Senior cats will end up getting less active due to their age. In most cases, they might be eating more than they should. However, certain senior cats could lose weight rapidly and it could be quite alarming for you as a pet owner for them to be seen in that state.
This weight loss is more than just a simple matter – they could significantly lose a lot of fat, which might make them more prone to diseases. A common factor that comes into play is that most senior cats don’t have the voracious appetite that they had when they were still youngsters.
Another problem with senior cats is that they also don’t smell food that much as compared to when they were still young. In a sense, they probably won’t taste food the way they did before so they might not want to eat much at all. This results in less body fat.
Similarly, your cat could have an underlying disease that could hinder their overall health and affect their weight. Other cats may also have toothaches that inhibit their ability to chew rapidly, causing them great pain when they munch on their favorite kibble.
Senior cats of mixed breeds usually weigh 8 to 10 pounds so if your cat falls behind that weight, there’s a possibility that they might not be eating well. This bracket could be different for other cat breeds so it’s best to check their specific breed guide for that.
Regardless of what’s wrong with your senior cat, if it is causing them to lose weight rapidly, it’s up to you to find it out through the advice of your vet and some telltale signs. Here are the most common reasons why your old cat gets skinny (and how to help them gain weight again).
1. Your cat could have dental problems
A senior cat could have trouble chewing their food if they aren’t in the best shape when it comes to dental health. If your cat doesn’t eat much, it could be due to having gum or teeth problems. Here are ways to determine if that’s the case:
- Does your cat have bad breath?
- Have you seen any missing teeth in your cat’s mouth?
- Does your cat drool a lot?
- Do you often find your cat accidentally dropping their food outside of their food bowl?
- Does your cat’s face swell?
If you find any of the above-mentioned symptoms, your cat might need some dental care. In some cases, cats might also have gum and teeth problems due to underlying health conditions, such as oral cancer. Oftentimes, cats will be more reluctant on kibble, so you won’t see the difference between wet and mushy food.
Here’s what you can do: if you suspect that your cat has tooth and gum issues, you may want to take them to the vet for advice. The vet could give your cat a specific brand of food, as well as medicine to address their dental health problems. You can also give your cat more wet food rather than kibble.
A preventive measure to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy is to brush their teeth. If your cat doesn’t eat much then it could have gingivitis, which causes periodontal disease. Remember: a healthy set of teeth and gums will get your cat to eat properly.
Here’s how you can brush your cat’s teeth:
- Get your cat comfortable and hold them firmly.
- Start by training them on being held on their teeth through simple touches.
- Show the toothbrush and get your cat familiarized with it.
- Keep a pack of their favorite treats around.
- You can also put the treats or food into their toothbrush or your finger.
- When your cat gets used to the brushing sensation, it’s time to use actual pet toothpaste onto the brush.
- If your cat still doesn’t work well with a cat toothbrush, you can still use your finger to apply the toothpaste but with gauze wrap.
- Brush your cat’s teeth gently, especially the parts around the cheek.
- Build this routine and make it a daily habit or as often as your cat can do.
2. Your cat might have underlying health issues
Hyperthyroidism is a common problem in cats that cause them to become skinny. This is characterized by rapid weight loss even if they are always and often begging for food. That’s because hyperthyroidism makes the cat’s metabolism very active.
In some cases, your cat might also get kidney disease, which could make your cat ill and not gain too much weight. Like humans, cat kidneys get reduced on their efficiency of filtering food and drinks, causing their health to fail slowly.
Other serious (and often chronic) health issues that could plague your cat include cancers and leukemia. You may want to check with your breeder if your cat has a history of such.
Here’s what you can do: to determine hyperthyroidism, you may want to get your cat to a blood test in a vet clinic. Vets usually advise radioactive iodine injections or medications for your cat that suffers from hyperthyroidism. In some cases, surgery can also work.
For kidney diseases, senior cats work best with low-protein foods. Aside from that, your vet might recommend you to give your cat liquid foods, such as those with gravy, to help keep their appetite on track.
If your cat has some chronic illness, AZT is a kind of drug that’s used to treat most feline cancers. Talk to your vet about the different treatment options for your cat.
3. Your cat lacks calories
In some cases, a senior cat may lack the calories that they need. This may lead them to kidney diseases and the like. However, with that in mind, calories in cats do not equate to calories in humans. That’s because carbohydrates aren’t digested well by our pets.
Here’s what you can do: try food brands with higher calorie content. Although it’s hard to look for such foods in the market because most cat food companies make weight loss foods (due to the high tendency of a cat to become overweight), there are still products out there for your needs.
Your vet might recommend a food brand or product that is high in protein. However, it depends as cats with kidney problems might not work well with protein, so you should ask your vet for advice first.
Generally, cat food that has higher calories includes the following:
- chicken and turkey recipes
- kitten formulas
- gel supplements with vitamins and minerals
Of course, every brand is different when it comes to quality. Most pet owners will advise you to get cat food without grains because cats don’t digest carbohydrates the way that humans do. Instead, go for protein-rich foods. Regardless of whether you feed your cat raw or store-bought food, putting into consideration protein content will add calories to their daily meals.
4. Your cat might not like the taste of food
As mentioned above, senior cats lose the efficiency of their senses, which may include smell and taste. This will affect their ability to find food irresistible to eat, thus, making them less likely to eat something that they usually find delicious.
Here’s what you can do: simply make the food delicious once more by adding more flavor and smell to them. Most senior cats will benefit from juicy gravy sauces and flavorful tastes, such as those with broths. You can also combine both wet and dry food so that your cat gets an assortment of dishes per meal.
Additionally, wet food (or raw food) that’s at a warmer temperature, let’s say around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, can make your cat notice the aroma much better, getting them to eat the food. Most cat food can be tossed in the microwave just fine, so long as you cover it.
5. Your cat might feel stressed
Is there a household situation that could lead your senior cat to not eating properly? Has he or she recently picked a fight with someone? Is your cat feeling threatened with new family members (or cats)? If that’s the case, a stressful change could also affect their appetite.
Here’s what you can do: get your cat to start slowly by only giving them a few parts of their usual food. Don’t let your cat starve – make sure they at least eat a little bit. You can also get them to feed more frequently during the day but in fewer amounts.
The sight of new cats could also make them feel more threatened. If they’re still not used to eating with certain cats in the house (or in the neighborhood), try isolating them or changing their feeding schedules with the other cats.
In addition to that, cats also like to eat solo by nature. Perhaps the reason why your cat isn’t eating that much is due to extensive noise and bothering from various sources. If you have kids at home and they bother your cat while eating, tell them to leave the cats alone when they’re gobbling their food.