Senior cats are prone to muscle mass and weight loss. In light of this, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests that all cat owners must feed their pets with muscle-gain foods as early as 7 years old. Doing so will help them avoid weight issues as they age.
On the other hand, over 50% of cats in the US are overweight. For this reason, many adult cat foods are low in calories. If you have an older, skinny, cat pay close attention to the food you choose.
Even when overweight cats happen to lose weight rapidly or significantly, there is cause for concern. It may be a clear sign that there is an underlying health issue that must be addressed.
Why Your Senior Cat Doesn’t Eat Much?
Here are the common reasons why your senior cat isn’t excited about mealtime:
- Dental problems
Senior cats tend to suffer from dental problems such as gingivitis, sensitive mouths, or broken and loose cat teeth. These issues affect their ability to munch on food easily, thus, making mealtime less exciting.
- Less physical activity
Lying in bed all day may cause some senior cats to lose muscle mass, rather than gain weight. Reduced amount of physical activities affects their metabolic needs and their initiative to consume large meals.
- Reduced sense of smell
Another common culprit why older cats lose interest in eating is a decreased sense of smell.
A cat’s tongue doesn’t have a lot of taste receptors. For that reason, they are more stimulated by the smell of food rather than the flavor.
If your cat cannot smell its food, it’s not surprising why it isn’t excited to eat.
Common Diseases in Senior Cats that Cause Weight Loss
If aside from weight loss, your cat is also experiencing other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in lifestyle, a serious disease might be the culprit.
There are numerous diseases that can affect your cat as it gets older and most of them are associated with weight loss.
- Respiratory Disease
One type of respiratory diseases that are common with senior cats is sinusitis. This issue hinders with their sense of smell – resulting in a loss of appetite and weight loss.
Aside from that, your cat may also be suffering from asthma. Lung tumors – whether great or small, result in weakness, breathing difficulties, and weight loss.
- Gastrointestinal Disease
GI diseases come in different types and each one of them results in weight loss. GI lymphoma is one of the most common types of GI disorder and older cats are prone to it.
Sad to say, this disease is a type of cancer that cannot be cured. Felines who suffer from this disease are usually exhausted and not fascinated with much food.
Another possible GI disorder behind your cat’s weight loss is IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). This disease happens when a series of health problems in the GI tract eventually cause an increase in the number of inflammatory cells in the digestive tract’s lining.
When this happens, it will cause diarrhea and vomiting that eventually lead to weight loss.
- Endocrine Disease
Endocrine diseases that are commonly experienced by senior cats are hyperthyroidism and diabetes.
Hyperthyroidism is commonly experienced by older cats. It happens when an overactive thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine.
And even though this causes an increase in appetite, most cats still shed some pounds since excessive amounts of thyroxine result in an increase in metabolism.
Diabetes in cats, on the other hand, happens when cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin is vital to signal cells to take in the glucose and use energy. Diabetes tricks your cat’s body into thinking it is starving and because of this it will break down muscles.
A high level of glucose in your cat’s bloodstream will result in excessive thirst, urination, and eventually weight loss. Your diabetic cat may eat a lot of food all day, but it will still lose weight.
- Kidney Disease
In your cat’s senior years, its kidneys may begin to fail. It has been assessed that more than 50% of senior cats struggle with CKD (chronic kidney disease).
CKD is diagnosed when your cat’s kidneys began to progressively and permanently fail for a few months or even years. Symptoms of damaged kidneys consist of increased urination and thirst together with diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Your feline may also suffer from stress, depression, and feebleness.
When you notice a change in your cat’s diet or lifestyle, bring it to the vet as soon as possible. The sooner you identify the disease, the better your chances of helping your furry feline. Your vet will recommend you switch to a diet low in phosphorus.
Techniques to Increase Your Senior Cat’s Food Intake
If your beloved cat is suffering from weight loss problems, you are not alone. This problem is becoming more and more common among senior cats these days.
But just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s nothing to worry about.
If you notice your old cat getting skinny, try to improve its eating behavior through these simple steps:
- Give your cat healthy food options
The best way to ensure that your old cat will gain weight is to feed it healthy foods. It’d be better if you prepare a cat feeding chart which shows how much to feed and how often to feed your cat.
Senior cats cannot absorb protein as effectively as they did when they were young. That is the main reason why a high-quality protein diet is a must. We have a list of good foods for weight gain here.
Keep in mind that most cat foods being sold in the supermarket tend to contain unnecessary fillers. In view of that, it is better to go for premium cat foods that are approved by your vet and sold in pet food shops.
Even though they may cost you more, these are the food products that are sure to contain high levels of protein.
Stay away from grain-based cat foods because are more likely to have low levels of fat and proteins. Aside from that, they also contain grain fillers that are not beneficial for your pet’s diet.
- Switch your cat to a wet food option
If you are providing a high-quality cat food for your feline and it still doesn’t want to eat, consider changing its texture. Some senior cats suffer from dental problems which cause difficulty in eating dry foods.
Switch it to a wet food diet. Its texture can make a lot of difference to your cat’s eating habits because it’s easier to chew.
- Serve your cat’s food warm
Warming your cat’s food a little bit before serving may help. The scent has a huge role in inducing your cat’s appetite and warm food tends to be more aromatic.
This is a helpful technique especially for senior cats that are losing their sense of smell. It may be hard to believe but temperatures could be one of the reasons behind your cat’s “picky” attitude.
For most felines, a slightly warmer to room temperature is just perfect.
- Incorporate tasty add-ons to your cat’s food
A senior cat is more sensitive and meticulous when it comes to food. Incorporating some tasty add-ons to its usual food might just be what it needs.
For instance, you may pour a little tuna water or salmon oil over its usual cat food to entice it. Cat who loves to eat fish will find it hard to resist that.
Thankfully, there are also a wide variety of tasty add-ons available in the market. These products are able to initiate eating in cats.
They come in powder form, liquid treats, and even dry kibbles. Some pet food stores even sell gravies that are made of healthy ingredients.
Just keep in mind that these kitty treats should only be given in small amounts and must not become a meal substitute.
- Give extra treats throughout the day
Aside from giving your cat the right food, providing some protein-rich treats will provide it with much-needed additional calories. There are even some human foods that are safe for your cat.
For instance, a small number of egg whites in the middle of the day would be a great idea.
If you are wondering how to fatten up an old skinny cat, try these simple steps. And if they don’t work, it is time to take your furry feline to the vet.
Further examination and tests may be required to identify if there is an underlying cause such as a serious disease behind your pet’s situation.
In the process of helping cats gain more pounds, the most important rule for cat owners is to be patient. This is because a single technique that is useful for other felines may not be effective for your cat.