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How to get a skinny old cat to gain weight

Updated February 26, 2019

Cats begin to experience age-related diseases and conditions when they reach 7 to 12 years of age, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. As cats get older, some may lose weight due to a variety of reasons, including medical and degenerative conditions. At the first signs of weight loss or illness, take measures to treat the underlying cause. If your senior cat is thin and underweight, you need to adjust its feeding routine to help it gain back the weight it has lost.

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  1. Purchase several different types of moist and dry cat food and see which ones your cat likes best. Your cat may not like the food you currently feed it and will eat more of another type of food, thus gaining weight. As cats age, they sometimes become more finicky and will suddenly prefer another food, according to the PetEducation.com website.

  2. Feed your senior cat a high-calorie, canned cat food high in protein and antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene. Older cats with dental disease cannot chew dry cat food and are able to eat canned cat food because of its soft consistency.

  3. Heat your cat's food in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds. Older cats have a reduced sense of smell and some do not eat because they cannot smell the food you offer them. Heating the food intensifies the scent and makes it more appetizing for your senior cat. For elderly cats with dental problems, mix 6 to 12 ml (1 to 2 tsp) of low-sodium chicken broth into the food to enhance the flavour and make the food softer so your cat does not have to chew it.

  4. Pulverise your cat's favourite treats in a food processor to make a powder out of them. Sprinkle the powder over your cat's food to attract it with the scent of something delicious. Coax your cat over with the treats and let it smell the treat-coated food, which should make your cat want to eat. Allow free access to the food during the day so that your cat can eat smaller meals at a time if it wishes.

  5. Give your cat a high-calorie supplement twice per day to increase its weight and caloric intake. You can purchase these gel-like supplements through pet supply stores. Place the gel on your finger and allow your cat to lick it off or rub the gel on your cat's tongue. If your cat will eat wet, canned food, mix the supplement into the food itself. Feed this supplement to an extremely weak and elderly cat that has not eaten over a period of one to two days to jump start its metabolism and entice it to eat more calories, according to the experts at Vetinfo.

  6. Tip

    Ask your veterinarian about prescribing a high-calorie cat food for your cat. You can only purchase these special foods through your veterinarian and they contain more calories than traditional diets available in pet stores. Find your cat and bring it over to its food at mealtimes. Senior cats can suffer from hearing loss and may not hear you call for it or hear you preparing its meal. Feed your cat on a set schedule every day so your older cat knows when to expect its food. Place ice cubes or an ice-pack in a bowl under your cat's dish to keep the wet food fresh during the day, while allowing it free access to it. Keep your senior cat's food near its favourite spot to sleep since arthritis may prevent it from walking too far to eat.


    Always see a veterinarian at the first signs of weight loss in your cat and especially if your cat refuses to eat. Cats who do not eat over a period of a day or two can cause a condition known as hepatic lipidosis, which can be fatal. Take your cat to a veterinarian to diagnose any underlying diseases causing the weight loss in your cat. Senior cats can suffer from a variety of medical conditions that cause weight loss including hyperthyroidism, diabetes, kidney or liver failure, cancer, arthritis and cardiomyopathy, according to Mike Richards, DVM of the Vetinfo website. In addition, parasitic infections or dental issues could cause both weight loss and a refusal to eat. Have your vet provide a treatment plan for these illnesses to properly treat them.

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Things You'll Need

  • High-calorie canned cat food
  • Chicken broth
  • Cat treats
  • High-calorie cat supplement

About the Author

Susan Paretts

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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