My Cat Is Shrinking

Updated on June 25, 2012
E.T. asks from Albuquerque, NM
14 answers

We have a 15 year old cat who is slowly losing weight. He is a really big cat - very long and broad. During his peak he weighed almost 22 pounds and he wasn't really fat, he was just solid. People used to remark about how big he was and joke he was a bobcat (he has a bob tail so it wasn't all that crazy of a joke).

Anyway, in the last year he has been losing weight. Today I weighed him and he's 11 pounds. He looks thin but not super skinny - but 11 pounds is half of what he used to weigh. We've been to the vet several times and the only thing they can tell me is that it's possible his kidneys aren't working as efficiently as they used to. He drinks a TON of water and pees enormous amounts, but there's no sign of diabetes or anything else other that "slowing kidneys".

Has anyone else dealt with this with their older cat? What can I expect? I know he's older and isn't going to jump back up to 22 pounds and run around like a kitten. But when a cat starts losing weight like this, does it mean he's nearing the end? It's taken a full year for him to lose the weight, even though he's eating fine (but vomiting and having hairballs a bit more than he used to).

Any insight would be appreciated. We want to keep him comfortable but also prepare our small kids that he might not be with us that much longer.

Edited to add: yes, the vet has done blood work. His kidney numbers are slightly low but not horrible.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone. I guess we just wait and see. Our vet has actually been wonderful. I didn't mean to imply that they weren't taking me seriously. They did blood work three times, gave him subcutaneous fluids, offered suggestions for diet, and told me about thirty million seriously invasive things they could do to pinpoint exactly what's going on (but the cheapest started at about $1500). When I explained that he was already eating raw food and always has, and that I didn't have thousands to invest in research that might or might not pinpoint a way to extend his life a year or two, the vet said the best thing to do was feed him what he's been getting, make sure he has fresh water, change his full litter box daily (what a pain!!), and just love him. So we do.

Riley - we actually have a raw food supplier for pets in our town. They offer frozen and bagged foods, fresh bagged, and now even canned fresh foods that you stick in your refrig and open as needed. It's a bit more expensive than getting cast offs from the butcher, but a lot more convenient for families in a hurry!

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answers from Washington DC on

I was a liscensed vet tech b4 I became a mom 3 years ago so from what I remember: kidney insufficiency or hyper thyroidism or just simple old cat. The blood work for kidney disease will not show and increase in enzymes until 75% of the kidney is not working. So basically you can not tell until it is really bad; however, you can maintain the kidney issue by giving fluids under the skin and some appetite stimulants and vitamins under the skin.
With hyperthyroidism they eat A. TON and lose weight, their nails get really thick, long and brittle and they get enlarged thyroid glands. There is a ton of other stuff I cant remember but I am sorry to hear he is not himself anymore, I hate when they get old.
ETA: I wanted to add that even if it is hyper thy or kidney disease it doesnt mean he will pass soon. I have seen cats live for 7 years with these diseases.

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answers from Chicago on

Hyperthyroidism. My ex had both his older cats treated for it. Check out this link:

It cost a fortune at the time (like $1,500 per cat), but that was years ago and the radioactive treatment was new. Maybe it is cheaper now.

Good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

Yep. But then we did something on accident.

About a year after dropping half his weight, he lost his fangs. My mum figured he wasn't long for this world and started feeding him raw hamburger. From there also liver, other offal, eggs, fish scraps, etc. And he turned back into a kitten, practically. Filled back out, glossy coat, energy to spare, started hunting again... and lived a very active life for another 10 years.

Come to find...

Cats and dogs used to be fed a raw food diet, but when the Great Depression rolled around, there just simply wasn't the food available for your own kids, much less your pets. People still loved their pets, though, so people came up with other things they could eat (mostly corn and crude fats, and spoiled meats). Science Diet, for example (and oddly to my way of thinking) proudly lists out their story of being started by a vet during the Great Depression, and still using nearly the same formula. (Huh??? Like that's a good thing? Does that make sense to anyone else?)

More and more pet food companies are going back to a no grain, organ rich formula (merrick BG, etc.). And others still are actually going further back and creating wholly raw food (WetNoses, etc.). Anecdotally, there's a lot of consistant results; whiter stronger teeth/ better breath/ better vision-clear eyes/ lots of lean muscle/ glossy coats/ increased energy/ etc. I don't know if there have been any large scale studies, and obviously petfood companies are going to get all shiny about why their product is best... all I know for sure is our own experience;

Since our first cat doubled his life... all of our pets have been on rawfood (except my dog, the past couple years, but he's young and can deal better, although I hope to get him back there soon). They typically live twice as long as everyone else's pets (20-25 years on average), and are in fighting health until the last 3-6 months or so of their lives and then start a very rapid decline. For us it always seems to be winter. They make it through christmas and then pass just before spring. :(

There's no way we could afford the uber pricey prepacked raw food... we had our old butcher make it for us (closed 2 years ago, and everywhere else is too far to schlep to or is a 'yuppie butcher' with prices that make my eyeballs pop out of my head, and crawl crablike to the door and out to the cat (I have to feel my way out). Prices vary... on average for all the ground bone/ offal/ meats/ fats/ sweet potatoes/ blueberries/ etc... .it worked out to 30 cents to $3 a pound. (Yuppie butchers not included. Seriously, what idiot pays $15 a pound for tripe, and $30 a pound for bottom round?)

A meangrinder is on my 'list', but unfortunately, so are 30gazillion other things.

Oy. LONG story short... if you don't already feed raw, you might give it a whirl.

Dr. Pitcarin has a book out with recipes for dogs and cats (we had to pester my cousin the big animal vet for our old recipes, which are quite similar), that can be found fairly easily.

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answers from Redding on

I think we all get skinny in our golden years. My grandma was 350 when she was my age (luckily I dont take after her) but only weighed 90lbs when she passed at 85.
If his eating habits havent changed and his weight loss is that apparent to you, then you probably should figure he's "an ol' man" and might start prepping the kids for the ultimate rainbow bridge ending so they arent shocked.

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answers from San Francisco on

When our old cat started losing weight it was because her teeth were going bad and she was having trouble eating.

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answers from Chicago on

Worms? Paracites? That is my first line of thought ... oh and another vet!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Each of the older cats we had lost weight in their last year or so. We had cats that lived for 19, 15, and 13 years. I would ask your vet (or a new one) if you should change his diet. There are foods that are better for lowered kidney function. And yes, I would start explaining to your children that your cat is getting older, because he is, and it's hard to predict an animal's longevity.

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answers from Austin on

Have they not done any bloodwork to check for the failing kidneys?

I had an 18 yr old cat, and she started losing weight... I took her to the vet, and I'm pretty sure they ran bloodwork that showed that her kidneys were failing.

They gave her some subcutaneous fluids, and started her on the special low protein diet for kidneys.... we were able to sustain her probably another 3 months before it was obvious she had given up, then we had to put her down.

She was a much smaller cat, but I don't remember how much she weighed at the end..... less than 7 lbs, I'm sure.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I second Riley J. and was going to suggest a look-see into a raw diet for him. It's something to consider at least. I would seek professional advice and go slow with it.

Cats are carnivores . . . even more so than dogs.

Hope you can figure this out - good luck.



answers from Seattle on

My cat is 19 and weighs all of 5 lbs. He has been really skinny for about 4 years. He has hyperthyroid and gets meds twice a day and is STILL hungry all the time! Old cats get skinny and the majority of male cats develop hyperthyroid which makes them even skinnier.



answers from Dallas on

I have a 17 year old that used to be a "fat cat". He lost a lot of weight two years ago when his brother died of kidney failure. Brother started drinking tons of water and peeing lots. We did subcutanoues fluids but he died a few months later. My old kitties labs have always come back normal, but he does take meds for high blood pressure. I was sure this cat was on his last leg years ago, but he's still kicking years later. My mom had a mean little kitty that lived to be 22 years old, so don't give up on this old guy just yet.


answers from Dallas on

Ok, I would see another vet. For a cat to lose HALF of his weight is quite alarming, in my opinion, and I don't like how your vet sort of brushed it off.

On the other hand, 15 is quite old for a larger cat. I have a large cat as well, and he's 11 now, and showing definite signs of aging. It may just be his age, but again, I'd try a new vet, and a new diet, like others suggested.



answers from Flagstaff on

Just a old cat loses weight every summer, quite a bit actually the last 2 years, to where she is half of what she was before. When winter comes, she bulks up again with no change in diet. Maybe there's hope. :)


answers from Grand Forks on

My Maine Coon started having seizures after he had a big weight loss, and one seizure left him patially paralyzed. We had to put him down. I didn't really notice the weight loss becuase it happened when the kids were really little, and I'm afraid the cats didn't get a lot of attention at that time. Hope you can turn things around.

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