A lot of people think an elderly cat losing weight is just part of the aging process. This isn’t always the case, however. Senior cats who suddenly lose a great deal of weight can be a sign of an underlying health problem. In other cases, it can be environmental, or due to stress or depression. If you’ve noticed your older cat has suddenly dropped some pounds, keep reading to find out the potential cause and what you should do to get your cat as healthy as possible.
Your first thought if you’re a worst-case-scenerio type of person might be that your cat is ill. This might be the case, and of course if you notice a dramatic change in weight you should make a vet appointment as soon as possible to get that sorted out. However, depending on the illness your cat may have it could be a fairly easy and inexpensive fix. Here are a few cat illnesses that can cause sudden weight loss:
- Kidney disease. Kidney disease is sadly a common cause of death for elderly cats. Once diagnosed, their health will likely steadly decline until their death. However, this could mean your cat could live anywhere from a few months to several years after diagnosis. Personally I had a cat who was diagnosed with kidney disease and 15 and lived until almost 20, so it’s not an instant death sentence. When caught early, you can treat the disease with medication and diet and possibly prolong your cat’s life for several years. Symptoms of kidney disease, in addition to weight loss, include increased urination, increased thirst, leaking urine, vomiting, diarrhea, and general weakness.
- Endocrine disease. This encompasses a large variety of illnesses, such as thyroid problems and diabetes. Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction of hormones produced by the thyroid, and is quite common in older cats. Increased appetite, sudden weight loss and random bursts of energy are common symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Diabetes is a disorder where your cat’s body can no longer process sugars the way it should. Increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, and lethergy are common symptoms. Both of these conditions aren’t life threatening if caught early and treated adequately. Diet and medication are both part of the treatment.
- Heart disease. Cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscles due to damage, is the most common heart condition in older cats. Symptoms of cardiomyopathy are often subtle and confused with the normal aging process, which is why it’s so important to get your cat checked out by a vet if you notice sudden weight loss. Untreated, cardiomyopathy leads to serious health issues such as paralysis, blood clots and sudden death.
- Dental problems. Just like humans, cats tend to get more dental problems as they age. Tooth problems can cause a great deal of main, not to mention a huge risk of infection and other diseases. Schedule your cat for a dental checkup to see if your cat’s teeth are in good shape.
There are a variety of other things that could cause sudden weight loss as well, but it’s best to check with your vet and get a full blood workup to try and find a cause. If there’s not a medical cause, there might be other issues causing the weight loss.
Change in Environment
Cats are quite sensitive to environmental changes, and one minor change could upset your cat enough to cause weight loss. Maybe you’ve had a baby, started dating someone new, moved or adopted a new pet. Those are pretty major environmental changes for your cat, and that stress can cause a change in appetite which could lead to weight loss.
Introducing a new cat into the family is probably the most stressful thing you can do for another cat, especially if you feed them in the same area. Most cats prefer to eat in private so they don’t feel competition for their food. If you’ve recently introduced a new cat into your home, make sure you feed them in different rooms or at different times. It’s understandable you want them to be best friends right away, but cats take time to trust another cat. Give your old friend space to adjust, especially at meal time.
Introducing a new person into the home is a bit different. Depending on your cat’s personality, they may just need a few weeks to adjust. Other cats might not want to adjust to a new human in their lives. Give your cat a safe space in the home, at least at meal times. Some people also swear by products such as Feliway to help keep your cat’s anxiety at bay. As long as the humans in your life respect your cat, your cat will learn to feel calm around them eventually.
If you’ve moved recently, that can also be a big change for your furry friend. While your cat’s getting used to the new surroundings keep your home as familiar as possible. Use the same food bowls you used, keep your cat’s bed in an easy-to-find place. Keep as much familiar for you cat as you can and they will adjust a bit more easily, and their food intake will increase once they calm down.
In any case, if you think stress could be the culprit, keep meal times calm, quiet and regular. Your cat will eventually start relaxing and eating more.
Other tips to get your cat to eat more
Sometimes your cat’s appetite changes and there’s no reason why. If you’ve gotten a clean bill of health from your vet, and you’ve kept your environment as familiar as possible, there are a few other things you can do to improve your cat’s appetite:
- Move your cat’s food from its water and litter box. Cats are very serious about cleanliness. They don’t want their food too close to their water supply or their litter box. When some cats age, they get more insistant about that. If your cat’s food is too close to either of those things, try moving it to a new spot in the room.
- Clean your cat’s dishes more often. You don’t like eating off a dirty plate or drinking out of a dirty bowl. Neither does your cat. Clean your cat’s food and water dishes daily to keep them clean and grime free.
- Play around with additions to their normal food. Sometimes I’ll throw leftover chicken into my cat’s food, or I’ll give her a spoonful of tuna. Cats like a bit of variety in their diet, adding a bit of excitement to their meal can help.
- Add some high-calorie supplements. There are numerous supplements on the market that will help your cat put on some pounds. GNC has one called Pets Ultra Mega High Calorie Booster for All Cats. It’s a high calorie treat that comes in a variety of flavors that you give to your cats on occasion. The extra calories can help them up on a bit of weight.
- Ask your vet about appetite-stimulating medications. This should be a last ditch choice if nothing else is working, but if there’s not reason for your cat’s sudden weight loss and he’s still not eating as he should, there are medications you can ask your vet about to help jumpstart their appetite.