How do I fatten up an underweight cat?
It is critical to determine if the cat has an underlying medical condition which has caused him or her to be underweight. Once the cause (if any) has been diagnosed and addressed, the appetite should return in most cases.
The goal is to stimulate the cat’s appetite and increase calories. Below are some ways to help fatten up a cat.
Tips to fatten up a cat
Causes of weight loss in cats
Cats lose weight for several reasons and diet alone is just one small cause, and it is important to determine if there is an underlying cause.
Weight loss can be divided into the following categories:
- Sickness which causes a loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Stress, fussiness, inter-cat issues
- Weight loss despite a healthy appetite and no underlying disease (not enough food, nursing queen and loss of muscle mass as the cat ages)
- Weight loss due to a medical condition but not related to loss of appetite (hyperthyroidism, acromegaly, malabsorption disorders such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and inflammatory bowel disease)
Medical causes occur most often in middle-aged to senior cats, the majority of which cause the cat to lose weight due to a poor appetite. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, speeds up the cat’s metabolism. Despite a normal to increased appetite, the cat continues to lose weight.
- Hyperthyroidism – Caused by a benign hormone-secreting tumour of the thyroid gland which causes the metabolism to speed up.
- Diabetes – A common endocrine disease where the cells build up a resistance to insulin, a hormone necessary for glucose to enter the cells. As a result, glucose levels build up in the bloodstream
- Chronic kidney disease – A gradual loss of kidney function over months or years which causes a build-up of toxins in the blood. Senior cats are very prone to developing kidney disease.
- Cancer – There are many types of cancer which can develop in cats; most cancers will cause your cat to feel unwell, which in turn leads to anorexia and weight loss. Cancers can grow in the cat’s mouth, creating discomfort when he eats.
- Parasitic worms – Cats are prone to several types of parasitic worms. Tapeworm is the most common cause of weight loss in cats. These worms compete with the cat for food.
- Nursing kittens – A lactating queen (mother cat) uses enormous resources to provide nourishment to her kittens. Over time can lead to her losing weight if she is not receiving an adequate amount of food.
- Mouth ulcers – A mouth ulcer (or mouth sore) is a painful, open sore which can affect the gums and tongue.
- Cryptosporidium and giardia – Parasitic infections caused by single-celled protozoa resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
- Ecoli – A bacterial infection of the intestinal tract leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Inflammatory bowel disease – A leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea in cats, IBD is a group of disorders caused by the infiltration of inflammatory cells in the intestinal tract resulting in poor digestion and absorption of food.
- Cat flu – There are several types of pathogens which can cause flu in cats. Symptoms typically affect the upper respiratory tract. This can result in a loss of appetite as the cat loses its sense of smell.
- Stress – Cats are susceptible to changes in the routine, household, bullying from other cats.
This list is by no means extensive; there are many other medical causes. Read here for more causes of weight loss in cats.
The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you.
- Baseline tests: Complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemical profile to evaluate the overall health of the cat and check the kidneys and liver.
Additional tests will depend on results of baseline tests but can include:
- Imaging studies (X-ray and ultrasound): To evaluate the organs and look for signs of intestinal blockages or tumours.
- T3 and T4 tests: To evaluate for hyperthyroidism.
- Fecal studies: Microscopic evaluation of a sample of feces to look for parasitic eggs.