What to Do When an Older Cat Is Losing Weight?

Weight loss often signifies that something's amiss.
Weight loss often signifies that something's amiss. (Image: RooIvan/iStock/Getty Images)

Unexplained weight loss should be cause for a trip to the vet, especially in older cats. In most cases, weight loss indicates the presence of an underlying health condition. If you notice your cat's eating habits changing, or if you become aware of other symptoms along with weight loss, talk to your vet to figure out what's going on and how to treat the problem.

Underlying Medical Conditions

A number of health conditions common to senior cats have weight loss as a symptom, including hyperthyroidism, diabetes and cancer. Cats with diabetes often drink more than usual and seem sluggish. Hyperthyroidism can cause your older cat to eat more and still lose weight. Hyperthyroidism is more frequently diagnosed in older cats.

Stress and Depression

Feline cognitive dysfunction or FCD is a condition in cats over 11 years of age. It's similar to Alzheimer’s disease, and it doesn't have a known cause. FCD causes a number of changes in older cats, including loss of appetite, confusion and memory loss, increased irritability and changes in sleep-wake cycles. These symptoms can ultimately lead to weight loss. So can stress, anxiety and depression brought on by changes such as a move or the introduction of a new pet.

Watch for Other Symptoms

If your cat's losing weight, be on the lookout for accompanying symptoms. Has your pet lost her appetite? Has she vomited or had diarrhea? Watch for signs of stress and anxiety. Some cats change their behavior toward other pets and people when they're ailing. Sick cats hide. Because so many symptoms are common to various conditions, it's important that you observe carefully and provide the vet detailed information so he can make an accurate diagnosis and provide a proper treatment regimen.

Making Nutritional Changes

If your cat who is otherwise healthy is in need of some pounds, you can do a number of things to help him put some weight back on. Ask your veterinarian if a commercially balanced diet that is higher in fat might be appropriate. You can also try switching to a different brand or flavor to see if a change makes your cat more motivated to eat. In certain cases, a vet may prescribe appetite-stimulating medications.

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