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Home > Cats > 6 Ideas on How to Help Your Cat Gain Weight Safely: Vet Approved Tips

6 Ideas on How to Help Your Cat Gain Weight Safely: Vet Approved Tips

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When dealing with weight issues in cats, it’s a lot more common to see cats that need to shed a few pounds rather than put them on. However, if your cat is too skinny, you’re probably eager to help them get back to a healthy weight. Here are six ideas on how to help your cat gain weight. Remember to check with your veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet or lifestyle.


The 6 Ways to Help Your Cat Gain Weight

1. Find Out Why They’re Losing Weight

Need to see a vet?: Yes
Supplies needed: Depends on the diagnosis

The first step in helping your cat gain weight is to find out why it can’t keep it on in the first place. Medical causes of weight loss are extensive, and it won’t do you much good to try other weight-gaining methods if you don’t treat underlying conditions first.

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a physical exam. Your vet may suggest tests, including blood work, urine or fecal checks, and X-rays. Your cat’s weight loss could be caused by something as simple as an intestinal parasite or as complex as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or cancer. Also, the importance of dental health cannot be understated. A sore mouth or resorptive lesions of the teeth can make chewing food very painful!

2. Diet Change

Need to see a vet?: Often
Supplies needed: Canned food, high-calorie food, prescription diet

Another idea to help your cat gain weight is to change its diet. Many medical causes of weight loss require a special diet, and it’s essential to look for a diagnosis first. If your cat is recuperating from an illness or needs more calories, new food can also help.

Potential options include switching to canned food, which often smells and tastes better to kitties struggling with their appetite. Your vet may also suggest a more calorie-dense diet, so your cat gets more nutrition per bite. In other cases, the recommended diet may be more digestible or contain specific ingredients to address your cat’s condition.

cat not eating the food
Image By: Elena Kutepova, Shutterstock

3. Feed More Food

Need to see a vet?: Sometimes
Supplies needed: Extra bowls, automatic feeder, food

Cats that are underweight due to lack of access to food may need to eat more for a while to help them gain weight. Stray or recently adopted kitties are often underweight simply because they struggle to find enough food. To avoid a swing in the opposite direction, ask your vet to calculate your cat’s base calorie requirements per day and how much extra they should eat to gain weight.

An excellent place to start is by offering your cat 20% more calories than its basic requirement. You can either free-feed your cat or offer small, frequent meals. Make sure to weigh your cat frequently, so you know when it’s time to cut back to their regular calorie count.

Complement this information by using our cat calculator tool here:

The exact amount of calories an individual animal needs to maintain a healthy weight is variable and influenced by many factors including genetics, age, breed, and activity level. This tool is meant to be used only as a guideline for healthy individuals and does not substitute veterinary advice 

4. Make Food More Tempting

Need to see a vet?: No
Supplies needed: Microwave, chicken broth, food topper

Try making the food more tempting to encourage your cat to eat more and gain weight. If you’re feeding canned food, warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds (check the temperature before giving it to your cat) to enhance the texture and smell.

Make dry food more exciting by adding sodium-free chicken broth, tuna juice, or another tasty food topper. You could even warm the moistened dry food. Some cats enjoy being hand fed, while others like to be left alone.

A ragdoll cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Snowice_81, Shutterstock

5. Decrease Stress

Need to see a vet?: No
Supplies needed: Extra food bowls, a quiet room

If you have more than one cat at home, anxiety or territorial conflicts could impact your skinny kitty’s ability to gain weight. One cat may be guarding the food bowl or eating more than its fair share of the meals. Nervous cats may not like eating in exposed, noisy locations. Make sure you have enough food bowls to go around. Consider separating your cats during mealtime to ensure the skinny one gets plenty to eat in peace.

6. Give Medications or Supplements

Need to see a vet?: Yes
Supplies needed: High-calorie treats or supplements, appetite stimulant medications

Cats uninterested in eating may benefit from prescription appetite-stimulating medications. Several options are available, and you can talk to your vet about what will work best for your kitty. High-calorie treats or supplements can also help your cat gain weight when used as snacks between meals. Most of your cat’s calories should come from a balanced food, and you can ask your vet to determine how much to supplement so your cat is still hungry for their normal diet.

hand giving pill to a cat
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock


What If My Cat Stops Eating Entirely?

Some of the ideas on our list require you to consult your vet, but if your cat ever stops eating entirely, a trip to the doctor is not optional.

Cats that stop eating or aren’t eating enough are at risk of developing a dangerous medical condition called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. If your cat isn’t taking in enough calories, its body will start breaking down fat cells to survive. Unfortunately, digesting all the fat puts a lot of stress on the liver, which can quickly become overwhelmed and damaged.

With liver function compromised, your cat can quickly become ill. Look for a yellow color (jaundice) on your cat’s skin, eyes, and gums. It is a sign that your cat’s liver is seriously damaged, and immediate treatment is required.

Your vet will likely recommend a hospital stay for your cat, including IV fluids, medications, and possibly a feeding tube to get nutrition into them quickly. Hepatic lipidosis can be a complicated and expensive disease to treat, so don’t hesitate to seek help if your kitty isn’t eating.

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Although feline obesity comes with its own set of health risks, helping a cat gain weight safely can also take some work. The first step is to determine why your cat is skinny and then go from there. These six ideas are a good starting point to help your cat gain weight. Even if you don’t need to go see your vet, they are still your best resource for advice and support as your kitty navigates their weight gain journey.

Featured Image Credit: Oleksandr-Volchanskyi, Shutterstock

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