Why is My Old Cat Getting Skinny?

Cats are as individual as humans and this includes their body shape. Some cats are skinny, while others are curvy. It is important to understand the difference between slender and underweight to ensure your skinny cat is fit and healthy.

Why is my cat too skinny?

Weight loss or the inability to gain weight is a symptom of many different medical conditions but these are the 5 most common causes your cat is too skinny.

1. Unbalanced diet

As mentioned above, the ingredients in cat food have a big impact on your cat’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. Low-quality ingredients, a lack of probiotics, and small portions all result in your cat not having access to the nutrients they need.

2. Dental problems

Poor oral hygiene will cause eating problems and therefore weight loss. Gum disease, tooth loss and oral infections all cause pain and inflammation, which will affect your cat’s appetite and ability to chew properly. Cats tend not to eat when they are in pain. The longer an oral condition goes untreated, the more severe the weight loss will be.

3. Illnesses

There are many illnesses that affect weight control, but diabetes and hyperthyroidism are the most common for cats. These conditions are caused by poorly controlled hormones which can cause weight loss, even if the cat eats well. Managing these conditions with medication will prevent weight loss.

4. Parasites

External parasites like ticks and fleas feed off the cat’s blood, which leads to anemia. This leaves the cat feeling weak and uninterested or unable to eat. Internal parasites such as tapeworms take the valuable nutrients that cats need. Along with weight loss, an uncontrolled parasite colony will lead to organ failure.

5. Old age

As cats age, their nutritional requirements change. This is why cat food companies have recipes for different life stages. Once a cat reaches the age of 10 or 11, you should consider moving them onto senior food, especially if you have noticed a reduction in their activity levels or they have lost weight.

Apart from changing their diet, you can also try incorporating a high-calorie gel with their food to assist in the initial weight gain. Alternatively, try giving at least one portion per day in a food toy. This is great for skinny cats who eat quickly and experiencing frequent vomiting episodes. By slowing down their eating, they are allowing their stomach to expand normally and preventing the urge to vomit.

See: Best cat food for older cats that vomit

Is my cat too skinny if I can feel her bones?

This is not a simple question to answer and depends on several factors. Firstly, is your cat normally plump or carrying a little extra weight? Sudden loss of weight should be investigated by a veterinarian, especially if the cat seems otherwise healthy and is eating normally.

Is your cat a slender breed? Some cats never lose that slim appearance and they do not have a thick fat layer beneath their skin. If you can only just feel your cat’s spine and they do not have any underlying health conditions, then it is safe to assume that there is nothing to worry about.

Why is my cat skinny at the back end?

A cat with a narrow or thin rear end would suggest a lack of food or a digestive condition. The back end of the cat is where the intestines, kidneys, and liver are located. If you notice that your cat is thin in this area, you should have her checked by a veterinarian to rule out an illness.

It may be that your cat is healthy but simply not getting enough food. Cats can easily overeat and cause themselves to vomit, so stick to 3 or 4 small meals spaced throughout the day. You may want to invest in an automated cat feeder for the times when you are not home.

How can I fatten up my skinny cat?

If you are feeding appropriate portions, but your cat is not putting on any extra weight, you may need to change her onto a higher-calorie food. This is more common for outdoor cats as they burn off a lot of energy exploring their neighborhood.

When looking for high-calorie cat food you should check the label for the kcal per serving amount. Your vet can tell you the correct requirement for your cat’s weight. The food you choose should use meat as a protein source and not contain animal by-products as they are lacking in certain nutrients. Chicken is a great protein source and a natural, healthy option.

A good weight management food will also have at least 5% fiber to aid the natural digestive process and be supplemented with taurine, omega 3 and 6, vitamins and minerals.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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