Skinny kitty
July 27, 2005 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Wish I had his problem! Our lanky cat, who is two years old and in all respects healthy otherwise, is very skinny. How do we fatten him up? And should we?

He's not terribly interested in food and never has been; he tends to eat a few bites of food and walk away from it, at which time our five-month old kitten goes after it. He weighed about seven pounds the last time he visited the vet. Everyone who sees him remarks—with varying degrees of alarm—on his skinniness, but I also wonder if we're being overly concerned, and if we're just used to pets that are too fat. Assuming that he could use to put on a pound or two, what could we do to help him fatten up?
posted by cacahuete to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
I don't think it's really possible to fatten a cat, they have their own ideas about how much they want to eat.

If he is ill it should be obvious - excessive grooming, sitting around, general change in the behaviour, haunted look in the eyes. Try grabbing the the skin on his back and pulling it up - if it shrinks back to normal he is properly hydrated (most cats get liquids from wet food,) if it stays up there is a problem.

Is he on dry or wet food? Have you tried both? Does he react to treats the same way he does to food? Try feeding him tuna for a while and see how he devours that. Might be a good indicator to whether you are just feeding him the wrong things.

I've had a good few cats and they have varied in shape and size, and have changed as they grew. If he seems playful and happy enough I wouldn't worry. You will know yourself if this is a real case for a vet.
posted by fire&wings at 4:06 PM on July 27, 2005

You might want to have his teeth checked, if you haven't already. One of my cats is skinny because eating is a bit uncomfortable for him. In his case, it's because he had a few teeth taken out in the past, but your cat might have a different sort of mouth problem that's making it tough for him to eat.
posted by vorfeed at 4:19 PM on July 27, 2005

I forgot to mention this, but it's generally healthier for animals to be thin, so unless your vet says your cat is too thin, he's probably fine.
posted by vorfeed at 4:21 PM on July 27, 2005

Yes, baseline healthy cat weight is much lower than what you normally see running around in people's houses. A vet told me this.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:34 PM on July 27, 2005

Get his teeth checked: if he has gum disease, it might be painful for him to eat, so he doesn't bother. Cats are funny like that. Any decent vet should be able to give you advice on this.

On preview: what vorffed said...
posted by baggers at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2005

Sounds like an overactive thyroid to me, possibly caused by a benign thyroid tumor. My in-laws' male cat was finally treated for this just this week, after apparently developing it a few years ago. His appetite was okay, he was still very active with all his running around and important rodent-killing duties, and his coat was glossy, so nobody really thought of him as sick--and yet he was very thin. Side effects of the hyperthyroidism include aggressiveness and vocalness, both of which he also has, but which we always just chalked up to his being a dick, rather than it being a medical problem.

Anyway, I would get your cat checked out at the vet, with bloodwork. Seven pounds for an adult male American shorthair really seems off; he should be closer to twice that.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:03 PM on July 27, 2005

Assuming your vet says he's healthy (and has done blood tests at least to rule out things like thyroid issues), I wouldn't worry about it too much. I would definitely start feeding him a super-premium food (like Felidae or Innova EVO, to name two), however, because they tend to be more palatable and he'll be getting more nutrition than he will be from a lower-quality food, which is even more important for a cat who doesn't eat much. Supplementing with high quality canned food is also a good idea. Especially with cats, being a bit thin is preferable to being overweight, but you do want to make sure that he has some reserves to fall back on. Some animals, like some people, are just skinny.
posted by biscotti at 5:30 PM on July 27, 2005

Does your cat have any Oriental breeding in her, like Siamese or Tonkinese? If so, you're just going to have a skinny cat - those breeds come long and lean, and they're supposed to stay that way.

My Tonkinese cat was 11 pounds at her very heaviest, and that was when she was an adult, at 12 years old. At 2 years, she was your cat's weight, as well as skinny. She later grew into her frame and stopped looking like an underweight, yowling, stick of a cat. As long as the cat's healthy and happy, I wouldn't worry.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:28 PM on July 27, 2005

Thanks for the quick and knowledgeable responses—and for allieviating my worry. Right now we're feeding him both dry and wet; we'll try some new food and look at his teeth, and if he starts appearing sick, go the bloodwork route and check out his thyroid. (FYI, he's a regular ol' tabby.)
posted by cacahuete at 7:10 PM on July 27, 2005

Healthy skinny cats are BEAUTIFUL. Toots (the Best Cat Ever) was skinny, because she got exercise, which she loved. People often commented about her skinniness. She was just athletic (and raised with food-on-demand, so she never would over eat).
posted by Goofyy at 1:57 AM on July 28, 2005

I second Asparagirl; s/he may have hyperthyroidism.
posted by tr33hggr at 6:35 AM on July 28, 2005

My wife and I go through this with our part-Siamese. We see him eating plenty, but he's so skinny. Of course, he spends half the day running around outside and, probably, only eats when he's hungry. Go figure.

Ditto others' advice -- after double checking with a vet that there isn't a health problem, get nutritionally and calorically dense food, and accept that some cats are just skinny.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:45 AM on July 28, 2005

A lot of great advice here. I would definitely speak with your vet at your cat's next appointment to eliminate any possible medical causes.

Illnesses aside, I just wanted to suggest that perhaps a change in food may get your little guy more interested in eating. I have three cats and one of them, like yours, is quite indifferent to food and thin.

By trial and error, I found that he loves Science Diet's beef cuts in gravy and Wellness' Super5 Mix. Now he follows me around the kitchen, meowing, when I prepare their food and always demands to be fed first.
posted by Sully6 at 9:02 AM on July 28, 2005

Second the previous comments; check cat's teeth to ensure that they aren't bugging him, recall that cats are *supposed* to be much thinner than the average housecat actually is, and also recall that two years old is prime-time for cats - they're mature and 100% active, so expend plenty of energy. As they get older, they tend to eat the same and run around less, and pork out a bit (or a lot).

Try to feed the two cats separately for a few days (challenging, yet possible), and see how much the older one eats - measure the dry food by the cup, or half-cans of wet food, or whatever. If he's really not eating you'll know.

Also, one thing I haven't seen mentioned: intestinal parasites?

My cat was skinny and athletic at two, turned into a lap-crusher by age 7 or so. If I look at old pictures, you'd hardly believe they're the same cat.
posted by jellicle at 9:27 AM on July 28, 2005

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