Whether you work for a shelter, recently adopted a cat, your cat has become an elder or your cat has developed a condition that causes them to lose a lot of weight, almost everyone has been in a situation where they have had to ask how they can make a frail or skinny cat gain weight.
Weight control can feel like one of the most daunting tasks to take on, especially if you have a finicky cat who doesn’t like any of the food you give them. I know when we first adopted Kalista she was very small and a bit underweight, but with some patience, we got Kalista’s weight up, though now she may be a bit tubbier than we hoped for!
To put things into perspective let’s discuss what the ideal weight for a cat should be.
HOW MUCH SHOULD MY CAT WEIGH
Weight highly depends on the breed of your cat, though the average domestic shorthair should weigh in at around 10 pounds. If a cat is a bit over or under 10 pounds you should not be too worried as it could have to do with your cat’s body structure. For example, Kalista is a very tall cat, she’s naturally long and thin. On the flip side, Beau is built like a tank. He’s short, stubby and has a fairly wide natural build. That being said, it can safely be assumed that Beau will always weigh a bit more than Kalista based on the structure of his body and bone density.
The average Mainecoon should weigh in at around 25 pounds, again based on their body structure, bone density and build.
On the side of the perspective, some breeds of cats, like orientals, will always be petite sitting on an average of 5 pounds. That being said, it is always important to consult a vet before taking steps to make your cat gain or lose weight.
The best way to analyze whether or not your cat is a good weight is by checking their ribs and backbone. If you can feel both the backbones and ribs of your cat without seeing them stick out, your cat is probably an ideal weight. Cats should have an hourglass shape with no “pooch” stomach hanging.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS MY CAT MAY HAVE LOST WEIGHT?
Before we talk about how to treat your cat for weight loss, I’d like to say how important it is to talk to your vet especially if your cat began losing weight suddenly.
Weight loss is commonly associated with illness, especially when it is sudden. The most common reasons being: Anorexia, Hyperthyroidism, Pancreas Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Diabetes, Viral Infections, Skin Lesions (which can cause a loss of protein) Bacterial Infections, Cancer, Gallbladder or Liver Disease, Fungal Infections, or Worms.
Now, this isn’t to say that your cat has only lost weight due to these conditions as weight loss can also be attributed to the amount of activity a cat partakes in as well as the atmosphere the cat is in. What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes anxiety and stress can cause a cat to not want to eat. If a cat feels unsafe they may choose not to eat, so take note of your cat’s behaviour to ensure that they feel as safe as possible.
Cats may prefer certain places to eat in their homes and may feel safer eating by you. Our cat Kalista, for example, refuses to eat by our front door (or anywhere within 2-3 meters from it) because she’s afraid of strangers. If she hears any noise while she’s eating she will often walk away from her food to either investigate what the noise is or hide from it. In situations like this, you will want to investigate what it is that is making your cat upset or nervous and either remove it (if you can) or mask it with either white-noise/another sound or mask the scent.
Again, in all cases where weight loss is involved, it is extremely important that you consult a vet to ensure that the weight loss isn’t due to an underlying health condition.
ADVICE TO HELP YOUR CAT GAIN WEIGHT
As mentioned before, it’s extremely important that you speak to your vet before changing your cat’s diet, however, it’s also important that you have some information/questions to bring to the vet.
In general, when trying to help a cat gain weight you are going to try to find food that has higher proteins or fats. That being said, this is why you’re going to want to speak to the vet before changing food as too much protein or too much fat can be harmful to a cat’s kidneys and other vital organs. It’s also a good idea to start counting your cat’s intake/calories and although it can be quite a bit of work it will ensure that you know how much your cat is gaining based on the food they are eating.
Often vets will recommend feeding cats kitten food, even if they are adults since it has higher amounts of fat and protein. That being said, kitten food is usually safe for adult cats even though it’s not marketed as “all-life-stages.” Kitten food can also be beneficial for adult cats with sensitive stomachs as they are usually made to ensure that kittens don’t get upset stomachs or diarrhea.
MY FAVOURITE BRANDS TO FEED FOR WEIGHT GAIN
By far Instinct is one of my favourite brands of food. It’s also one of the first brands we tried with Kalista. I actually even did a pretty detailed review of their wet food which landed the company a full 5/5.
Instinct has a number of different food blends, ranging from partial freeze-dried raw to a boosted protein mixer blend. Due to Instinct’s extensive amount of blends and different types of feed, and high quality, I am quite confident in recommending Instinct and would be surprised if a vet would recommend against it.
By far one of the most common household names, Wellness has great blends of wet and dry kitten foods. While I personally like their CORE line the best they do have a regular line of kitten food which should help with your journey to weight gain.
Not only is Weruva made from fresh ingredients, but a lot of Weruva’s foods are also human grade. That being said it’s a fairly transparent brand that really lets you see what they make their foods out of. Other lines from Weruva I’m a fan of include Truluxe and although personally less preferred than Cats in the Kitchen, their B.F.F line is by far one of the most popular lines out of all pet store food.
Blue is another household name mostly due to their extremely high commercial budgets, but honestly, they’re a pretty solid food. Before Beau was diagnosed with urinary problems we had him on Blue Buffalo, though on the salmon mix.
Blue, similar to the other companies, has many lines of food including my favourite WILDERNESS line which has some pretty high protein compared to their other blends. I would stay away from Salmon though and stick to chicken, just because it tends to fatten up cats a bit more compared to the sliming salmon.