Categories: Weight

I can feel my cat’s spine when I pet him

If you can feel your cat’s spine when you pet him, he might be underweight. I say “might” because it depends on how pronounced the spine is and how firmly you push into the skin covering the vetebrae. I consider my cat to be an ideal weight. Sometimes, I can just about feel his spine. I don’t want to feel it because I don’t think I should be able to feel it. However, I think this is more a personal preference because it is okay to be able to feel your cat’s spine provided it is not pronounced. It should be a subtle feeling, just a hint of the presence of the vertebrae of the spine beneath subcutaneous fat and skin. And don’t push too hard into the spine. If you do you are bound to feel it.

Perfect weight

Perhaps like most other people, I would expect that a cat of perfect weight should have enough fat to cover the spine so that it can’t be felt when gently petting her but don’t obsess over it because if the bones are felt almost imperceptibly I am sure it is okay.

Gabriel – Gabs – Gabby. Photo: Michael at PoC.

It’s not that my cat has lost his appetite or underfeeds. It’s just that he is very active and eats a normal amount of food which slightly predisposes him to being slender. I think he’s in the right weight range but occasionally very slightly underweight or let’s say fighting fit.

Poor appetite typical health symptom

You will see starving cats. You don’t have to feel the spine as it is painfully visible which is distressing to see. Obviously if a domestic cat is underweight (and it is normally quite clear that they are) you have to look for the underlying reasons. Being underweight is a very common health problem symptom. It should be accompanied by a loss of appetite which is also a very commonplace symptom for feline health problems.

Weight loss in very elderly cats suffering from a chronic condition is commonplace but set against this health issue is the prevention of obesity which is a very important factor in prolonging the life of an older cat.

My very old female cat shortly before I said goodbye looking painfully underweight. Photo: Michael

Encourage eating

Nasal infections caused by the feline viral respiratory disease complex may result in reduced appetite. You can encourage a cat to feed by providing his favourite aromatic foods. You can add juice from a can of tuna to regular cat food and gently warm the food to make it smell more (cats use their noses to decide if they like the food). An antihistamine can be used as an appetite stimulant; cyproheptadine. Your veterinarian can prescribe it if they think it suitable. The amino acid, lysine, can be added as a supplement and it may help decrease herpesvirus in the respiratory tract.

Palpating to check weight

The veterinarians say that there should be a layer of subcutaneous fat over internal structures such as ribs which provides padding and installation but should not be too thick. Cat owners should be able to feel a cat’s ribs as individual structures but not see them. Looking from above, a cat should have a narrowing of their body below the rib cage and above the hips. Being able to feel the vertebrae is okay provided it is not too obvious.

SOME MORE ON WEIGHT:

Health problems associated with feline obesity

The following health problems are linked to cat obesity. The information comes from a study by Hand et al 2000 ...
Read More

I can feel my cat’s ribs

For a cat of ideal weight, there is a layer of subcutaneous fat over their ribs which provides padding and ...
Read More

I can feel my cat’s backbone

The question is asking whether your cat is underweight if you can feel the vertebrae running down the spine. I ...
Read More

How much weight should my obese cat lose each week?

To be on the safe side check that your cat is not obese for medical reasons and that it is ...
Read More

The reason why people are fascinated with fat domestic cats but discriminate against fat people

The NBC News author F. Diane Barth asks why fat animals such as cats are called 'chonky' and discussed with ...
Read More

How to help your cat lose weight

A lot has been written on how to help your cat lose weight. You can overcomplicate it or you can ...
Read More
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

Recent Posts

Bug-eyed calico kitten’s hair strands remind me of Van Gogh’s brush strokes

Her name is Zinnia. There is a faint similarity of the brush strokes and the…

13 mins ago

A link between women’s love of cats and their concern for fairness and compassion?

There's a huge study out at the moment from the University of Southern California concerning…

4 hours ago

His childlike pet drawings have raised thousands for rough sleepers

You never quite know the formula for becoming an internet, social media sensation perhaps because…

9 hours ago

Woman isolated during lockdown with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome finds comfort in her cat companions

NEWS AND OPINION: It is a time to praise the domestic cat for comforting vulnerable…

10 hours ago

Cats Protection report that black cats are no longer being ‘left on the shelf’

Some good news for people who love cats, all kinds, no matter what their colour.…

11 hours ago

Is it normal for a cat to have one kitten?

I have to research this as I don't have first hand experience and my research…

24 hours ago