Why Is My Cat Losing Weight?

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed that my 12 year-old cat appears to be losing weight. I’ve always used the free-feed feeding method for Smoki and until now, it has worked really well. Weight loss in cats can be triggered by a number of reasons.  First and foremost, eliminate diseases and disorders, dental problems or gastrointestinal issues by taking your cat to the vet for blood work and a good once over.  Smoki’s exam revealed no medical reason for her weight loss.  As they age, cats are likely to show changes in weight.  Just as humans, their metabolism changes. Some may get a little hippy, while some may lose weight. Smoki showed no symptoms of illness other than  weight loss.

I racked my brain trying to ascertain just what could be causing her weight loss. Here are a few things I considered as possible contributing factors:

1. Stress and Depression –  It seemed Smoki’s weight loss coincided with a new addition to our family in  the form of a puppy named Baylie, yet another reason for me to feel guilty for bringing a dog into Smoki’s quiet domain. Just like humans, some animals eat more when they are stressed; others eat less. Cats may lose their appetites due to major changes such as moving or the arrival of a new pet or other pets bothering them while they try to eat.  I noticed that with Baylie in the house, Smoki was less likely to run and play and would not eat while Baylie was hovering. Both are signs pointing toward her experiencing some degree of stress.

2. Food Placement  – Cats like to eat in a quiet, clean, safe environment and away from their litter box.  You wouldn’t like to eat in the bathroom and neither do cats nor do they like to eat on dirty dishes. By necessity to prevent Baylie from gorging on   Smoki’s food, her food and water bowl placement  was hanged. Unfortunately, this discombobulated Smoki’s routine and since cats are creatures of habit, more than likely caused her stress.  I made certain Smoki’s food and water bowls were free of Baylie’s scent, as Baylie was, on occasion, known to partake of  Smoki’s food and water when I wasn’t looking.  I discounted the DDC (dog drool contamination) theory when I spotted Smoki drinking from Baylie’s water bowl. Nevertheless, I relocated Smoki’s feeding bowls to a quiet place primarily so she could eat uninterrupted.

3. Upper Respiratory Infection – If a cat gets an upper respiratory infection and can’t smell their food, they may often stop eating.  Cats don’t understand not being able to smell their food.  They rely on their sense of smell to tell them whether something is food and good to eat. I noticed this when Smoki had an upper respiratory infection the previous year, but she showed no current signs of an infection.

3. Dislike of Once Preferred Food –  With the addition of Baylie to the household, Smoki, in the beginning, preferred to be anywhere Baylie was not; which meant she spent more time outdoors. To make sure she continued to free feed, I always made certain she had a food station set up outdoors. Having multiple feeding stations along with using a feeder indoors, prevented me from getting a true account of just how much Smoki was eating. When I realized she was losing weight, I began to monitor her food intake.  It wasn’t long before I noticed she was eating very little.  It appears that the dry cat food Smoki had loved for years no longer appealed to her.  She ate with the  fervor of a child picking at a plate of veggies. How could I not have realized this before now?

It appears that Smoki’s weight loss may have been a combination of factors; stress from the changes in the home with the addition of a puppy as well as her sudden and unusual disdain for the dry cat food she had loved for years.  I was relieved that it was not a medical issue but at a loss as to how to satisfy her dietary needs. First, I tried her on high calorie wet cat food but she wanted no part of it. Wouldn’t touch it.  Then I read an article about how to help your cat gain weight. It recommended that you put your aging cat on kitten food just long enough to jump-start their appetite.  While some may not agree with this method, I thought it would be worth a try as I closely monitored her health. I purchased dry kitten food of the same brand she has eaten for years and viola!  She ate like a champ and begin to put on some much-needed pounds.  I will keep her on the kitten formula for a few more weeks until she reaches her optimum weight before transitioning her to the adult formula of the same brand.

Your pet’s dietary needs change over the course of their life, from birth to adolescence to adulthood and then to old age. It’s always wise to consult your veterinarian prior to changing your pet’s diet .