Has your cat ever gone from a happy diner to a fickle patron, refusing to eat the supper he usually gobbles right up? Or is your cat still eating, but seeming to lose weight anyway? The inner workings of a beloved feline have left many a pet parent scratching his head in worry, and according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), it’s difficult to say what the normal weight is for cats due to the variations in breeds and individuals. There are several reasons why your cat could be losing weight, and many are easily remedied with adjustments to his diet. Read on to learn more about the most common explanations for feline weight loss.

5: Messy Mealtimes
You wouldn’t want to eat off of dirty dishes, and your cat probably doesn’t either. So if she’s suddenly finicky, review your serving habits and make some adjustments to keep your cat’s cuisine fresh and clean. If you use dry cat food, store it in an airtight container to retain freshness. You can probably get away with cleaning your cat’s food bowl weekly if the food is dry, but if wet morsels make your feline purr, then clean the plate after each meal. Always have fresh water available, and wash the water bowl out once a day to keep hair and debris out of the drink. Finally, the ASPCA recommends that you consider the proximity of the litter box to the food station. Would you want to eat in your bathroom? Kitty probably doesn’t either. If these quick tricks don’t solve the issue, your cat’s weight loss could be stress-related — find out more on the next page

4: Stress
Your cat’s environment can also affect weight loss, so make sure mealtimes are quiet and that your feline can feast uninterrupted by other animals or people. Some cats get depressed or show signs of anxiety when boarded, so consider asking a close friend to pet-sit if your kitty protests your vacation by fasting.

Believe it or not, some cats will develop anorexia — refusal to eat — just like humans. Sometimes a health issue brings on this condition, but according to the ASPCA, it can often be attributed to stress or a psychological disorder. If your cat’s refusal to eat lasts more than a day and Zen dining doesn’t seem to help, call your vet immediately to rule out a bigger issue and reduce the risk of fatty liver disease.

3: Intestinal Problems
Your feline could be suffering from a number of common gastrointestinal issues that might be causing him to lose weight. Food allergies or a new intolerance could be the culprit for the sudden slim-down, but there could be something more sinister lurking within your cat’s intestines: parasites. The most common is the roundworm, and while some kittens might get infected through their mother’s milk, most adult cats that contract worms do so through a rodent. If your cat is notorious for bringing home a catch, check his feces for any spaghetti-like worms. Your vet can prescribe medication to de-worm your cat. If it’s a different gastrointestinal issue, a new diet formulated for your cat’s special needs often solves the problem.

2: Old Age
The older your cat gets, the more likely he is to show changes in weight — while some senior felines plump up, others might slim down. A decreased sense of smell and dental disease are both likely culprits. According to the ASPCA, elderly cats can also suffer from constipation or changes in metabolism that could cause a noticeable weight loss. Talk to your veterinarian about your senior cat’s diet and get regular senior pet checkups to catch any issues early. Some easy adjustments, like adding fiber, can help keep your feline healthy during his golden years.

1: Diseases and Disorders
If you’ve eliminated all of the other common explanations for weight loss, your veterinarian might conduct tests to rule out any maladies for which weight loss is a common symptom, such as cancer. The best thing you can do to make sure you catch any serious issues early is to weigh your cat regularly and track his weight. While sudden shifts are more noticeable, a gradual weight loss could go undetected until the disease has progressed. It’s also important to keep your cat’s teeth clean and free of tartar to avoid dental disease, which can progress to the kidneys and liver.

If your cat is losing weight, try some of these tips and consult with your vet about the best course of treatment to get Kitty back in tip-top shape.