Like humans, older cats begin to show signs of their age. Even if that aging is natural, one of the more worrying moments for cat owners is when their senior cat starts losing weight.
The two main reasons for cats losing weight as they age are diet and age-related diseases. For diet-related loss, proper nutrition can help to ensure your cats stay happy and healthy throughout their elder years.
If the weight loss has been more rapid, there could be another issue at play. To help understand situations, we’re explaining the reasons for senior cats losing weight.
When Do Senior Cats Lose Weight
From the time they reach adulthood to the age of about 10, a cat’s energy needs decrease by about 3% each year.
Nutrition-wise, that means adult cats need fewer calories as they get older.
In terms of the food we dole out, that 3% can be hard to measure on a year-by-year basis. It can mean they end up gaining just a little bit of weight each year because their calorie needs have dropped. Keeping an eye on their calorie intake can help keep their weight in check.
However, as cats get beyond the age of 10, their calorie needs increase again. It turns out that if they are kept on the same diet as their younger years, their fat levels decrease, they lose muscle, and they have less energy.
The reason for that is they are becoming less efficient at metabolizing protein. As they are getting less nutritional value out of the protein they consume, cats should have their protein and fat consumption increased by about 25% to maintain their weight.
Other Senior Cat Weight Loss Causes
In addition to natural aging processes, there are age-related diseases that can affect your cat’s appetite, food-processing ability, and organ function.
These diseases can require a number of interventions, from dietary changes and therapeutic care to vet intervention.
Therapeutic care includes:
- Vitamin supplements
- Joint care medication
Diseases That Cause Senior Cat Weight Loss
A number of feline degenerative diseases have been linked to old age, causing your cat’s bodily functions to become less efficient over time.
In addition to affecting their weight, these diseases can impact your cat’s:
- Teeth and gums
- Skin and coat
- Digestive system
- Urinary tract
- Joints and muscles
Each is a sign that there is something impacting your cat’s digestive system. Of those conditions, a few common ones include:
- Tooth loss, gingivitis, and gum recession – These are common in older cats and make eating more difficult. One solution may be switching from kibbles to semi-moist or wet food mix.
- Arthritis and joint degeneration – This can affect most older cats, and can be helped both by supplements (like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for cartilage health) as well as making their sleeping and hangout spots more comfortable (and all on the same floor).
- Urinary tract issues like bladder stones and cystitis – If your cat is dealing with pain while urinating, it may stop eating and start to lose weight rapidly.
Other Age-Related Illnesses For Senior Cats
In addition to the more treatable conditions that come with age, our feline companions deal with more life-threatening conditions, too. These include:
- Cancer – Senior cats have been known to get all types of cancer, so should be checked every 6 months for signs.
- Pancreatitis and diabetes – This can result from carb-heavy foods and lead to the need for a controlled diet and insulin shots.
- Hyperthyroidism – This is when your senior can’t control their metabolism and leads to rapid weight loss, overeating, and even kidney failure.
- Kidney failure – As one of the most common reasons cats lose weight, kidney failure is connected with a loss of interest in food and rapid weight loss.
- Heart problems and hypertension – The symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and a disinterest in food that leads to rapid weight loss.
How To Check Your Senior Cat’s Weight
Depending on the kind of cat you have and its coat, it may not be immediately apparent if it has lost weight.
That’s why it’s important to check your senior cat’s weight. You can do so by:
- Feeling the tummy for fat reserves
- Picking your cat up regularly
- Check for a layer of fat by the ribs
There are also warning signs that are often connected with rapid weight loss. They include:
- Difficulty with the litter tray
- Wheezing or coughing
- Significant behavioral changes, like avoiding contact
Fight Senior Cat Weight Loss With Catonsville Cat Clinic
When you know your cat’s weight loss is because of age, a change in its diet can be a big help. Making sure your cat’s getting the right nutrients can lead to improved energy levels, a healthier coat, better organ function, and more muscle mass.
Still, it’s important to know the reasons for that weight loss. At Catonsville Cat Clinic, our team of expert veterinarians can help you understand just what’s going on with your cat.
From there, we can advise on the diet and nutrition to get them back to their proper weight. If it’s more serious, we will set up a plan to handle their health situation as soon as possible.