When Your Cat’s Weight Loss Could Be Cause for Alarm

We have all seen cats that could stand to lose a few pounds; in fact, it’s such a common thing that it has become a bit cliché. On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, there are many cats that are perfectly content living on exactly the amount of calories they need to maintain a sleek physique.

Regardless of a cat’s natural body type and general relationship with food, their owner (or human companion) can generally sense when something’s off, regarding their food intake. And, while unintentional weight loss may be a welcome change of pace for some fat cats, it can also be a sign of chronic disease or other health problems – here’s what you need to know as a cat owner.

cat weight loss cat chronic disease

Old Age, Poor Diet, Anorexia, and Cachexia

Cats can unexpectedly lose weight for a wide variety of reasons, and some weight loss is natural for aging cats. Also, changing your cat’s diet can put them off their food for a bit—especially if their new food is less nutritionally dense than their old food.

There’s also anorexia in cats—typically a product of psychological issues, like depression (cats do not suffer from body image problems, thankfully). But, of greatest concern to cat owners, is cachexia—or wasting—due to chronic illness.

Non-Chronic Conditions That May Cause Weight Loss

Short-term conditions that are not life threatening can typically be diagnosed and treated, providing your cat with the opportunity to gain back the lost weight and to live a full and long life. But weight loss doesn’t necessarily have to be linked to a chronic condition.

There are many other medical issues that can trigger cachexia in cats, including: intestinal blockage, stomach issues, pregnancy, too much exposure to the elements, skin issues, certain neurological conditions, viral infection, fungal infection, bacterial infection, and parasite infestations.

Chronic Diseases Linked to Wasting

Chronic diseases that are linked to cachexia may or may not be more life threatening, and many are manageable with long-term contemporary veterinary care. These diseases and conditions include diabetes, Addison’s disease, thyroid conditions, IBS (inflammatory bowel disease), pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, and some liver disease.

Unfortunately, there are also several types of cancer that can occur in our feline friends. But, like in humans, early detection and adequate treatment can often make the difference between surviving cancer, and managing the outcome of cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cachexia

Regardless of what is at the root of your cat’s recent unexplained weight loss, the first step toward reassuring yourself and safeguarding their health is a trip to your vet. As mentioned above, there is a wide variety of potential causes of weight loss in cats, not all of which are chronic diseases or fatal conditions.

A visit to the vet will typically begin with a full examination and discussion of what you’ve observed of the cat’s behavior in general and in regard to their eating and eliminating habits. Following this, tests will need to be run to arrive at a diagnosis. Regardless of the outcome, visiting the vet is the best first step toward addressing your cat’s health issues.

Author: Giano Panzarella