Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a 10 year old Bengal who has never had health issues. She’s a strictly indoor cat. Recently she dropped from 11 lb 8 oz to 9 lb 13 oz. It seemed to happen over a matter of weeks but may have been more gradual. I took her to the vet who did an exam and took blood. According to the results, there appears to be nothing wrong with her — no disease and no parasites, no tumors. Throughout this entire time, her behavior never changed: she eats and drinks, urinates and excretes, is interested in toys and petting, no signs of withdrawal. My question is, have you heard of anything like this? Any advice? And most importantly, what kind of high caloric nutrient rich food should I give her to increase her weight?
Siouxsie: Tara, you did the right thing when you noticed your cat’s weight loss. Because you took her to the vet, you’ve been able to rule out common causes of weight loss such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, tumors and parasites.
Thomas: When we looked at photos of Bengal cats, it seems to us they tend to be a bit on the lean side naturally, probably because of the Oriental breeds that were added to the mix to create the Bengal kitty.
Dahlia: That probably makes it even more alarming when they start to lose weight!
Siouxsie: Cats, like humans, tend to go through weight changes as they age. They may get a bit plump during their middle age years — between about 6 and 9 — and then start losing weight again as they age further.
Thomas: Ha ha, Siouxsie. I remember when you were 7, you were so big that Doctor Sarah threatened to put you on a diet if you gained any more weight!
Siouxsie: Don’t make me get out of my throne and smack you! Besides, 11 pounds isn’t fat; it’s … pleasantly plump!
Thomas: Too bad you wouldn’t let me snuggle with you when there was more of you to love.
Dahlia: Anyway … Tara, age 10 is about the equivalent of 56 human years, so she’s not quite what I’d consider a senior. But she is on the downhill side of middle age, and that is about the time cats start losing weight.
Siouxsie: That’s how it happened for me. I gradually slimmed down to 8 pounds, and I tend to hover around that weight these days.
Thomas: But why do older cats tend to lose weight? Well, part of it has to do with the fact that our bodies don’t process nutrition as well as they used to. Because of that, you may need to feed your cat more calories in order for her to maintain her weight.
Dahlia: Sometimes cats don’t eat because their teeth are hurting them, and that can cause weight loss. Dental disease is fairly common in older cats. However, since your cat is eating and drinking normally, we don’t think this is the case with her.
Siouxsie: So, as you’ve figured out, what you need to do is offer her a more calorie-dense food with more high-quality nutrients than she’s getting right now.
Thomas: Canned, home-made or raw diets are typically much richer than kibble. As an added bonus, these foods have more moisture, which can protect against dehydration, another common problem in older cats.
Dahlia: If you’re going to go with canned food, we’d recommend that you feed a grain-free premium product such as Wellness CORE, Evo, or Nature’s Variety Instinct grain-free (there are quite a few grain-free canned foods out there, but these are three brands we’ve tried and liked).
Siouxsie: Home-made and raw diets also offer of appropriate protein levels and moisture content. However, opinions on raw food in the veterinary community are divided. Some vets see it as a great way to keep cats healthy and give them the nutrition they need; others express concern about potential contaminants (salmonella, for instance) and the possibility of malnutrition if the owner doesn’t feed a balanced diet.
Thomas: I’m not sure the salmonella argument passes the logic test, though. We cats are evolved to eat raw meat: we have short, highly acidic digestive tracts, and that makes us naturally resistant to bacterial pathogens in our food.
Dahlia: The balanced diet issue can be addressed by using tested and proven recipes. You can find them in books like Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats and Anitra Frazier’s The Natural Cat. (These links go to our store at amazon.com — if you want to buy these books through our shop, Mama puts the money in our treat allowance jar. Please support our catnip habit!)
Siouxsie: Websites like the Feline Nutrition Education Society offer great information for people interested in feeding a homemade or raw diet. (For the sake of transparency, we should say Mama is a member. She also knows the people in charge of the website and can testify to the fact that they really know what they’re doing and are passionate about their mission to get cats eating species-appropriate diets.)
Thomas: Tara, we’d also recommend you monitor your cat’s weight. You want to make sure she doesn’t gain too much weight, and you want to know if she’s continuing to lose weight despite her richer diet.
Dahlia: There are two ways you can do this. The most accurate way involves purchasing a digital baby scale and using it to weigh her at least once a week.
Siouxsie: Alternately, you can stand on the scale and weigh yourself. Then pick your cat up and weigh yourself again. The difference in the two numbers is your cat’s weight. Unless your scale is digital, you may not get as accurate a reading as you would with the baby scale.
Thomas: We hope we’ve been able to help you. Good luck getting some meat back on your kitty’s bones!
Tara, I would just like to say I think this reply from the kitties is very good advice. I have done a lot of research on feline nutrition and I think the kitties really know what they’re talking about!
A little background, I used to have 2 cats until one of them got sick with a mystery illness with symptoms that looked a lot like poisoning. All his hair fell out, and for 3 years we took him to the vet over and over for tests, etc. They could not figure out what was wrong with him. He finally got too sick to go on and died, despite all of our efforts to help him. My remaining cat is now 12 years old, and I decided that I really should look into the diet I was feeding her since I wanted to protect her health.
Once I started doing research, I was horrified to find out that catfood manufacturers can’t necessarily be trusted, and that what I had been giving her to eat was not good food, no matter how happy the cats on the label looked. As my research continued, I came across information that now leads me to believe that my cat that died may have been poisoned by his own food – food that I gave him. You can imagine how awful that makes me feel, and that is why I have been trying to spread the word about bad quality catfood. A lot of the brands make themselves sound like wholesome, wonderful food but if you look into what’s actually in them, the truth is anything but wholesome and wonderful.
Anyway, I don’t know what you are feeding your kitty or what your background is, so please forgive me if this is information you already know, but it is very true and correct that the best diet for cats is a raw one, or at least grain-free. And if you can’t get them to eat grain-free, by all means try to get them off dry food. I do think the Feline Nutrition Education Society is great. My personal education on the subject started here: catinfo.org.
My 12-year old cat had inflamed kidneys before I changed her diet, and within six months after I cut out dry food and started feeding better-quality canned food, the vet said her kidneys were completely normal! Kidney problems are one of the major killers of older cats, so this was extremely good news for me. I wish your kitty the very best health!
One of my cats, Punkin. has also recently lost weight. She’s 6 years old and has been “pleasingly plump: for a couple of years. I can’t take up their food because another one of my cats, Summer, has a hiatial hernia and she can only eat a small amount at the time. Though Punkin has never been a very social cat she always jumps up on my end table when I’m settled in. Lately she hides on my dining room chairs. When I feed their moist food she’ll eat all I give her.. I’m so worried she may have diabetes. I’m going to make an appointment with my vet this week. Send Punkin good wishes please!!
You have not mentioned any tests for kidney function . Have they been considered ?