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Senior cat losing weight.

Species: Cat
Breed: Unknown/long haired
Age: 11-15 years
Hello,

My cat is 11 or 12 years old (he was a rescue kitty I inherited, so I'm not entirely sure of his age). He is perfectly healthy--eats, drinks, still loves getting attention--except that he is much thinner than he used to be and his fur has lost some of its luster.. it seems a bit thinner than it used to. There have been no behavioral changes, except that maybe he is a little more vocal than he used to be. I recently moved into my own apartment, so he is alone more than he used to be and lets me know he is sad about that when I walk in the door.

A few months ago I brought him to the vet just for a check-up, and they gave him a full "senior wellness" exam that came back with no bad results. He had lost a couple of pounds, but no clear culprit...except maybe aging (and he had always been a big cat).

Essentially, my question is whether or not it is normal for cats to lose weight with age. His weight loss feels significant to me--I can feel his ribs and his "shoulder blades" when I pet him now, which I never used to be able to do. I don't have a scale though to actually measure his weight. So barring other symptoms, should I ignore the weight? I am really nervous and keep thinking about taking him back to the vet, but honestly am pretty broke right now and not sure I can afford to have him go through those tests again until about a month from now. I know you can't tell me whether or not I need to take my cat to a vet really, but I am wondering about "natural" weight loss...

Thank you,
Marie


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Marie,

In my opinion, almost every time that a cat is losing weight, there is a medical reason for it.

You mentioned that the vets did not find anything on Mickey's senior wellness exam. Did he have blood tests with that too? Do you know if his thyroid was tested? The most common reason for senior cats to lose weight are hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

The first three that I mentioned would be easy to pick up on blood tests. However, I have had at least one cat that had normal blood tests and then when he continued to lose weight 2 months later we repeated the tests and found he did have hyperthyroidism.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a toughie. Usually if there is weight loss because of IBD it is because of repeated vomiting or diarrhea.

I do get worried when I see significant weight loss and I can't find a medical reason for it. This can sometimes mean that there is a hidden cancer somewhere.

At this point, I know it is tough financially for you, but really the best option would be to have an exam and some more blood tests done to see if anything new is creeping in. I'm guessing that if he has lost that much weight that they will find something. Some of the things that I mentioned are relatively easy to treat.

Please let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.