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How to Put Weight on Your Cat – 8 Ways That Actually Work

When your cat is physically unwell, he usually has ways to let you know. He might be lethargic, meow at you more than usual, purr more, or he may even start growling. Another way to tell if something’s medically wrong with your cat is when he has excessive weight loss.

You are obviously concerned for your furry friend’s health and wellbeing, so you want him to beef back up. How do you put more weight on your cat? First, we need to discuss if she is really underweight and look into the reasons why she is so skinny. That way, you can accurately address the problem (with the expertise of your vet, of course).

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How to Tell if Your Cat is Underweight

It’s hard to know whether your cat is underweight or not. A lot will depend on his breed and size (big cat breeds will weigh more than small ones). In addition to this, when your cat is spayed or neutered, your cat is likely to have a sagging belly that’s more pronounced than cats without this surgery.

A checkup with your vet will determine for sure if your cat is indeed underweight, but you can informally check yourself with these few ways in the comfort of your own home.

  • The Body Condition System is a tool used for cats and dogs to assess their looks and weight. A score in the middle of the spectrum is where your cat should be. Your vet will likely have a chart that he or she uses, but you can find them online, too. This one from Drake University is clear and useful.
  • The “hand test” is another way you can determine a weight problem in your cat. First, feel the back of your hand, then feel your cat’s ribs. If the ribs feel similar to your hand bones, your cat is likely at a normal weight. However, if a cat’s ribs feel more like your knuckles, he is probably underweight.
a shy underweight cat
Image Credit: Cédric VT, Unsplash

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Why Is My Cat So Skinny?

An underweight cat is not a healthy cat. You’ll want to figure out what’s wrong with her or her situation to get her back up to normal weight again. Here are a few underlying reasons why your cat might experience too much weight loss.

Yucky food

This is probably the easiest problem to fix: maybe your cat just doesn’t care for the food you bought. A picky cat might choose to not eat her food when it doesn’t taste good to her.

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Cats who have too much stress in their day-to-day life might lose their appetite and choose not to eat like usual. This could be caused by things like a recent move or a new member of the pet family.

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Gastrointestinal problems

Cats can suffer from tummy troubles just like humans do. It’s not uncommon to see diarrhea, constipation, gastroenteritis and pancreatitis in your feline friend. Sometimes these conditions go away on their own, but others will require some treatment.

A man hand strokes a cat on a sore stomach
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock
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Worms and parasites of all kinds can get into your kitty’s system. These nasty buggers consume a lot of the food your cat eats. In this case, your cat might be eating just fine, or a lot more than usual, but still not put on any weight.

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Dental problems

A painful tooth or tender gums will discourage your cat from eating, especially if her food is hard and crunchy. A vet will be able to check her teeth for potential problems.

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Hyperthyroidism is a disease defined by an overactive thyroid. In this case, a cat’s metabolism would shoot way up, causing her to lose weight and look skinny.

vet holding burma cat
Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock
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Old age

When a cat ages, her vision and sense of smell will deteriorate, as well as her bones. She may not be able to smell or taste the food as she used to, therefore decreasing her appetite. Arthritis and partial blindness might make it difficult for her to actually get to her food bowl to eat.

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In the unfortunate case of cat cancer, a tumor might be developing in your cat’s intestinal system. Cancer is the most common cause of feline death.

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Sometimes, when a cat is on a medication, the side effects can include decreased appetite. Your vet will be able to advise you on how to address this issue.

Scottish Cat with gold eyes takes a pill
Image Credit: Iryna Imago, Shutterstock

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The 8 Ways to Put Weight on Your Cat

Now that you have pondered the possible reasons your cat might be underweight, it’s time to try some of these surefire ways to get him back up to normal size.

1. Have a Game Plan (With the Vet)

It’s always a great idea to take your cat to the vet and talk with her about possible solutions to your cat’s underweight issue. Your vet will be able to run tests on things you both suspect are wrong with your cat. She will be able to advise you on which direction to take to put more weight on your cat.

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2. Change Up the Main Course

Have you ever gotten so tired of a certain food because you ate it over and over again? Your cat can feel the same way about his food. Even if you take lots of time preparing kitty’s food, try offering a simpler option for a change.

Maybe your cat is tired of dry food, and he might take to wet food. You could also try adding water or adding unsalted chicken broth to your cat’s dry food. One proven way to get your cat to eat his food is by cutting up aromatic rotisserie chicken pieces and adding them to his food.

cat food in feeding bowl
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

What’s Best, Wet or Dry Food?

It depends. For a cat that needs to put on weight, the consensus is that dry food is better. A cat eating dry food will intake more calories than eating wet food, according to Veterinary Practice News.

Amp up the calorie intake even more by switching to dry food made for kittens. However, if your cat is sick of dry food, feeding him wet food might help him eat more food in general than dry.

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3. Feed Your Cat Small, Frequent Meals

Did you know that a cat’s stomach is only the size of a ping pong ball? No wonder Fluffy can’t eat too much in one sitting. A good rule of thumb for frequent feedings is one tablespoon of food at a time. That way, your cat won’t overeat and get sick.

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4. Destress Your Cat’s Life

We all know how it feels to be nervous; your stomach usually experiences all sorts of sensations. If your cat is not eating, she could be too stressed or on edge. Try to put yourself in your cat’s situation…did something new happen in her life? Help her unstress by offering her some comfort. Praise her when she eats to encourage good behavior; after all, she will feel better if she eats normally.

Pay attention to whether feeding time, in particular, is stressful. If you dote on her while eating, maybe she needs some space. If another cat is being aggressive about the food, create separate spaces for them to eat.

Cat sleeping on top of laundry basket
Image Credit: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock
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5. Zap the Food

One method of making your cat’s food more appetizing is by heating up her food in the microwave before serving it. This way, the food will be aromatic and entice her with the smell. Put it in a microwave-safe bowl first, then heat it up for about 10 seconds or so. The best food temperature would be about 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the same as her body temperature.

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6. Clean the Food Bowl

Has it been a while since your cat’s food bowl has been cleaned out? It might be giving off an unappetizing smell. Giving it a thorough scrub with soap and water might help him eat more. Wash and rinse the food bowl well before the next feeding time.

feline eating
Image Credit: Luisella Planeta Leoni, Pixabay
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7. Offer Snacks and Supplements

It’s always nice to treat your feline! Give her something new and exciting to remind her that eating is a pleasurable activity. Redbarn Protein Puffs are a great snack for cats who need a boost of protein, and Tomlyn creates a supplement specific for promoting weight gain in cats.

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8. Check into Appetite-Stimulating Medication

Ask your vet if appetite-stimulating medication is right for your cat. These come in pill, gel, and patch forms. Gel versions can be put on your cat’s gums or directly on the skin, and the patch would also go on his skin. About an hour after consuming this medication, your cat will have a growing appetite.

DIY pill pocket for cat
Image Credit: Ovrs

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Cats who are losing too much weight need to be checked out for underlying medical problems. Do what’s best and get them checked out by your local vet, so you know exactly how to get him to gain more weight. It could take some time to figure out how to put weight on your cat so he isn’t so skinny anymore, so you want to waste as little time as possible. We hope your efforts to get him fatter go well, so you have a happy, healthy cat once again.

See also:

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Featured Image Credit: Ivonne Wierink, Shutterstock