Sure he vomits on the carpet once in a while and loves to throw all the litter out of his box, but you still love your cat and want him to have a long and healthy life. One way to help ensure that he does is to monitor his weight.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an alarming 60 percent of the cats in America are overweight.
While obesity puts a tremendous strain on furry little bodies, so does being underweight. Excessive weight loss in cats is often caused by an underlying illness, so it’s important to keep an eye on your kitty and act fast if he seems to be shrinking.
What Should My Cat Weigh?
You can’t make sure your cat stays at a healthy weight if you don’t know what that really is. Your vet is the best person to tell you what your cat should weigh.
Generally, however, WebMD reports that domestic cats should weight around 10 pounds. Breed matters, however.
Siamese cats can weigh as little as five pounds while breeds like the Maine Coon can weigh in at a whopping 25 pounds.
No matter what your cat weighs, a cat that loses more than 10 percent of his normal body weight needs to see a vet as soon as possible.
Am I Feeding Him Enough?
Too much food will make your cat chunky, but it’s also possible to underfeed an animal. If you adopted your cat only recently and see him losing weight, it’s possible he’s not getting enough to eat.
Most vets recommend feeding your cat twice a day, spacing the meals out with eight to 12 hours in between.
An active cat needs about 30 calories per pound each day, so a 10-pound cat needs a total of 300 calories every day. A single cup of most dry foods will provide this as will two three-ounce cans of most wet foods.
Not all pet foods are created equal, however. It’s important to read the nutrition information on your cat’s food so you know exactly what you’re giving him.
You may need to feed much less of a high-calorie food or feed your cat larger portions if his food is lower in calories.
Look for quality ingredients like real meat, as well. Just like you, your cat can fill up on empty calories that keep him full and happy but lack the nutritional value he needs.
How Can I Tell If My Cat is Losing Weight?
One of the simplest ways to track your cat’s weight is to get your hands on her often. Make time for some quality cuddles at least once a week and rub your cat all over when you do.
It’s hard to see weight loss in fluffy cats, but you’ll feel the difference if you handle your cat often.
You can also weigh your cat. She probably won’t stand still on the bathroom scale for you, but you have other options.
One is to weigh yourself alone and while holding your cat. The difference between the two numbers is your cat’s weight. Catster recommends using technology to make weighing your cat super easy.
Pet stores now sell smart scales that sit under your cat’s litter box or bed, automatically weighing her and sending the information to your cell phone.
My Cat Definitely Lost Weight. What Do I Do?
If your cat is losing weight, call and schedule a vet appointment as soon as you recognize the problem.
Many of the issues that cause weight loss in cats are progressive and get worse as time goes on.
Your vet will examine your cat and will likely perform a series of tests, including x-rays, ultrasounds and blood work to determine why your cat’s weight is dropping.
While you wait for your vet appointment, take a look at your home and see if you can find any environmental reasons why your cat’s weight keeps going down. Some cats stop eating when they get stressed.
If you’ve recently adopted another pet, had a baby or made other changes to your routine, your cat’s weight can suffer.
Try to create a new routine and stick to it so your cat knows what to expect.
Consider competition, as well. If you have multiple cats sharing food, litter boxes and other resources, one of them may simply fail to compete adequately. Try separating your cats at feeding time to make sure everyone gets enough.
Cleanliness matters, too, as does location. Animal Planet reminds pet lovers that some cats won’t eat out of a dirty dish and others won’t eat if their food is too close to their litter box.
If you’ve recently tried a new cat food, go back to the old food and see if your cat’s appetite and weight improve.
If you have an older cat, arthritis could be to blame for your cat’s weight loss. Older cats sometimes have trouble reaching food placed on counters or tables to keep it away from dogs and children.
A fading sense of smell can also make it difficult for elderly felines to find their dinner. Make sure your cat’s food is easily accessible and simple to find.
What Is My Vet Looking For?
It’s a bit unnerving to watch your vet run multiple tests on your furbaby, especially when you have no idea what he’s searching for.
Fortunately, your vet can repair or treat most of the underlying issues that lead to weight loss in cats. When diagnosing weight loss issues, these are the things your vet is likely looking for:
Cavities hurt both man and beast, so a kitty with a toothache might stop eating. If your vet finds rotting teeth and cavities in your cat’s mouth, he’ll likely recommend having the affected teeth pulled and the remaining ones cleaned.
Anesthesia prevents the cat from biting the vet or feeling any discomfort during dental work, so your cat won’t feel any pain during her dental procedure.
With the offending teeth removed, most cats quickly regain both their appetite and their lost weight.
Blockages and Inflammation
Blockages and inflammation can both cause weight loss in cats and frequently do. From the esophagus, all the way to the intestines, tumors and swollen or inflamed tissue can all make eating and digesting meals much more difficult.
Blockages can also occur if a naughty kitty ate something he shouldn’t have and it got stuck in his digestive tract.
Tumors and other blockages are typically removed surgically. Inflammation, however, usually requires nothing more than anti-inflammatory medications. A change in diet may also reduce inflammation.
Just like people, cats can get diabetes and are more likely to do so as they age. In addition to losing weight, cats with diabetes may drink more water, urinate frequently and have a sweet odor on their breath.
Diabetes in cats gets treated with insulin injections and is quite manageable. Your vet will show you how to give your cat an insulin shot.
If you still feel uncertain about giving your cat a shot, watch this tutorial video as a pre-injection refresher until you get it down.
Very common in older cats, hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your cat’s thyroid gland produces too much hormone. As a result, your cat will lose weight, often in spite of an increased appetite.
Hyperthyroid cats also tend to vomit frequently and may have diarrhea. Your vet uses a simple blood test to check for hyperthyroidism.
Sometimes medication is all it takes to control the thyroid and bring the cat’s hormone levels and weight back into balance.
Some vets recommend surgically removing the thyroid. Others use radioactive isotopes to destroy the thyroid tissue without damaging any of the tissue around it.
When a cat picks up parasites such as worms, these tiny unwelcome creatures steal their nutrients from your cat.
The result is a malnourished feline who may quickly lose weight. Vets use oral and injectable medications to kill parasites and make your cat healthy again.
He may also prescribe preventive medications that can stop parasites from attacking your cat again in the future.
More Ominous Options
Unfortunately, our beloved pets don’t stay with us forever. If love were enough to keep pets here, most would never cross the rainbow bridge. Though it’s heartbreaking, cancer and organ failure can both cause weight loss in cats.
If possible, your vet will remove any cancerous tumors from your pet in an attempt to prolong her life.
If your cat has inoperable cancer or is in organ failure, however, your vet will focus on palliative care, keeping your cat happy and comfortable for as long as he can.
When exposed to other cats, cats can also contract an infection known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Vets can sometimes cure FIP with medication.
In other cases, the illness progresses and is ultimately fatal. According to the Pet Health Network, FIP most often occurs in cats under the age of three or those with weakened immune systems.
An Unknown Issue
Cats are mysterious little creatures and they’ll do whatever they can to hide signs of illness or discomfort. Sometimes even veterinarians just can’t pinpoint the exact cause of weight loss in a cat.
In this case, your vet will likely administer an appetite stimulant to jumpstart your cat’s metabolism and get him eating again.
He will also want to monitor your cat’s weight closely to make sure he stays on track and healthy.
Can I Prevent Weight Loss in My Cat?
Weight loss in cats is usually a symptom of another issue. While there is no panacea that will ensure your cat never gets sick and loses weight, you can take steps to keep him healthy.
Feed your cat food your vet recommends and in the quantity he suggests. Once you find a food that your cat and vet can agree on, stick to it rather than changing pet food brands.
Take your cat to the vet regularly for checkups and vaccinations so you can keep him healthy and spot potential problems while they’re still minor issues.
At home, play with your cat often so he gets plenty of exercises. Offer treats sparingly and keeps your cat indoors where he won’t risk exposure to sick cats or eat something toxic he shouldn’t in the neighbor’s shed.
Spaying or neutering your pet early is also crucial for maintaining optimal health and greatly reduces their risk of developing certain cancers.
What If I Want my Cat To Lose Weight?
If your cat is overweight, a bit of weight loss is a good thing. It’s important, however, to make sure your cat loses weight in a healthy way.
Losing weight too rapidly can cause issues in cats just as it can in people. Prevent this problem by talking to your vet.
He will calculate how many calories a day your cat needs to lose weight safely. He’ll also advise you to limit or eliminate cat treats.
You’ll also need to get your cat moving, which isn’t always easy. Engage in playtime with your cat and relocate his food dish frequently so he must travel a bit to get to it.
Cats are smart – if you move the food dish upstairs the cat will move himself up there in a few days to be closer to his dinner.
You’ll have to keep the bowl moving to keep the cat moving. You can also make him work for his supper by putting his food in toys that make him work to get it out.
Never try and force your cat to lose weight by withholding food altogether. Cats can develop a life-threatening condition known as hepatic lipidosis in as little as two days without food.
Remember, too, that cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must have meat in their diet to get all the nutrients they need.
Cats are not meant to be vegetarians, so don’t try putting a cat on a vegetable diet if he needs to lose weight.