Unintentional weight loss in cats can indicate underlying medical issues. Weight loss is always a bit disconcerting, particularly if it happens suddenly. What does feline weight loss mean, and when should you be concerned?
To Eat or Not to Eat?
That is the question. Weight loss in cats happens in one of two ways: either the cat stops eating (or just starts eating less) and therefore loses body mass, or the continue eating the same amount but their body burns through the energy too quickly.
Understanding why your cat’s body can’t keep on weight – inappetence or metabolic issues – is the first step in figuring out what’s causing the issue. Now let’s break down a few of the most common causes of feline weight loss.
Common Causes of Feline Weight Loss
Anxiety or Stress: Just like in humans, cats’ emotional states are directly tied to their physiological well-being. A cat who is anxious, bored, depressed, or stressed may lose its appetite. Mental afflictions can even cause changes to the metabolic system. The good news? There are several prescription medications available that may help.
Parasites: Feline parasites literally keep themselves alive by stealing your cat’s food from the inside. If your cat has an intestinal parasite, their body is simply not retaining enough nutrients. Parasites are likely if your cat’s appetite is normal or even more than usual and the weight still won’t stay on. Some parasites like worms can leave visible signs in your cat’s poop, too. A prescription dewormer can help.
Hyperthyroidism: This mysterious disease has become exponentially more common in senior cats over the past several decades. Caused by a problem in the thyroid gland, hyperthyroidism in cats can result in dramatic weight loss, nausea, increased thirst and urination, greasy fur, and hyperactivity. There are several treatment options available depending on the severity of each cat’s case.
Cancer: Weight loss is one of the most common signs of feline cancer. Many different forms of cancer cause weight loss and there are several ways to detect them including X-rays, ultrasounds, bloodwork, and/or urinalysis. Check to see if your cat has any of the other common signs of pet cancer here.
Diabetes: Most prevalent in older cats, diabetes isn’t a death sentence. It can result in drastic weight loss, often accompanied by a sharp uptick in thirst, and it must usually be managed with medication. Sluggishness and sweetly-scented breath (seriously) are also signs of diabetes in cats.
FIP: Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a serious viral infection commonly passed from cat to cat. Cats who are frequently in close quarters to other cats are most at risk. It causes weight loss (referred to as “wasting”) and can result in an antibiotic-resistant fever. If you have concerns, be sure to talk to your vet about making sure your cat is regularly vaccinated against FIP.
Aside from the causes mentioned above, there are dozens more reasons your cat could be shedding pounds. The moral of the story? If your cat is losing weight and you don’t know why, consult with your vet. Unexplained feline weight loss shouldn’t be taken lightly!