How to Help a Cat Gain Weight

Photo: @sondraschlaht

Noticed your cat looking a tad skinnier than usual? It can be concerning to say the least. I definitely felt that way when my Maine Coon cat lost interest in food and became extremely lethargic.

In this guide, I’ll tell everything I learned with that experience. We also cover the signs indicating your cat might need to bulk up, explore the underlying causes, and offer actionable steps to help them gain weight. Let’s start. 

Does Your Cat Need to Gain Weight?

If you have been wondering if your cat needs to gain weight, then you likely already suspect something. But, it’s not always easy to determine if your feline friend has dropped below a healthy weight range. 

Firstly, we need to understand what constitutes a healthy weight in cats. This varies greatly depending on factors such as breed, age, and overall health. But generally speaking:

  • Most domestic cats should weigh between 9 and 12 pounds.
  • Larger breeds like Maine Coons may naturally weigh up to 25 pounds.
  • Smaller breeds, some stray cats, or young kittens will obviously weigh less.

Physical Changes

If you’ve noticed your cat’s appearance changing drastically, it could be an indication of unhealthy weight loss. Here are some physical signs your skinny cat needs to gain some weight:

  1. Visible bones: If the ribs, spine or hip bones are clearly visible or easily felt when petting them, this could mean they’re underweight.
  2. Lack of muscle mass: Muscle wasting can manifest as weakness and decreased activity levels.
  3. Skin and coat changes: An undernourished or malnourished cat’s fur is often dull or patchy.

A great visual reference would be body condition score charts. 

Behavioral Changes

Next are behavioral changes that might hint at an unhealthy body mass index (BMI) in cats:

  1. Decreased appetite: If your cat is eating less than usual or seems disinterested in food, it could indicate an underlying problem.
  2. (Paradoxically) Increased appetite: If your cat seems constantly hungry but isn’t putting on any extra pounds – there could be underlying issues at play.
  3. Changes in litter box habits: Unusually frequent urination or changes in stool consistency sometimes accompany unexplained weight loss.
  4. Loss of interest in playtime activities: A decrease in their usual playful behavior due to fatigue also point towards being underweight.

Top Causes of Weight Loss in Cats

Uncovering the reasons behind your feline friend’s weight loss is the first step in helping them regain it. There could be various causes, from medical conditions to stress or changes in diet.

Health Issues

A common reason for weight loss in cats is health issues. Medical problems like urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis can lead to a decrease in a cat’s body mass.

For example, according to a study by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, around 10% of senior cats (over 10 years old) suffer from hyperthyroidism which may cause significant weight loss despite an increased appetite.

Dental disease often leads to weight loss. If your cat is experiencing tooth decay or gum disease, they may find it painful to eat their regular meals, leading them down a path of rapid weight loss.

Serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or cancer could also play a role in your sick cat’s unexpected appetite loss – some more serious than others but all warranting immediate attention from your vet.

Mental Health

Sometimes it’s not just physical ailments that lead to underweight cats; mental health plays a part too. Stressful situations such as moving house or introducing new pets into the household might result in reduced food intake and subsequent weight loss.

As pet parents, it’s essential to recognize these changes early on and consult with a vet if you notice any sudden alterations in your cat’s eating habits or behavior.

Changes in diet also play an integral role. Some foods (especially dry foods) will not provide enough essential nutrients for your furry friend, causing them to lose weight over time.

Be aware of what you’re feeding your pet – they need balanced meals enriched with proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals for healthy growth and development.

Some cat foods fed over a long time may also become allergens and cause food allergies, resulting in digestive issues and other gastrointestinal issues.

Intestinal Parasites

Finally yet importantly – parasites! These little critters are another common cause of unexpected weight loss in cats.

If your cat is not gaining weight but eating, this could be the cause. A routine check-up at the vet should be able to identify any parasitic presence so that appropriate treatment can begin immediately.

Tips for Helping Fatten Up a Cat

First things first, let’s acknowledge that every cat is unique and what works for one might not necessarily work for another. While some cats might need more calorie-dense foods, others require medical treatment or changes in their feeding routines.

That said, below are general tips and strategies to help a cat gain weight fast.

Consult with a Vet

Start with professional advice and scheduling a routine check-up.

It’s important not to overlook potential underlying health issues that could be causing the weight loss. Issues like dental problems, diabetes or hyperthyroidism are often culprits in unexplained weight drop in cats. So, getting a comprehensive health evaluation is crucial before starting any weight-gain regimen.

Choose High Quality Cat Food

Once you’ve ruled out medical conditions, it’s time to talk about diet adjustment. Your vet will provide personalized dietary recommendations based on your cat’s age, size and lifestyle. They may suggest premium nutritionally-dense food for weight gain or even prescribe high calorie veterinary diets if needed.

Here’s an example of what those dietary adjustments could look like:

Current DietAdjusted Diet
Low protein commercial dry foodHigh protein premium food
Small infrequent mealsFrequent small meals
Dry cat food onlyMix of wet cat food and dry kibble food

Choose high-protein foods that pack a nutritional punch. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they require a higher percentage of protein in their diet compared to other pets. A diet rich in animal-based proteins will help your cat put on weight quickly and safely. 

Another ingredient to look out for is fat content. Yes, fats are an excellent source of energy and contribute to healthy weight gain if given in moderation. Omega fatty acids also contribute to a full, fluffy, shiny coat. However, too much could lead to obesity and other related health issues though, so it’s about finding the right balance.

Next are carbohydrates – or rather the lack thereof. Cats have no nutritional requirement for carbs; they can get all the energy they need from proteins and fats alone. Learn to read cat food labels to avoid by-products, by-product meals, and other artificial ingredients.

This doesn’t mean you should completely eliminate carbs from your cat’s diet though. Some carbohydrates act as dietary fiber which aids digestion and helps maintain gut health.

Smaller, More Frequent Meals

It sounds counterintuitive but feeding your cat smaller meals more frequently actually helps them get extra calories and gain weight.

Think about it: instead of overwhelming their system with large amounts of a high calorie food at once, you’re giving their body easy access to food throughout the day. This method helps keep their metabolism active and burning calories efficiently.

Warm Up Their Wet Food

Did you know that warming up your cat’s wet food makes it more appealing? Just like us humans enjoy a hot meal, so do cats!

Warm food releases its aroma, acting as an appetite stimulant, which entices them to eat more. Remember not to make it too hot though – we don’t want any burnt kitty tongues.

Healthy Snacks

When considering how to fatten up a cat, healthy snacks play a key role in reaching our desired caloric intake. It’s not about just piling on empty calories though; we want nutritious options that promote overall health while aiding in weight gain. Some great examples include:

  • Cooked chicken or turkey
  • Eggs
  • Pumpkin

Please note these should be given as treats only and shouldn’t replace regular meals.

Food Topper or Broths

Adding flavorful toppings or broths to your cat’s regular meals as appetite stimulants can persuade picky eaters into consuming more food- thus helping with weight gain. From fish oil drizzles to specially-formulated “gravy” designed for cats – there are plenty of options available.

Change the Eating Environment or Food Bowl

Another tip on how to fatten up a cat is by changing their eating environment or bowl. Cats are sensitive creatures and even something as simple as moving their bowl away from high-traffic areas encourage better eating habits and reach their ideal weight.

Feed Kitten Food

Kitten food isn’t just for kittens to gain weight. It’s packed full of nutrients & has higher calorie content than adult cat food making it ideal for cats needing to put on some extra pounds.

Nutritional Supplements

Consider adding dietary supplements into your furry friend’s diet plan if they’re struggling with gaining weight – always consult this option with your vet first though!


Lastly but importantly – hydration.

While water won’t directly contribute to increased caloric intake, proper hydration aids digestion and helps nutrients absorb better into the body – both crucial factors when trying to boost a kitty’s weight. This is also another reason to feed wet cat food, which contains more than 80% moisture.

Conclusion: Monitoring Your Cat’s Progress

Now that we’ve discussed ways to help your cat gain weight, it’s crucial to monitor their progress.

It’s important to weigh your cat regularly as we head toward their ideal weight. You’ll want to see a gradual increase in weight over time – sudden or extreme changes could indicate other health issues.

Here are some things you should monitor:

  • Weight Gain: Ideally, you want your cat gaining about 1-2 pounds per month depending on their size and breed.
  • Eating Habits: Is your cat eating more? Are they finishing their meals? These are signs of improvement.
  • Energy Levels: A healthy weight gain usually comes with an increase in energy levels. If your cat is more active and playful, it’s a good sign.
  • Coat Quality: Healthy cats often have shiny and smooth fur. Notice any improvements in the quality of your feline friend’s coat.

If you’re not seeing desired results after several weeks, don’t panic! It just means that you need to adjust the approach slightly or try different food options. Always consult with your vet before making significant changes; they understand well what works best for different breeds and individual situations.

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