What to feed an older cat that is losing weight

We all know that cats are curious creatures. As very affectionate creatures who are willing to explore, they can also be very picky and fussy at times. We wouldn’t live without them though!

Cats slow down as they age, just like their humans. They may eat less, exercise less, play less and move less.

And while it’s part of the natural ageing process, cats can begin to lose a little weight when they stop eating so much.

While cats self-regulate to a certain degree, they don’t know how much energy is in their cat food. A decrease in appetite can lead to a calorie deficit and weight loss – which is why it’s important that we’re here to look after them!

Cat nutrition is a tricky subject but is something that’s important to master. So how can we ensure our feline friends eat enough to keep them healthy?

Why cats can go off their food

There are many things that might stop a cat eating. It can be age-related, new food or a medical reason.

It’s important to know that if your cat isn’t eating at all, you need to take them to a vet right away. That’s something completely different from what we’re talking about here, and your pet’s vet can offer the best personalised advice for them.

In this blog, we’re talking about a cat eating less or picking at their food rather than tucking in like they used to. There’s a big difference between the two!

Cats can go off food because:

They are older and don’t move as much – Cats self-regulate and if they move and play less, they tend to eat less too.

They are bored of their current food – Some cats are happy eating the same thing every day of their lives. Some want a bit more variety.

They have an upset stomach – Sometimes a cat may get an upset stomach due to eating things they shouldn’t (sometimes they can be so pesky!) or not having access to fresh water.

Digestive issues – Sometimes the reason is more serious, including parasites, acid reflux, irritable bowel disease, stomach bacteria and other conditions.

Dental issues – If your cat has sore teeth or gums, it can make eating very uncomfortable. This can result in them eating less or not at all.

Respiratory issues – Any infection or issue that interferes with breathing and smell can reduce a cat’s appetite.

Most of these situations have clear signs. Spending some quality time with your pet should allow you to discover what it is that’s reducing your cat’s appetite.

If in doubt, have your pet checked over by a vet. It’s much better to be safe than sorry – and it’s much better for you and your cat to catch something early!

Encouraging your cat to eat more

If there’s no medical reason for your cat eating less, it’s likely age or another factor.

It could be down to a change of food such as new diet cat food, a change of environment, a change of schedule or something else entirely.

Here are a few things to consider:

Feeding environment

Have you made any changes to where your cat has their dinner? Have you redecorated? Moved furniture around? Acquired another cat? Made any other changes?

Cats are very sensitive to change and can react in surprising ways to seemingly small changes in routine.

Types of food

Have you changed their food? Switched from wet to dry food or vice versa? Tried a different brand? Switched from standard food to dietary cat food?

These can all have an impact on how your pet eats.

Knowing what to feed an older cat that is losing weight is really important. We’d suggest putting them back on food you know they like, and if you’re transitioning them to cheaper or senior food, do it slowly and they may not notice.

Ultimately, the best diet for cats is quality food you know they like, whether that’s a supermarket own brand that takes their fancy or the most expensive cat food out there.

Just like their humans, sometimes they just like what they like!

Feeding method

Have you changed their food bowl or water bowl? Switched from a ceramic to metal bowl? Started using an automatic feeder?

Any of these changes can throw a cat off and cause them to eat less.

Changing their food or water bowl or switching to an automatic feeder can be a really positive thing in the long run, but it’s important to do it in the right way.

You should introduce the new bowl to your cat in a friendly way alongside their old bowl. Add a few treats to the new bowl to create a happy association and begin dividing the food between them until it’s all in their new bowl.

The same process can be followed for a pet water fountain or new pet feeder.

Introduce your pet to their new routine, create a positive link between them and their new bowl and they should accept the change. And, of course, they’ll soon let you know if they don’t!

Feeding schedule

Cats can be very fussy about their lifestyle. They often like the same thing at the same time and in the same way every single day.

You can encourage them to change their routine, but it must be done with careful thought and preparation, like we described above.

If your work hours or lifestyle have changed, it doesn’t have to mean your cat’s must too. You can keep your cat’s feeding schedule running as usual using an automatic feeder.

Just put their food in the bowl, set the timer for their usual dinnertime and introduce them to their new bowl.

Small incremental changes can also be made manually, but try to stick to 15–30 minutes at a time to let them adjust.

Alternatively, your cat might have changed feeding schedules entirely and now they’re choosing to eat at a time which suits them. To allow your older cat to graze and feed when they want, take a look at the Closer Pets MiBowl Automatic Microchip Pet Feeder. It’s an award-winning feeder that offers the perfect solution for owners with older pets whose regular feeding schedules have changed.

Create an appetite to avoid weight loss for cats

Now we know that the best food for cats that are losing weight is the food they like best, we need to get them eating again.

If you made any changes to their routine, changing back may be enough to encourage them to eat.

You can still make changes, but it’s a good idea to do it slowly and systematically.

Try some of our top tips to help encourage your furry friend to eat more:

Play with them more – One of the most fun ways to help is playing with your pet more, which helps build your relationship, lowers your pet’s stress levels and helps them burn calories – all of which can help create an appetite.

Check for other causes – As we said earlier, there are many reasons why your older cat might not be eating. Check carefully to make sure it isn’t medical and visit your vet if you’re not sure.

Use food you know they love – If you’ve changed their diet recently, change it back to something you know they like. Otherwise, try the same brand with a different flavour. Even changing the shape of the kibble can work!

See if they eat treats – If your cat turns their nose up at their meals, see if you can tempt them with a treat. If they aren’t eating their treats like they normally would, there’s likely something else going on.

Feed them fresh fish or tuna – If you don’t treat your cat, give them a portion of fresh fish or tuna to see if you can tempt them. It takes a particularly stubborn cat to resist fresh fish!

If all else fails, we recommend taking your cat to see a vet. If they don’t eat treats, there’s definitely more going on beneath the surface – and that’s where the experts come in.