Why Is My Cat Losing Weight?

It is only natural for cat owners to worry when their cat starts losing weight. This article will discuss several causes for feline weight loss, including mild to severe medical conditions. Prompt veterinary evaluation is important to diagnose and treat weight loss in the cat.

For consultation, comprehensive testing and treatment of your cat’s undiagnosed weight loss, consider making an appointment with one of our board certified internal medicine specialists: call Atlantic Veterinary Internal Medicine in Annapolis at (410) 224-0121, Towson at (410) 828-0911 or Annapolis at (410) 441-3304.

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Your Cat May Be Stressed or Anxious

Animals tend to eat less food when they are anxious or stressed out, and your cat could potentially be losing weight because of chronic stress. Here are some common signs of extreme stress and anxiety that you should look for in your cat:

  • Hiding and isolating themselves
  • Going to the bathroom outside of their litter box
  • Excessive meowing or yowling
  • Excessive grooming
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Excessive scratching and other destructive behaviors
  • Lethargy
  • Aggressive behaviors

Minimizing or eliminating the stimuli causing your cat’s stress response is ideal. When this is not possible, making your cat feel comfortable and safe is key. You will likely also benefit from visiting a veterinarian, and, possibly, an animal behaviorist to help you and your cat through this process.

Your Cat May Have Dental Disease

Dental disease, including a fractured tooth, severe gingivitis, and a tooth abscess, can cause oral pain and difficulty chewing. Your cat may lose weight from decreased intake as a result. Your veterinarian will want to examine your cat’s mouth to rule out underlying dental disease.

Your Cat May Have a Gastrointestinal (GI) Issue

Like in people, GI tract issues could cause a reduced appetite in cats. Often, but not always, this will be accompanied by other symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, such as constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. This can cause your cat to lose weight over time. There are number of medical conditions causing GI disease in the cat. Diagnostics usually include lab work, fecal, abdominal imaging, and, possibly, endoscopy or surgery.

Your Cat May Have an Infectious Disease

Viral and bacterial infections can also cause a reduced appetite in cats, and this can cause weight loss if your cat has the illness for a while. This could potentially include stomach illnesses, respiratory diseases, and more. There are a number of different tests to diagnose infectious disease in cats.

Your Cat May Have Diabetes

Feline Diabetes can also cause for weight loss in cats. In fact, weight loss is one of the most noticeable sign of Diabetes. Many people also notice excessive thirst and frequent urination in their cats. If you notice these symptoms in your cat, then you should take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible; they will be able to diagnose your cat after taking some blood and urine tests that measure your cat’s glucose levels. Treatment for diabetes usually involves giving your cat insulin and feeding your cat a special diet that is low in carbohydrates.

Your Cat May Have Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites suck all of the nutrients out of their host, so a cat could be eating normal amounts of food and still lose weight. Fleas transmit some intestinal parasites like tapeworms. Other intestinal parasites are more common in outdoor cats because they are transmitted through animal feces and dead infected animals. Your veterinarian will test for intestinal parasites through a simple fecal test.

Your Cat May Have Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is another medical condition that commonly causes weight loss in cats. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased vocalizations
  • Restlessness
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Heart problems and high blood pressure can occur if left untreated

Hyperthyroidism primarily affects older cats. Your veterinarian will diagnose this condition through a blood test that measures your cat’s thyroid hormone levels. Once diagnosed, cat owners have the option of treating their cat’s hyperthyroidism through surgery, oral medication, a special prescription diet, or radioactive iodine treatments.

Your Cat May Have a Systemic Disease

Cats can lose weight because of systemic diseases, including kidney, lung, heart, liver and gall bladder disease. Diagnosis often requires blood work, urinalysis, radiographs and an ultrasound; additional tests may be indicated. Early symptoms may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Jaundice (with liver and gall bladder disease)
  • Labored or rapid breathing (with lung or heart disease)

Your Cat May Have Cancer

Another severe case of weight loss in cats is cancer, particularly lymphoma. Although this is a fairly aggressive form of cancer in cats, it may be treatable with chemotherapy when caught early. Therefore, it is crucial that you visit your veterinarian promptly if you suspect that your cat has any kind of cancer. The four common symptoms of lymphoma include weight loss, a reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.