Thanks for that further information - it has been helpful!
So, clearly, there is *something* going on with your cat to cause her to have lost so much weight recently.
The things that I would consider would be hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid gland), and diabetes and unfortunately we also have to consider neoplasia (cancer). These are the most common problems that I see in senior cats.
Kidney disease is not likely. Although cats with kidney disease do drink a lot, they don't have good appetites. Most of the time, they are brought in because they have stopped eating. So, kidney problems are not what I would be expecting to find with your old girl.
With chronic renal insufficiency cats tend to drink more, lose weight and have a diminished appetite. Some have vomiting. Many have dry hair coats and hair loss.
With hyperthyroidism, however, they tend to drink more, lose weight and have an INCREASED appetite. Some have vomiting, many have diarrhea.
With diabetes, cats also tend to eat and drink more, and have dry hair coats and hair loss as well.
With neoplasia, they may eat more or eat less, and lose weight.
As you can see, many of the symptoms overlap and with your kitty I don't know which of these descriptions fits best. All are treatable, to different degrees. Let me explain a bit more about each of them and the treatment options:
This is what I feel is most likely for your cat!
This is a common disorder of older cats in which the thyroid gland in the neck starts to over-produce a hormone called T4. T4 controls metabolic rate. So, the more you have of it, the faster the metabolism. Cats that are hyperthyroid tend to eat voraciously, but lose weight because they burn the calories up so fast. Their heart rates increase, and the transit time through the intestines increases. So, they may develop diarrhea and vomiting, but not always.
Hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed by physical exam and blood and urine analysis. On a physical exam, I check for enlarged thyroid glands, and a rapid heart rate, and sometimes heart murmurs. Blood and urine tests allow a vet to confirm the diagnosis.
Hyperthyroidism responds really well to treatment. The treatment options are oral medication (usually twice daily, always for the rest of kitty's life), surgery, or radioactive iodine treatment (this last is the BEST treatment because it gives you a cure, but it is expensive).
2. Diabetes mellitus is also on the list of possibilities.
When a normal animal eats, the intestines absorb the calories into the bloodstream as glucose. So, now there is a lot of glucose in the blood. BUT it cannot get into the muscles or other cells that need it without insulin. You absolutely have to have insulin to get glucose from the blood into the cells. And it is the cells that need the glucose; the bloodstream is just a road that delivers it to the cells.
So, now there is a lot of glucose in the blood and it can't go anywhere. This then starts to spill into the urine - so now you have glucose in the urine. Glucose is a really large molecule, and where-ever it goes, it pulls water with it. So, all that glucose in the urine pulls a lot of water out into the urine with it, and suddenly the animal is urinating large quantities.
This makes her dehydrated, so she has to drink huge amounts to try to stay hydrated.
Animals with diabetes thus drink an enormous amount of water (usually much more than 1 cup a day). Also, they have ravenous appetites because their cells are starving as none of the glucose can get into them. So, they eat a lot and urinate a lot.
Diabetes can usually be managed with insulin injections and/or with prescription food plus pills depending on how far advanced it is.
I'll give you some links to further information:
3. Unfortunately, we also have to consider neoplasia (cancer) because your kitty is older and there has been weight loss.
Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are FAR more common, however, so don't panic! To diagnose cancer, a vet would start with a complete physical exam to try to feel for internal masses, and would do blood work to rule out other problems. X-rays and biopsies might be needed.
If the tests for hyperthyroid disease and CRI were negative, and other blood tests were all normal, I would have to start considering cancer, unfortunately.
Some forms of cancer grow as a mass or lump and can be palpated in the belly or seen on x-rays. Some forms of cancer invade as tiny little cells all through-out an organ like the gastrointestinal tract. They are hard to detect because you can't palpate them, and you can't see them on an x-ray because they are scattered throughout the organ. In these cases, ultrasound and biopsy or exploratory surgery and biopsy can be used to make a diagnosis. Looking at a piece of the organ under a microscope is the only way to see if there are cancer cells there. Many types of cancer in cats respond really well to chemotherapy medication. There are even chemo protocols that consist of pills that the owner can give at home. Cats have minimal side effects from many chemo drugs - NOTHING like as severe as humans.
There are so many forms of cancer that it is hard for me to provide a link, but I'll give you one for a common type of cancer:
So, in summary, it sounds as though your cat may have hyperthyroidism, diabetes or possibly neoplasia.
From what you have described, my best guess would be that hyperthyroidism is most likely. A check up and blood tests with your vet will help to make this diagnosis, and get her started on treatment to help her gain weight! I encourage you to take her in today or tomorrow as her condition sounds serious!
So, although I can't tell you what is wrong with your kitty, I hope I have given you some directions to explore with your vet.
Now, I understand you have financial limitations, so I have some suggestions for what you can do at home to help. What you can do is try to get some calories into her in liquid form - that way she is getting nutrition at the same time as fluids.
I suggest opening a can of tuna *in water* and offering her the liquid.
Also, you can pick up Clam Juice in most grocery stores (sold in with the V8 or with the canned tuna in my grocery store) and mix that with some water.
You could try Lactose Free milk (Lactaid is the Canadian brand).
Offer her some canned cat food, and mix it with water to make a slurry if she won't eat it.
Things you can do to encourage a cat to drink are:
- offer water from a very wide flat bowl as cats don't like their whiskers to touch the edges when they drink (which is why lots of cats like the toilet bowl).
- If she likes dripping water, leave a tap dripping for her.
- Offer bottled water and see if she prefers it.
- Offer onion free chicken broth, diluted 50:50.
- See if she likes water with an ice cube in it.
- See if she likes it out of a cup or martini glass.
- Offer Whiskas Cat Milk
- Offer her canned food as the first ingredient in water
- You could try getting some human baby food in meat flavours (check that there are no onions or garlic in the ingredients) and mix that with warm water and offer that, or syringe it in little bits into your cat's mouth. Beech Nut makes a line of baby food that has nothing but meat (beef, chicken, turkey or veal) in it.
If you cannot find this, you could find another meat baby food - just read the label carefully to be sure there are no onions, onion powder, garlic, or garlic powder in it.
I do feel that she may be hyperthyroid. This is a condition that responds really well to medications, so I do encourage you to have her seen so that treament can begin and she can start to re-gain her strength!
I do hope that this helps you to help your senior cat!
If this has been helpful, please "Accept" my answer and provide feedback.
If you need more information, just click on reply and I will try to provide it!
The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.