love the post on “why is my older cat losing weight”.
    Very informative and easy to read and understand.
    When is a cat considered old? Is there a specific age in years?
    You mention that tuna in water should only be fed to your cat as a treat, why is that? Is too much tuna fish bad for them?

    I love your website as well and it is easy to navigate.

    Thank you for caring enough to share this website and information with us.


    • Hi Vivian, thank you:) Cats are generally considered elderly once they reach the age of about 11 years, and geriatric once they’re past 15 years. Just like us, cats are living longer. The reason you shouldn’t give cats too much tinned tuna is they contain tiny traces of mercury. Over time it could build up. The same applies to us, though I do like a nice plate of tuna pasta occasionally:)

  5. Wow, thank you so much for this valuable information. I noticed my cat lost a few killos and I was really worried about what might have caused this issue. It is good to know that it is not always the worst thing that could possibly happen.

    I will definitely take her to the vet, because I still think I need a professional opinion.

    You really helped me.


    • Thank you Strahinja:) I’m glad you enjoyed my post and found it useful. Yes, it’s always a good idea to get a professional opinion, just to be on the safe side.

  6. What an interesting article! Sadly I lost 2 of my cats to kidney disease – the first one was 17 years old (I have never thought of 11 as being elderly!) so he still did okay (but he had drank a massive amount of water since when he was a kitten so possibly also had a bit of a problem. The second one was 14 years old when we lost her but she had a good few years after being diagnosed. (She also had terrible problems with her teeth as a young cat – your article could almost have been written for me in a past life!) As you say, best to get your cat to the vet as there can be underlying issues that can be sorted if caught early.

    • Thank you Jean:) Sorry to hear you lost 2 of your cats to kidney disease. Sadly it’s very common, and my last cat passed away age 17 from the illness. Just like your kitten, my young male cat drinks plenty of water, but I put that down to the amount of dried food he eats! Dental problems are quite common, especially in cats over age 3 years. It’s a good idea to try and brush your cats teeth, though I’ve not yet managed that very well with my present cat yet! Yes, it’s always a good idea to get any problems diagnosed early, as it can make a big difference

  7. Very informative article…as a caretaker of a soon to be 21 yr.old Tuxedo male named Zach, I cannot express how important dental care is for cats. Zach was diagnosed 4 yrs ago with renal and intestinal issues and arthritis. Placed on a controlled diet, exercise program, ( he loves the treadmill) and all of this was possible to extended his life through yearly dental exams/ cleaning. Also cannot express how important quarterly exams are for “seniors” so insurance is always a good idea. The checkups are usually covered…urinalysis/fecal exam, blood work as well..or at least discounted. The one I have covers dental checkup/cleaning once a year and all my office visits are free and cost me less the $70.00 a month! Heck I spend that taking out the grandkids weekly! Anywho…Zach maybe getting old and his time maybe getting closer to the “rainbow bridge”but his arthritis is now minimal pain( no more limping) can jump on his cat tree and renal issues no worse now due to his diet/exercise, his vet care and information provided on here. I just wanted to thank you for your time for your article….

    • Hi Willow, thank you for your comment and sharing your story:) Zach sounds like an amazing cat and hope he carries on for a bit longer. 21 is a very good age and probably equivalent to at least 100 in human years! Yes, diet can make a huge difference especially with kidney problems and arthritis. My previous cat suffered with kidney disease among other health issues and the vet recommended a Hill’s prescription diet which kept her going for a while. Yes, regular checks are very important, especially with seniors. $70 a month is probably a good deal on pet insurance considering the health and age of your cat. So glad to hear his arthritis is under control as that can be painful. Glad you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by:)

  8. My cat is about to turn 16 and he has lost about 3 pounds over the last year or so. He eats plenty but still lost weight. I took him to the vet and they did blood and urine and said everything looked fine. I believe he has arthritis and I know his canine teeth are erupted which I tried to have removed a few years ago and he didn’t do well under the anesthesia so they could not remove his teeth. I love him more than anything and it breaks my heart to think he might be suffering from arthritis etc. Is there anything I can give him for the arthritis and also what kind of food do you think I should be feeding him. Thanks for a great article above.

    • Hi Tina, I’m so sorry to hear about your cat. I can sympathise as went through similar problems with my previous cat. She suffered multiple health problems in her senior years including arthritis. Sadly, it’s quite common, but you could try giving your cat a fish oil supplement. Make sure you get one for pets and NOT humans. It has a strong smell, but if you put it in your cat’s food he should be ok with it. Glad you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by:)


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