How do I fatten up an underweight cat?
Now to answer the question, firstly of course it is important to determine if the cat has an underlying medical condition which has caused him or her to be underweight. Once the cause has been diagnosed and addressed, the appetite should return in most cases.
The goal is to stimulate the cat’s appetite and/or 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 a number of reasons and diet alone is just one small cause. Before we go into ways to help fatten up your cat, it is important to determine if there is an underlying cause. Weight loss can be loosely divided into the following categories:
- Sickness resulting in a loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Other factors such as stress, fussiness, inter-cat issues
- Weight loss despite a healthy appetite and no underlying sickness (not enough food, nursing queen, age-related, it is common for cats to lose muscle mass as they age)
- Weight loss due to a medical condition but not related to loss of appetite (hyperthyroidism, IBD to name two)
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, so despite a normal to increased appetite, the cat continues to lose weight.
The most common causes in middle-aged to senior cats include:
- 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 a period of months of 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 develop in the cat’s mouth, creating discomfort when he eats.
Other causes of weight loss include:
- Parasitic worms – Cats are prone to several types of parasitic worms, tapeworm is the most common cause of weight loss in cats due to the worm competing with the cat for food.
- Nursing kittens – A lactating queen (mother cat) uses enormous resources to provide nourishment to her kittens, which over time can lead to her losing weight.
- 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 which can result in a loss of appetite as they lose their sense of smell.
- Stress – Cats are very sensitive to changes in 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.
Many of the above conditions will also have additional side effects, which can give your veterinarian an indicator as to what the problem is.
Your 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.
The veterinarian may want to perform additional tests which can include x-rays, ultrasound, and additional blood work such as T4 tests to evaluate for hyperthyroidism.