As many as 25 percent of all pet cats have obesity problems, but there are many uncounted cats that are far too thin and need to gain weight. Although there is a lot of information about getting fat cats to slim down, there is not a lot on the Internet or in publications about getting a thin cat up to an ideal weight. Just keeping the cat’s food bowl filled will not do the trick.
If a cat is too thin, he or she will have visible ribs, ribs you can easily feel while petting and no abdominal fat. When you pet a well-fed cat, you cannot feel the ribs. Be sure you know the exact reason why the cat is too thin. Take the cat to the vet for a diagnosis. There are many medical reasons for sudden weight loss in cats, including hypothyroidism, parasites or cancer. Sometimes older cats have problems keeping up a healthy weight.
A cat’s digestive system can easily become upset if there is too radical a change in the diet. A cat will not put on weight if he or she is constantly vomiting or suffers from diarrhea. Brushing the cat every couple of days removes any dead hair that the cat would swallow when grooming. This hair eventually forms into hairballs and will encourage the cat to vomit even more.
Watch your cat to see how he or she normally eats. Cats that gorge will be prone to vomiting. If the cat has been a stray for any length of time, the temptation to gorge will be overwhelming. These cats need very high-calorie food given in small portions, perhaps three or more times a day.
When changing a cat’s diet, do it gradually. Only change about one-fourth or less of the food for a few days and then increase to the new diet over the course of a week to ten days. Also, talk to your vet about weight increasing foods and how many new foods to add to the diet.
Kitten Food and Canned Food
If your cat is finicky and needs to gain weight, see if your cat’s favorite brands of food come in a kitten formulation. Kitten foods have higher calories than food for adult cats. Canned food often has a higher fat content, according to “Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” (Howell Book House; 1995.)
The only problem is that canned food spoils quickly, so either use small cans to feed your cat or refrigerate part of a can. Always throw out leftover canned food in 12 hours or less because the food will start to spoil. Canned baby meat food or canned fish can help temp a finicky eater. Adding human-grade chicken gravy to dry or canned cat food may also help whet kitty’s appetite.
“Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.” Delbert G. Carlson, DVM, et al. Howell Book House; 1995.
Pet Place. “Obesity on Cats.” http://www.petplace.com/cats/obesity-in-cats/page1.aspx
Purina. “Cats – Weight Gain and Loss.” http://www.purina.ca/mycat/article.aspx?article_id=630