Help, My Cat is Losing Weight!

When a cat experiences unexpected weight loss, there's good cause for concern. Elizabeth T. writes:

I have a 12 year old cat named Jade who has always been small. Her usual weight is 6 pounds. She is down to 4 (was even lighter a month ago). I have been feeding her baby food and wet kitten food and while it has helped, she has only gained less than half a pound in the last month. I have taken her to the vet and they can’t find any problems. Is there something better I can feed her to help her gain weight?

Elizabeth, this is an extremely complex problem and one that should be solved with the input of a qualified veterinarian. Since we can't even see Jade or her test results, it's difficult to draw conclusions, but we can give you some general advice on seeking an answer for her problem.

It's unusual for a 12 year old cat to have weight loss without an underlying medical cause. Our first thought is that Jade might be diabetic, but surely your veterinarian tested for that. It might be worth getting a second opinion from another vet. Many veterinarians are very dog-centric because that's what pays the bills. Since many cat caregivers rarely take their cats in for checkups and most cats are very good at hiding their maladies, some vets rarely see cats at all.

Common medical causes for weight loss in cats include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) & parasites. Jade should be tested for all of these.

Once you're confident that there's not an obvious medical cause, it's time to look for more subtle causes. 

  • If Jade is having sinus problems, she will not be able to smell her food and will probably not eat.
  • If she has dental pain, she won't want to eat.
  • If there are other cats in the household and she's being bullied, she may not eat. 
  • If one of her companions has died recently, she may go through a grieving period and not eat.
  • If she's on medications, she may have gastric issues caused by the medicine.

You see what we're getting at. You need to put on your detective hat. A cat with abdominal pain may lay on her side in a way she doesn't usually like. She may respond to gentle abdominal pressure with a hiss that goes beyond her ordinary reaction. Look for changes in her behavior, however subtle, as clues to her problem. 

Getting her to eat depends on the root cause of her lack of appetite. For example, if her problem is sinus related, you may need to help her clear her sinuses. (See this post: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/treating-chronic-rhinosinusitis )

 
 

If she has diarrhea or is constipated, she may be having gastric issues. The best treatment for those is a good probiotic like FortiFlora and a teaspoon of canned 100% pumpkin puree added to each meal. These two ingredients combined will sort out a huge variety of intestinal issues. The FortiFlora has the additional benefit of having an irresistible flavor to most cats.

Finding the cause is key here, Elizabeth. It just takes perseverance. Feeding her high-calorie kitten and baby food is a good way to keep her weight up in the interim. There really are no higher calorie food sources to consider. As I mentioned above, adding FortiFlora to her food may make her more interested in it until you can diagnose her real issue.

We wish you and Jade all the best!