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
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
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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Wishing you a purrfect day