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What to Feed an Old Cat to Gain Weight: 5 Vet-Approved Tips

Written by: Patricia Dickson

Last Updated on May 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat eating goldfish crackers

What to Feed an Old Cat to Gain Weight: 5 Vet-Approved Tips


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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

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While to a certain extent, it’s normal for a cat to lose weight during their senior years, it’s also essential for you, as a pet parent, to do everything that you can to tempt their appetite and keep them as healthy as possible. Many people who have older cats often struggle to determine the best food to feed their pets and how to get them to eat it.

In this article, we give you a few tips for getting your senior cat to eat and picking out the best foods to tempt them with.

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Reasons Older Cats Lose Weight

Before you can determine what to do to help your senior cat gain weight, it’ll help to know the reasons they might be losing that weight to begin with.

Dental Problems

close up cat with swollen gums
Image Credit: mojahata, Shutterstock

While it’s normal for cats to lose some weight as they enter their golden years, it’s also when many cats start to suffer from dental problems. As you probably know, tooth decay or inflamed gums can make it difficult and extremely painful to eat.

Dental diseases can be prevented, even in older cats, so if you feel like your cat is losing weight for dental reasons, make them an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.


tired sick cat lying on bed
Image Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

There are quite a few diseases and illnesses that plague older cats that could stop your furry friend from eating the way they used to. Inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease, and feline diabetes are just a few of the diseases and illnesses that might be responsible.

The best way to determine if these diseases are the reason for your elderly cat not eating is to take them for an appointment at your local vet.

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What Foods Should You Feed an Older Cat?

The best food for an elderly cat is one that’s high in calories. You want the food to be high calorie and nutrient rich. It might be a little hard to determine the best food, though; since many cats are overweight, makers of cat food aren’t going to advertise the fact that their food will help cats gain weight.

Your best bet is to look for foods that laud their high protein content, as these foods are usually high in calories as well. It’s important to note that unlike with humans, upping your cat’s carb intake will not help them to gain weight.

You can also feed your cat food that is normally used for kittens, as these will have the vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and calories your cat needs to get back to a normal weight.

If you talk to your vet, there are high-calorie supplements that you can add to your senior cat’s food to ensure they gain weight.

top view of a cream maine coon cat eating dry and wet pet food from feeding dish
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

The 5 Tips for Getting Your Senior Cat to Eat

Sometimes all the food in the world isn’t enough to help your cat gain weight, especially if the cat doesn’t want to eat. So, in this next section, we give you a few tips that will hopefully tempt your senior cat to eat.

1. Warm Up Wet Food

Cats are stimulated and tempted to eat by the smell of their food. If you warm up your cat’s wet food, the warmth will release the smell, hopefully whetting your senior cat’s appetite.

You can heat the wet food for a few seconds before feeding it to your cat. Just make sure that the food is warm, not hot, as you don’t want to risk burning your cat’s mouth and tongue.

2. Offer Snacks Between Meals

It’s a good idea to offer snacks to your elderly cat between meals, but they need to be the right snacks. Healthy snacks can help to put weight on your cat. For example, try giving your cat bite-sized pieces of turkey or chicken between regular meals, as they are high in protein and healthy at the same time.

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3. Put a Damper on Your Cat’s Anxiety

We already know that a calm cat makes for a happy cat, and happy cats tend to eat more. Since cats are solitary hunters, they usually like to be left alone when they’re eating. So, make sure to put your cat’s food in a place where no other pets or children will bother them when they’re eating.

It’s best to choose a place that has very little foot traffic, especially if the cat isn’t feeling well to begin with.

4. Serve Small Meals

An older cat’s stomach might not be able to handle the two meals a day you normally feed them. Instead, try feeding the cat more frequently and making the portions smaller. Whether it’s dry food or wet food, try feeding your cat a tablespoon of the food once every 2 hours or so.

Small, regular meals can help settle the cat’s stomach and cut down on the chance of vomiting as well.

devon rex cat eating
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

5. Talk to Your Vet

If these tips don’t work for getting your cat to eat, then it’s time to make an appointment with your vet. They can do an examination and may recommend diagnostics to help rule out other reasons for decreased appetite and weight loss. There are appetite-stimulating medications that your vet can give you that will increase your cat’s appetite and hopefully, help them gain weight.

You’ll want to do a few things to keep your elderly cat safe, such as moving the litter box within easy reach of your pet and not letting them outside. Of course, love and patience are also the best medicines for a senior cat, so make sure those are given in huge doses!

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Final Thoughts

These are a few suggestions of what you can feed your senior cat to help them gain weight in their golden years. But remember, love and patience are also needed, so don’t skimp on your affection.

If you feel that your senior cat might have health issues that are causing their weight-loss problems, it’s best to contact your vet for an appointment for treatment that will hopefully help any underlying causes.

Featured Image Credit: Alexandr-Makarov, Shutterstock

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