Why does my older cat eat little and lose weight?

As cats age, their nutritional needs generally change. Proper nutrition can add years to a cat’s life and delay the onset of many diseases.

Old cats often lose muscle mass and weight . For this reason, the ASPCA advises that we should feed our felines with food to gain weight from the age of 7. Doing so will help you avoid weight problems as you age.

More than 50% of cats are known to be overweight. That is the reason why weight loss is often a desirable outcome on the part of cat owners for their pets.

But when older cats lose weight rapidly or significantly, it is not viewed as a positive. It can be a clear sign that there is an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed.

Next, I will indicate the possible causes of your old cat eating less and the ways to achieve a change in that behavior.

Why is your older cat eating less and less?

Here are some of the reasons why your cat is not excited about mealtime:

1. Dental problems

Older cats tend to suffer from dental problems such as gingivitis, sensitive mouths, or broken and loose teeth . These problems hinder your ability to eat and discourage you when it comes to eating.

2. Less physical activity

The reduced amount of physical activity affects your metabolic needs and your desire to eat large meals.

3. Decreased sense of smell

Another common cause of why older cats lose interest in eating is a  decreased sense of smell .

A cat’s tongue does not have many taste receptors. For that reason, they are stimulated by the smell of food instead of the taste. If your cat cannot smell his food, it is normal that he is not very motivated to eat.

Diseases in older cats that cause weight loss

If in addition to losing weight, your cat has other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and changes in lifestyle, it may be suffering from a disease.

There are numerous diseases that can affect your cat as it ages, and most of them are associated with weight loss.

1. Respiratory disease

One type of respiratory disease that is common in older cats is sinusitis . It hampers your sense of smell, leading to loss of appetite and weight loss.

Other than that, your cat can also have asthma . Lung tumors, whether large or small, cause weakness, shortness of breath, and weight loss.

2. Gastrointestinal disease

These diseases are of different types and each one of them causes weight loss. Lymphoma   is one of the most common types of a gastrointestinal disorder, and older cats are prone to it. This disease is a cancer that cannot be cured. The cats that suffer from this disease are usually exhausted and not very willing to eat.

Another possible gastrointestinal disorder behind your cat’s weight loss is inflammatory bowel disease . In this disease the lining of the intestines becomes thick and inflamed. When this occurs, the digestive tract cannot absorb nutrients and transport food substances properly. It can affect parts of the digestive tract or the entire length of the intestines.

3. Endocrine disease

The most common endocrine diseases in older cats are hyperthyroidism  and  diabetes . 

Hyperthyroidism is common in older cats . It occurs when an overactive thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine.

And although this causes an increase in appetite, most cats lose weight as excessive amounts of thyroxine produce an increase in metabolism.

Diabetes in cats, on the other hand, occurs when there is a lack of insulin released from the pancreas. Insulin is vital for your cat to properly break down food and regulate glucose levels.

A high level of glucose in your cat’s bloodstream will lead to excessive thirst, urination, and eventually weight loss. A diabetic cat can eat a lot of food all day, but it is normal for it to lose weight.

4. Kidney disease

In the last years of your cat’s life, her kidneys may begin to fail. More than 50% of older cats are known to suffer from chronic kidney disease.

Symptoms of this disease are increased urination and thirst, along with diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more likely it is to help your cat.

Ways to increase your senior cat’s food intake

If your beloved old cat is experiencing significant weight loss, consider that this is an increasingly common problem among older cats these days.

But just because it’s common doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry.

If you see that your old cat is getting thinner, try to improve its feeding behavior through these simple steps:

1. Feed your cat quality healthy food

The best way to get your older cat to gain weight is to feed him healthy foods.

Older cats cannot absorb protein effectively as they did when they were young.  That’s the main reason why a high-quality protein diet is a must.

You should avoid cat food that is sold in the supermarket with unnecessary fillers. In view of that, it is better to opt for premium quality cat food sold in pet food stores.

Although they can be more expensive, these are the food products that surely contain high levels of protein.

2. Try wet food

If even if you provide your cat with high-quality food, it does not want to eat, try changing its texture. Some older cats have dental problems that make it difficult for them to chew dry food.

Switch to a diet of wet foods , it is  sure to be easier to chew.

3. Serve your cat food hot

Warming your cat’s food a bit before feeding it can help. The smell can stimulate your cat’s appetite by being the most aromatic hot food.

This tip is helpful, especially for older cats who are running out of their sense of smell.

4. Add tasty supplements to your cat’s food

For example, you can add a little tuna oil to his food to attract him. Cats that love to eat fish will have a hard time resisting.

Fortunately, there are also a wide variety of tasty add-ons available on the market. 

They come in powdered form, liquid treats, and even dry kibble. Some pet food stores even sell sauces that are made from healthy ingredients.

5. Add extra treats throughout the day

You can  provide him with some high-protein treats that will give him the extra calories he needs. There are even some human foods that are safe for your cat. For example, a small amount of egg whites and cheese in the middle of the day would be a great idea.

6. Buy a vitamin supplement

If you notice that your cat is not gaining weight fast enough, you can supplement his daily diet with vitamins .

However, be sure to consult a veterinarian first who will direct you to the right product for your cat.

Final conclusion

If you are trying to fatten a skinny old cat, try to apply the advice that I have indicated. If it doesn’t work, think about taking your pet to a vet.

Analysis and tests may be needed to check for an underlying cause, such as a serious illness behind your cat’s problem.

Do not forget that in this, as on other occasions with cats, patience is very important. Not all advice is valid for all felines.



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