Weight is important for a feline’s overall health and well-being. It’s no secret that obesity in felines – just like humans – can lead to a number of health complications; however, many cat parents don’t realize that being underweight is just as dangerous for their feline family members as being overweight. Cats that are underweight are more prone to hair loss and can suffer from a variety of medical problems, including poor eyesight and damage to their internal organs. Being excessively skinny can also affect a feline’s temperament; your once friendly kitty could become moody, ill-tempered, and downright nasty.
If you’ve noticed that your feline friend has lost a tremendous amount of weight, or if you’ve adopted a cat who is malnourished and skeletal thin, it’s crucial that you address the problem as soon as possible.
Causes of Feline Loss
Before you attempt to fatten your cat up, it’s important to understand the root of her excessive skinniness. There are a number of factors that can contribute to feline weight loss, including:
- Dental health issues, such as tooth loss or an abscess in the mouth, which can make eating difficult
- Anxiety or stress
- Food bowl competition
- Pickiness (cat’s can be very particular about their food)
- Gastrointestinal problems – a parasitic infestation (hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, etc), inflammatory bowel disease, or pancreatitis
- Liver or kidney problems
- Old age; senior cats can develop conditions like arthritis or can lose their sense of smell, which can make it difficult for them to access or locate their food
- Poor-quality cat food; food that contains by-products, meals, and high amounts of carbohydrates can cause weight loss
- Burning more calories than ingesting; this is often the case for cats that have high energy levels or kittens that are growing at a rapid rate.
While any of these factors could be contributing to your cat’s excessive thinness, don’t make assumptions. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis. Knowing the root cause of your kitty’s weight loss will allow you to make the right accommodations to fatten her up.
How to Encourage Feline Weight Gain
How do you fatten up your underweight cat? Your vet will make recommendations based on her specific condition; however, animal nutritionists suggest the following methods to encourage weight gain in felines.
Change Up Her Cat Food
One of the most effective ways to help your kitty fatten up is also one of the easiest ways: change up her food. This method is often effective for finicky felines, high energy cats, and growing kittens. It can also be effective for kitties that are suffering from dental health issues.
If you’re feeding your cat dry food, try switching to wet. If she’s picky, she may like the taste and texture better. If tooth problems are preventing her from eating, wet food may be easier for her to chew. If your cat is super active or young and is burning more calories than she’s taking in, offering her a high protein diet could help to encourage weight gain.
A change in food could also be effective if poor-quality food is the cause of her weight loss. In addition to aiding in weight gain, offering your cat food that is comprised of premium-quality ingredients will improve her overall health and well-being in a multitude of ways. How can you tell the difference between high-quality and poor-quality cat food? Read the labels! Avoid anything that says “meal” or “by-product”, and anything that contains high amounts of carbohydrates. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must eat meat. A quality cat food will list named sources of animal protein in the first few ingredients (lamb, duck, venison, beef, chicken, salmon, tuna, etc). Carbohydrate levels should be minimal and should come from easily healthy, easily digestible sources (brown rice, brewer’s rice, oats, etc).
Human Food May do the Trick
Depending on the cause of weight loss, human food could encourage weight loss. Offer unsweetened, plain yogurt as a treat or mix it in with her kibble. Canned fish packed in water, such as tuna, sardines, salmon, or herring, as a small treat daily, or as a substitute for cat food every other day may help her pack on pounds. Whole fat milk can encourage weight gain, too.
Just remember to check with your vet before offering your cat human food to ensure you are offering safe options. Some types of human food can be hazardous for felines.
While treats shouldn’t be a replacement for meals, they can help thin cats put on some weight. Treats are often high in calories, so they may help to fatten your kitty up. Offer treats in between meals, and only give her a few at a time. The extra calories may be all she needs to reach a healthy weight.
Excessive thinness is a sign of malnourishment. Figuring out the underlying cause of thinness will help you determine the best way to fatten your kitty up. With the guidance of your vet – and the above-mentioned solutions – you can help your feline friend pack on pounds so she can reach a health weight.