how to fatten up an old cat
Cat Food and Hydration

How To Get A Senior Cat To Gain Weight

It is normal for cats to lose weight during their golden years. However, caring for a thin and skinny cat can be a huge challenge for any owner. That’s especially true if your cat loses weight rapidly or without warning. This can indicate diseases, illnesses, and even organ failure. By choosing the right meal plan, consulting with a vet, and keeping your feline active, you may be able to help it bounce back.

You can encourage senior cats to gain weight by offering a variety of food. Soft and wet food will be easier to chew and more appetizing. You can warm up the food in the microwave and spice it with extra flavors to improve your cat’s willingness to eat. Picking food that’s high in fat and protein will round out an aging cat’s diet. That can be paired with supplements that bring up its vitamin and mineral intake.

You can also free-feed your aging cat, so it doesn’t skip a meal just because it’s not hungry at certain times. Place food bowls away from water bowls and keep other cats away from the senior’s food bowl. This will ensure your aging cat doesn’t need to compete for a meal. If your cat still loses weight rapidly, you should consult with a vet. If it has digestive issues, illnesses, or dental problems, it will need expert help to regain weight.

Is It Common For Older Cats To Lose Weight?

Elderly cats normally lose weight as they age. In healthy cats, this is because of how their metabolism slows down. It becomes more difficult to process food, so they eat less of it. They’re also less active, so they require fewer calories to stay healthy. Extra weight is lost, but as long as it’s done in a gradual and controlled manner, it’s healthy.

In other cases, an old feline will lose enough weight to become skinny and bony. This is usually due to health complications that are part of the aging process. Diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and even arthritis are common in elderly cats. They are often characterized by rapid weight loss.

No matter the case, it’s important to help your old cat maintain a healthy weight or gain back some of what it’s lost. As long as it doesn’t become underweight, it can enjoy its twilight years without issue. If it appears to struggle with keeping the pounds on, there are some ways you can intervene.

What To Feed An Older Cat That Is Losing Weight

Helping an older cat regain some body mass is far easier than you’d think. You need to give it more food, albeit in smaller portions each day. The more food your cat eats, the more weight it will gain. After all, more food translates to more calories.

If your cat has a health issue, its diet may need to be tailored. By including more nutrient-dense foods, you can ensure that it gains weight and is more energetic. Here’s what you should feed an older cat that is losing weight:

old cat losing weight but eating well

Age-Appropriate Diet

Senior cats require a specialist diet to meet their nutritional needs. This will contain more protein, as well as supplements to boost their vitamin intake. Senior-specific food is usually cut into smaller pieces and made softer. This ensures it’s easier for your older cat to chew and swallow.

Wet Food vs. Dry Food

Most senior cats struggle with eating dry food due to dental issues. Their gums and teeth are not strong enough to chew through dense ingredients. Moreover, some diseases like hyperthyroidism can make it hard for your cat to digest dry food. If you notice that your cat is having trouble, consider replacing its diet with wet food.


Your cat might need extra support to restore lost weight and maintain its health. If it’s been on hunger strike for a while, the depletion of its vitamin and mineral stores will be the greatest issue.

If your cat is in bad health, you can get higher-grade supplements from a vet. Although cats rely on a diet of fats and proteins, they also require other nutrients to build muscle and store fat.

Best Way To Get A Senior Cat To Gain Weight

The best way to get a senior cat to gain weight is to provide it with plenty of food and water at all times. Cats love to eat small meals throughout the day rather than at scheduled times.

Your senior cat’s napping routine and play times may leave it without an appetite at those exact hours. By letting it graze, you ensure it doesn’t go hungry. Here are other tips for making your senior cat eat more frequently:

Make Food More Appetizing

Elderly cats tend to lose weight fast because their senses decline during their golden years. A lack of smell can make your feline will lose its appetite. You can help restore it by:

  • Adding aromatic ingredients
  • Heating the food to enhance the aroma

Just make sure none of the flavorings and additives are poisonous to cats, such as spices.

Move The Food Bowls

If your cat is scared or nervous during mealtimes, then consider changing the position of its bowl. The bowl could be near a noisy air conditioner or a cycling furnace that is scaring the cat. It may also dislike having its water so close to its food or have to compete with other pets.

Wet And Dry Food

Consider interchanging between dry and wet food, depending on your cat’s preferences. Some cats struggle with eating dry kibble, so canned food works better. On the flip side, your cat may dislike the taste of canned food and prefer kibble. If your feline struggles to eat one or the other, try softening it as best as you can.

Older Cat Eats But Losing Weight

If you have a senior cat that is eating but losing weight, you should consider changing its diet. The food that you provide could be missing vital nutrients that are essential for a healthy weight.

According to Companion Animal Medicine, older cats tend to derive more calories from protein-rich foods than younger cats. This means your cat’s food needs to be rich in fats and proteins at all times.

Your cat may also grow malnourished because it’s feeding on empty calories. Your average cat food may not have enough protein, or your feline may need extra supplements. If your elderly cat is skin and bones, this is the best course of action. While those are all easy fixes, there are other possible causes. These will need the intervention of a vet:


Your cat may be losing weight (despite eating) because of thyroid issues. Hyperthyroidism is a disease common in senior cats, and it’s usually characterized by rapid weight loss. Other chronic illnesses associated with weight loss in older cats include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

Digestive Issues

Feline weight loss can usually be attributed to gastrointestinal issues. As cats grow older, their digestive systems become more delicate and unable to break down foods easily. If your cat is eating well but losing weight, it may have digestive issues.

Organ Failure

If your old cat is losing weight but eating, it could be a result of organ failure. Older cats are more susceptible to organ failure due to their advancing age and declining senses. A clear red flag is rapid weight loss.

Intestinal Parasites

Your senior cat might be eating well but still lose weight because of intestinal parasites. Common ones include:

  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Pinworms

Diagnosing intestinal parasitic infections can be difficult. After all, most symptoms are not evident during the initial stages. As the infection progresses, your cat may vomit, have diarrhea, and start losing weight.

Why Is My Senior Cat Losing Weight?

It is common for senior cats to lose weight during their twilight years. Some causes are attributed to medical conditions, while others are as a result of poor eating habits. Here are possible reasons to explore:

Dental Problems

As cats grow older, they become more prone to dental issues. For example, periodontal disease and gum disease might cause your feline to stop eating properly. Your cat might struggle to eat dry food, and this could lead to weight loss. Try giving your cat softer food or taking it to the vet for a dental checkup.

Feline Diseases

Even though cats have nine lives, as they say, all felines become more vulnerable to illness in old age. Your senior cat may develop conditions such as:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Inflammatory bowel movement

All these feline illnesses are characterized by rapid weight loss. The good news is, you can help your cat by taking it to the vet for regular check-ups. By catching these sicknesses early, you can apply treatment long before weight loss becomes a problem.

Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite is a common phenomenon among senior cats. Your feline may not be able to taste, smell, or clearly see the food any longer. Without these tempting factors, your cat might not be interested in eating.

Poor Eating Habits

Your elderly cat might develop bad eating habits that lead to a drop in its calorie intake. For example, it may:

  • Eat at random times
  • Spread its food all around its bowl
  • Spend more time defending its bowl than actually eating the food

This can lead to weight loss over a short period. You can retrain your cat to develop good eating habits by:

  • Letting it eat separately from other cats
  • Encouraging it to slow down
  • Enticing it with new meals

Middle Age Spread

Middle-age spread is a state where fat accumulates around the butt and abdomen while leaving other parts of the body deprived. Although middle-age spread is a condition mostly seen in humans, it can also apply to your cat. Fat might accumulate around your cat’s belly, leaving the rest of its body skinny.

Lack of Access To Food

Sometimes your senior cat is losing weight because you don’t give it enough food. In some cases, you offer enough food, but your cat isn’t capable of reaching its bowl. If you have more than one cat at home, the younger, more energetic cat might be eating all the food.

Causes Of Unexplained Weight Loss In Older Cats

Unintentional and unexplained weight loss in older cats can be a great concern. This won’t concern the food you’re offering or your cat’s appetite, but more serious issues:

Stress and Anxiety

Just like humans, cats get stressed and anxious. A depressed cat will lose its appetite for food and, in turn, lose weight. Causes of distress in cats vary from loud noises to dirty food bowls. Your cat may also become apprehensive because of strangers in the house.

Diabetes Mellitus

An elderly cat might lose weight suddenly because of a chronic condition like diabetes mellitus. This illness develops as a result of the body’s inability to produce insulin or respond to it. If your cat has diabetes, it will start drinking water excessively and losing its appetite for food.


Cancer is another cause of unexplained weight loss in cats. Any form of cancer that affects the internal organs will always lead to gastrointestinal problems. When this occurs, your cat will be unable to eat and digest food properly. Other symptoms might include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite


Hyperthyroidism usually starts as a benign tumor in the thyroid glands and it leads to overproduction of thyroxine hormones. Excess thyroxine hormones will result in:

  • Muscle wasting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased urination

If left untreated, hyperthyroidism may cause heart disease or even lead to death. It’s rare in felines and can be detected early.

Dental Disease

Your cat may be losing weight because of a sore tooth. Toothaches will lead to cats suddenly refusing to eat. This will, in turn, make the cat lose weight.

Other dental problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, and periodontal disease may contribute to this problem. You should watch out for signs such as:

  • Excess saliva
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing

Kidney Disease

Older cats are more prone to chronic conditions such as kidney disease. When your cat’s kidneys do not function properly, they cannot dispel toxins from the body. This will lead to muscle wasting as the disease progresses. Other symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Suppressed appetite
  • Excessive weakness
  • Lethargy

Severe Weight Loss in Senior Cats

There’s a big difference between gradual weight loss in an older cat and severe weight loss. If your cat has lost a large amount of weight in a short amount of time, that does narrow down the causes. You should look out for:

Gastrointestinal Problems

Senior cats are more susceptible to developing gastrointestinal problems. Any issue that affects digestion will always lead to severe loss of weight.

Organ Failure

The metabolism of a cat tends to decline as it gets older. In serious cases, this decline may be attributed to organ failure. As your cat reaches its twilight years, some of its organs begin to wear down and may eventually fail. Organ failure will subsequently lead to bodily malfunctions, and your cat will start to lose weight rapidly.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis attacks the gastrointestinal tract of cats leading to wasting. If your cat has this condition, it will start to lose weight rapidly. Fortunately, the disease is treatable and does not cause significant harm.

what to feed an older cat that is losing weight

Why Is My Cat Thin At The Back End?

The back end of a cat is usually narrower than the rest of the body. However, as your cat ages, the hindquarters will become thinner. Lack of eating, feline illnesses, stress, and dental problems can aggravate the situation. If your cat is rapidly losing weight in its hindquarters, here are the causes:

  • Sick
  • Depressed
  • Poorly fed

It is important to visit a vet right away in case you notice any changes to your cat’s body mass and structure. The vet will help rule out any diseases and provide the appropriate medication to help your cat get back in shape.

How To Make My Cat Gain Muscle

While your cat may regain weight in short order, muscle takes far longer to develop. You should not expect instant results, and you will need to help your cat along. Here are a few tips to make your skinny cat bulk up.

Give Your Cat A Variety Of Foods

Cats can become choosy when you give them the same type of food every day. Giving your cat options by changing its diet can help improve its appetite. Your cat will be less fussy about food if you mix and match between different flavors.

Focus On The Proteins

As mentioned, older cats derive their calories more from protein-rich foods compared to younger cats. If you want your skinny senior cat to gain muscle, then focus more on proteins. Avoid diets that have any filler or empty calories.

Different Textures of Food

As cats get older, they begin losing their preference for certain foods. You may notice that your cat now prefers wet food instead of dry food, or vice versa. This may be due to dental problems or weak gums.

Whatever the case, experimenting with different textures can make a difference. The change should be gradual to help your cat adjust to the new diet.

Encourage Movement

According to Medicine, older cats that move less tend to lose their muscle mass more quickly. You should encourage your cat to stay active. You can achieve this by playing with your cat or giving it toys that entice it to play. Make sure that you reward regular movement with special treats.