Is My Cat Too Skinny? How to Check and What to Do

Skinny cat outside on asphalt

Cats come in a variety of sizes ranging from long and lean to short and chunky, but how do you know how skinny is too skinny? When do you start worrying about their weight and asking yourself, “Is my cat too skinny?”

We want you to be able to tell if your cat is at a good weight or not, and this is why we’re going to give you ways to measure your cat that can do at home. We’re also going to tell you what could cause your cat to be too skinny, different body styles, and more. 

Two Different Cat Body Types

Although cats arguably come in many different shapes and sizes, you can put them in two broad categories based on how they look. Mixed-breed domestic shorthairs usually fall between the two body types, and the two different body types include: 

  • Cobby Build – The cobby build is for cats that have short bodies, a shorter and stouter tail, and heavy bones. This body type typically ranges between 7 to 12 pounds, and the Persian would be a good example of this build. 

  • Oriental Build – The oriental build is for cats that have long and slender limbs, svelte bodies with fine bones, and long slender tails. Their weight usually falls between 5 to 10 pounds, and the Siamese or Domestic Shorthair are good examples of this build. 

It’s important that you know which build your cat falls under because the weight range varies. It’s easier to tell if a cat with an Oriental build is underweight than it is to tell if a cat with a Cobby build is underweight because they’re more solid overall. 

How to Check if Your Cat is Too Skinny

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to check and see if your cat is starting to hit the underweight mark just by using your hands. This will be slightly more difficult if your cat has a longer coat, but it’s possible with a little patience. 

You start by having your cat stand or sit in front of you before you take your hands and perform a gentle rubbing motion along your cat’s ribs, spine, pelvic bones, and shoulder blades. You want to feel a light layer of fat that pads these areas from your fingers, and their bones should be sticking out or angular. 

If you can feel these bony areas under your fingers and they’re sharp or poking out, your cat is most likely under their target weight. Easily distinguishable rib and hip bones, a narrow waist, and visible shoulder blades are all common symptoms of an underweight cat. 

Signs That Your Cat is Too Skinny

Most of these signs that indicate your cat may be too skinny relate to your cat’s physical appearance, and it’s much easier to tell in you have a cat with a shorter coat. However, they include: 

  • Your cat’s waist looks very narrow compared to other cats
  • You can see your cat’s spine and ribs, and you can feel the bones
  • The shoulder blades protrude, and the rib cage is visible
  • Your cat’s stomach is more tucked in
  • There is a lack of fat along your cat’s ribs and back.
  • There aren’t a lot of folds on your cat’s body
  • Your cat’s body deviates from the traditional hourglass shape
  • There is a thinning around your cat’s neck area

9 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Too Skinny

There are several reasons why your cat is getting too skinny, and it’s always best to check with your veterinarian if you have real concerns. Maybe it’s something as simple as your cat not getting enough nutrients from their food, and your veterinarian will be able to rule out medical conditions. 

Lacking Nutrients from Food

Take a look at your cat food’s nutritional label, and pay close attention to the protein and nutrient levels. If your cat isn’t getting enough of these nutrients, they could start to lose weight as a result and continue losing weight as their body tries to extract nutrients from your cat’s body fat. 

Activity Levels

Maybe you just have a very active cat combined with a very fast metabolism that lets them burn through calories far faster than they’re able to eat. If this is the case, you can give your cat a food that has a higher calorie and nutrient content to help them put on weight and keep it on. 

Dental Problems

Dental problems plague cats of all ages, and it’s widely estimated that roughly half of all cats over the age of three have dental problems or dental disease. Things like absences, missing teeth, broken, teeth, or plaque can make it difficult for your cat to eat. 

Scheduling routine cleaning is one way for your veterinarian to take care of any problem areas and address their dental problems. You can also practice brushing your cat’s teeth or giving them dental chews to help reduce plaque buildup. 

Not Enough Food

If you have other pets or even a multiple cat household, there could be competition over the food dish during mealtimes. If only one cat is getting skinny, maybe they’re not able to compete with your other cats or animals for food. 

You can try feeding the skinny cat in a room by themselves and see if it helps them gain weight. You should also set meal times at the same time every day to get your cat in a routine that ensures they eat when they’re supposed to without letting them free feed. 

Gastrointestinal Issues

Cats can develop a variety of gastrointestinal issues from sensitivities or allergies to ingredients in their foods. These issues can cause bloating, pain, gas, a loss of appetite, and trouble extracting nutrients from their food when they do eat. 

If you think it’s allergies or sensitives at work, you can try switching your cat to a limited ingredient food. Once you do, you want to monitor them to see if their digestive issues start to go away. If they do, you can keep them on the limited ingredient diet. 


Many middle-aged or older cats develop hyperthyroidism that causes issues like vomiting, weight loss, increased urination, and increased appetite. The thyroid gland starts to produce too much thyroid hormone, and this throws off your cat’s systems and causes weight loss. 

Only your veterinarian can diagnose a case of hyperthyroidism by performing an exam and blood tests. If hyperthyroidism is causing your cat’s weight loss, the weight loss should go away when you start your cat’s treatment through medications, surgery, or diet therapy. 


Another common health problem for cats is diabetes, and diabetes causes your cat to have a huge appetite while not being able to keep weight on. It directly impacts your cat’s ability to extract and retain the nutrients from the food they eat, and this is why they want to eat more. 

You want to take note on whether or not your cat has excessive thirst, excessive urination, or appetite changes and tell your veterinarian. They can do a blood test and discuss the best treatment routine based on the type of diabetes your cat gets diagnosed with. 

Liver or Kidney Issues

Liver and kidney issues are common in cats, and they’re more common in cats who are old and overweight because it puts stress on your cat’s organs. As these organs continue to deteriorate, your cat can start to lose weight at a steady pace. 

Again, blood tests will confirm or rule out problems with your cat’s liver or kidney issues, and your veterinarian will set up a treatment plan based on their findings. This can include things like medications and changing your cat’s diet to a renal one. 


Parasites like ringworm or tapeworms are a treatable infection, but they can cause weight loss because they’ll start to pull the nutrients from your cat’s body when they’re trying to digest their food. The worse the infection gets, the skinner your cat will get. 

Deworming medications are the common course of treatment for a parasitic infection, and your veterinarian will require a stool sample to confirm the presence of these parasites. The parasites usually go away after a round or two of the medication, and your cat should start gaining weight. 

Is my cat too skinny? Now you know how to find out which body style your cat falls in, how to check if they’re skinny by looking at them and running your hands over them, and nine common causes of weight loss. You can help treat them to get your cat back to a healthy weight and happy.