My Senior Cat is Losing Weight but Still Eating

Senior cats can bring a person a lot of joy, but just as with people, they can have additional health conditions as they age. A cat losing weight but still eating is a reason for concern. Recently, I noticed one of my thirteen-year-old cats was getting thin. And it was not just a loss of a pound. He went from 17 pounds to 13 pounds in less than a year. Read Boy’s story below.

The most common reasons for cats to lose weight and still be eating are:

1. Hyperthyroidism

2. Diabetes

3. Dental Problems

4. Organ Failure

5. Cancer

Eating is a good thing, but still losing weight signifies that your cat has some medical concerns. Of course, the best way to keep your best friend living his best life is to schedule an appointment with the vet. But if you are like me, your curiosity will get the better of you and will want to know how serious these symptoms are.

5 Reasons An Old Cat Is Losing Weight But Still Eating

There are several reasons why your cat might be losing weight. These are some of the more common reasons for weight loss in your elderly feline family members.

1. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is one of the more common reasons that a cat will lose weight especially when they get into their senior years. What is hyperthyroidism? It is a glandular disorder and the most common symptoms are weight loss and increased appetite. The average age of cats diagnosed with hypothyroidism is 12 to 13 years old.

Many cats with overactive thyroids will also experience vomiting, increased drinking and urination can also be symptoms of this disorder. A simple blood test can often diagnose this condition. The most common treatments for feline hyperthyroidism are oral antithyroid medication, surgery and radioactive iodine therapy. 

2. Diabetes 

Another cause for an older cat to lose weight is feline diabetes. Feline diabetes is a condition where the body does not produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar or glucose levels. The symptoms of diabetes are similar to those in humans…increased thirst and increased urination.

This condition also tends to be more common in obese cats. Your cat may also seem to be famished all the time as their bodies are not using the food for fuel. Without treatment, your cat can experience weight loss and loss of appetite. Vomiting, dehydration, and depression can also be symptoms of diabetes.

Once diagnosed, feline diabetes is treatable. Your veterinarian can run a test that will help with the diagnosis of your cat. But in most cases, you will have to learn to give your cat insulin shots. While this condition is not curable, it can be controlled with a proper diet and medication. 

3. Dental Problems

Bad teeth can lead to all sorts of problems in cats. And this disease is not necessarily an old cat’s disease. I had a few cats that had teeth pulled at 2 years old. Symptoms of dental issues in your cat are bad breath, weight loss, bleeding and swollen gums, loose or missing teeth and difficulty eating.

Cats are prone to all the same dental conditions as people, such as; plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontitis, tooth root abscess and tooth loss. 

Regular toothbrushing and dental cleanings are the best way to reduce dental issues with your cat’s teeth. Your cat may need to have teeth removed if they are abscessed or decayed. Cats can live without teeth and if they are diseased they are better off without them. 

4. Organ Failure 

Here again, cats can suffer from the same geriatric conditions as people as they age. Cats can have problems with any of their organs, but kidney issues seem to be the most common organ problems they are likely to face. 

Chronic kidney disease can be caused by infections, cancers, exposure to toxins, and malfunction of the immune system. Unfortunately, by the time the condition is diagnosed the source of the problem may no longer exist. 

Kidney disorders can be diagnosed with blood and urine tests. What are the symptoms that your cat may have a kidney disorder? It starts with excessive drinking and may eventually lead to weight loss, signs of dehydration, poor appetite, smelly breath, a sore mouth, vomiting and weakness. Fits and twitchiness may also be seen in advanced stages.

Treating kidney disease in cats is a discussion for you and your vet. Providing your cat with plenty of clean water is your job, but it is often not that simple. Your cat’s long-term prognosis depends on the severity of his condition.

5. Cancer

Cancer can come in several forms in cats. The most common types are mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinoma, lymphoma and bone cancer. 

Mast Cell Tumors – Cats tend to get lumps and bumps as they age. Some of these can consist of white blood cells (mast cells). They can be benign or malignant. Your vet will advise you if these lumps are reason for concern and how to manage them. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This type of cancer is similar to skin cancer in humans. The squamous cells are what make up your cat’s skin. Respiratory and digestive tracts are also made up of these cells. These cells can develop cancer. Signs of this cancer can be bad breath and sores in the mouth that don’t heal.

Lymphoma – Lymphoma is a form of blood cancer. The lymphatic system is responsible for fluid flow and cleansing throughout the body. The cancerous cells can circulate through your cat’s body. It is believed that Feline Leukemia vaccines are a good preventative measure.

Bone Cancer – While this type of cancer is less common, cats do get it. Unfortunately, bone cancer tends to be aggressive and may start with lameness, swelling and lethargy. It is seen more often in large-breed cats.

Fighting cancer in your pet starts with a trip to the vet at the first sign that things are not normal. If it is not ordinary, schedule an appointment for your best friend.

What Causes a Cat to Get Really Skinny?

Cats of all ages can lose weight. They do not necessarily have to be senior cats. Several of the above conditions can cause weight loss even though your cat eats regularly. The below list can cause weight loss in cats of any age. 

Parasites – Gastrointestinal parasites can cause a lot of problems in your pet, like; roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. And there are the one-celled organisms, such as; Isospora sp., Giardia, Toxoplasm. Some parasites are barely problematic and others can be deadly.

Your cat may experience the following symptoms if they have parasites: dull coat, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, mucousy or bloody feces, loss of appetite, pale mucous membranes, or a potbellied appearance. Medication and cleanliness are the keys to getting rid of and controlling parasites in your pet’s life.

Stress and Depression – Our best friends can be impacted by stress and depression more than you think. If you have ever gone on a trip and someone else cared for your pet, you probably noticed some changes when you returned.  

There can be other things that can cause your pet to experience stress, depression and anxiety. These conditions can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss, flu-like symptoms, changes in litter habits.

Gastrointestinal Problems – Some of the digestive disorders that your cat can experience are acute gastroenteritis, colitis, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and small intestinal malabsorption.

While the most common symptoms of digestive problems are soft stool or diarrhea, your cat may also experience weight loss, vomiting, blood or mucous in the stool, flatulence or abdominal pain. A trip that will help diagnose and treat gastrointestinal disorders. Often a dietary change can do wonders for feline digestive problems.

If your cat is truly “really” skinny, he should go to the vet as soon as possible. Unfortunately, a large weight loss is not usually a good thing. This is not something you can determine without a veterinary medical examination.

Is it Normal for an Old Cat to Get Skinny?

Cats that range in age from 1 – 7 years to have a normal body weight with less than 1% of these cats being obese. As a cat becomes more mature and passes his 7th birthday 28% can become obese

Cats over the age of 12 may start to lose weight and 23% of older cats will be underweight. Cats follow the same timeline for their bodies as humans do. We tend to gain weight as we approach age 50 or more and as we pass later birthdays we lose muscle mass and weight as well.

It is a natural part of life for cats to lose a little bit of weight later in life. A significant amount of weight can indicate bigger problems.

What Should I do if my Cat is Losing Weight?

It does not hurt to give your cat the best quality pet food available. If the weight loss problem is due to a sensitive stomach, changing his diet may give him the help he needs. Look for signs of stress in your cat’s life and try to eliminate situations that can make your cat uncomfortable.

The internet is a great place to get information, but you always want to consult your vet for a diagnosis and treatment. Losing a lot of weight can be serious and the longer you delay diagnosis, the more limited your options may be if your cat needs treatment.

Boy’s Story

My “Boy” was born on April 1, 2007. Yes…he was April Fool’s boy. We never really gave him a name, because he was supposed to get a forever home with a loving family. We took his mother in as a stray and she “Boy” and his sister Pixie 10 days later and we never intended to keep them. 

It turned out Boy and Pixie’s forever home was with our family. It was obvious when Boy was very young he was an eater. We went to a lot of effort to control his food intake and there was a period in his life when he weighed over 20 pounds. Over the next 2 years with weight control food and some exercise, Boy did lose 5 pounds. This did not dampen his desire to scarf down food.

Fast forward 13 years and Boy began to look more “trim”. He had always been considered obese and he was looking good with a slimmer more sleek appearance. But in due time, he lost even more weight. His appetite has never waned and boy very much looked forward to dinner time.

It had become obvious he needed to see the vet as soon as possible. Even though he was still eating the same as he had always done, his weight did not seem normal even for a senior cat. 

The vet did the testing that could be done at a normal vet office and referred him to Blue Pearl Veterinary Hospital for specialty and emergency issues. Boy was diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer). He enjoyed eating up until the day he left us.

Final Thoughts on Weight Loss in Old Cats

Our pets are cherished members of the family and we do everything we can to give them the best life possible. A little bit of weight loss in older cats is not considered out of the ordinary. 

But most responsible owners want peace of mind that their cat is healthy and that means a trip to the vet for some routine tests. This is the best way to ensure your cat does not have any serious medical conditions that could be causing his weight loss.