by Elisa Black-Taylor
Marley weighed only 4 lbs. at rescue
A cat lover tending to underweight cats has a very delicate job ahead of them. I won't go into what causes a cat to be malnourished or underweight (Michael did a page on that: cat losing weight). It can be anything from illness to old age to nursing kittens. I also won't spend time on the health risks associated with low weight. Instead I plan to focus this article on things my daughter Laura and I use personally in my own underweight cats.
We must be doing something right, as we've rescued some with serious weight issues and they've slowly gained weight under our care.
I'd first like to talk about the head of our rescue, Furby the Feral Feline. He came to us a starving kitten. A normal appetite soon took care of this without us having to intervene. Back in December of 2010 Furby came down with a bad URI. The vet placed him on Zeniquin and other than having lost weight, he was well in a few days. We tried using the Nutra-stat gel mentioned later in this article. He refuses it. Spoiled and finicky both, that's my boy!
A few months ago Furby came down with another URI. He'd had his vaccinations and became so ill he didn't have much of an appetite. We know when Furby is sick because it's the ONLY time he sleeps with me.
This vet (my favorite from my prior cat lady days) placed Furby on the antibiotic Baytril. He also gave Furby a B-12 shot, then handed me the bill after recommending Furby continue the shots, as B-12 is an appetite stimulant. Each shot was going to run me $25.
I did some reading up on B-12 and B-Complex injections and found they can be purchased both online and at farm stores. The average price for a 6 ounce bottle is around $12. I planned to order some when I ordered the vaccine injections for the rest of Furby's House.
I ran into a problem. Everywhere I turned online was out of the injectible form of vitamin B. The local Tractor and Supply was also out and didn't know when they'd receive another shipment. I'm not sure whether more pet owners are now giving the injections on their own as we planned to do, or whether people were buying it to administer to themselves.
There are also people in this country stockpiling medication and vitamins in case the U.S. goes into a meltdown or is under attack. At any rate, if you can find the injectible form of B vitamins, grab a bottle. It's used by the body much better than by ingesting a pill or liquid.
Two weeks ago I lucked up and found one bottle of the B-Complex at the Tractor and Supply. I snatched it up and Furby received his first injection that night. This was a real challenge since it must be given in a muscle. Furby had already expressed his dislike of needles at the vet on his last visit.
Giving a cat the injection is quite an experience. I hold Furby by the back of his neck with his feet off of the ground. As soon as he's airlifted Laura sticks the needle in and injects him. The ordeal is over before he has time to start kicking and turn around and hiss. I feel sure if we didn't use this method one of us would be bitten.
Although B-Complex injections can be given daily, we choose to give Furby one a week. His appetite has improved 500% and his weight is finally coming back on. We tease him about having the vitamin B munchies.
Our cat Cocoa, who is both toothless and declawed, didn't fit the criteria of underweight cats, but he was well on his way to being malnourished. Something was wrong with him when we rescued him and he refused to eat. Blood tests showed an elevation in white blood cells and he was started on an antibiotic. He seemed to be feeling better, but still no appetite. I took him back to the vet and he'd lost almost 2 pounds. The vet recommended Hills Prescription Diet A/D, a critical care cat food. It ran $2 for a small can.
I've had a lot of negative feedback on this product. Personally, I can't complain. We'd already tried everything from baby food to yogurt to cooked chicken during the first week Cocoa was with us. No success with any of them. He just wouldn't eat. I'd even purchased a chicken stew type of delicacy found in the refrigerated pet food section of my grocery. At $1.59 for 4 ounces, it should have been caviar! Cocoa turned his nose up at it.
I like the consistency of the Hills A/D. I can water it down using warm water and draw the mixture up using a feeding syringe. I learned later I could also use a tiny baby spoon to rake the mixture to the roof of his mouth. He seems to enjoy this food. He wouldn't eat it out of a bowl, but I managed to spoon enough or syringe enough into his mouth to keep him alive and he didn't lose any more weight. Please note this food can also be used in a feeding tube.
During the third week at our home he finally began to eat. He eats dry food without having teeth! He'll turn up his nose at any canned cat food. So goodbye Prescription Diet A/D, hello cheaper food!
I do highly recommend it, regardless of the comments I've had chastising me for using it. It saved my cat. Here's some information on the food and it's nutritional benefits.
The final product I'd like to recommend for underweight cats is Nutra-Stat by Tomlyn Products. Our Misty and Marley were both underweight cats before starting this product. I chose it because it's much less expensive from similar products offered by my vet. At less than $4.50 a tube, I order four or five tubes at a time from KV Pets thru Amazon.com. There's a flat shipping rate of around $5 and shipping is fast and reliable.
I was concerned Marley and Misty wouldn't like the taste of this gel. As I mentioned earlier, Furby won't touch it. I was very pleased when first they merely ate it when offered, then began begging for it as a treat.
Marley was only 4 pounds when we rescued her. Seriously underweight as she was over a year old. Marley had recently given birth to the Whineybutt family and I believe having a large litter took a lot out of her. Nursing is one way underweight cats become even more malnourished. Plus she had also survived feline distemper.
Misty had lost weight since her arrival. She's a nervous declawed cat who had also pulled much of her fur out. Being declawed and at least 10 years old, she had a lot to overcome. The primary reason we didn't start her on the injections of B-Complex is they are a bit stressful for the cat to receive and we didn't want to upset her. The Nutra-stat is loaded with vitamins and nutrients and has helped tremendously.
They've both put on weight during the six months I've been using this product. Here's a link to more info on it. http://www.drugs.com/vet/nutri-stat.html
I'd like to think the day will come when underweight cats won't be an issue at our rescue. I'm realistic enough to know that's unlikely to happen. I'm glad to have these three methods to help my cats put weight on.
Please only use this information to supplement your care of your cats. It's not meant to replace a vet visit. We only use medications a vet himself has used. At a cheaper price than the vet offers on the injections as well as on Nutra-stat (it's $16 a tube for a similar product at the vet).
If any of the readers know of other miracle products for underweight cats, please share them here. I'd much rather purchase a supplement recommended by my friends here than to just go on line and trust the judgment of the masses. I trust the readers and am always looking into products to make my cats feel better.
P.S. Furby claims Marley as his second wife. LOL.
See also Healthy Cat Weight