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Avatar universal

Kitten not gaining weight

I am fostering some abandoned kittens for a local shelter. One of them has not gained any weight but otherwise appears normal both physically and behaviorally. She was estimated to be 5 weeks old (by the shelter vet tech) when she was first found and now is 7 weeks old and still has not gained any weight. I have 2 of her siblings from the same litter and they weigh about 21 ounces, while the runt only weighs 13 ounces. She has not gained any weight in the 2 weeks I have been fostering her. She eats well and is active.  They have now all been weened and dewormed and their stools are normal (firm and brown).  Anything I can do to help gain weight or find out why she isn't?
39 Responses
874521 tn?1424120397
first of all how wonderful of you to do this for these poor little ones who need help so badly...
I'm afraid I don't have any answers for you, if kitty is eating and physically active perhaps she will just be the tiny one?
To make any diagnosis she would need to be seen by a Vet and tests done if warranted.
could you give her extra foods higher in calories?
Possibly posting on our 'ask a Vet forum' under nutrition could hellp you more?
best of luck for baby and please let us know what you find out and how she does..
541150 tn?1306037443
I have owned cats that have been the runt of the litter. They tend to stay behind as far a gaining weight; but eventually they turn out beautiful. If kitty is behaving fine and is not underweight then I wouldn’t worry about it. Just watch them grow and be happy. I’m sure kitty is still playful and active regardless of its size and shape. Make sure kitty eats until she is completely satisfied. As long as she gets all the nutrients her body needs she should be fine.

Avatar universal
Thanks for your feedback.  Since she was already 3 weeks old when found and brought to the shelter, there is no way of knowing her birth weight or how well or malnourished she was at that time.  But I think I may have discovered something yesterday and she may not have been eating as well as I thought she was.  She seemed to be eating quite vigorously and frequently, but I started watching her closely while she was eating yesterday.  She still tries to suck her food rather than lapping or biting it like the others do.  So with the dry kitten food, she really isn't ingesting and chewing much of it just sucking at the surface of it.  She won't take a bottle or syringe any more though,  So I soaked some of dry food in milk replacer and partially mashed it, then mixed in a little oil and corn syrup (for the extra calories).  She still ***** this rather than lapping or biting, but at least she is actually ingesting it.  I don't know if this is just a developmental issue, or if she has some physical dental or swallowing problem.    
541150 tn?1306037443
Well, each animal is different but I don’t think she is THAT different from other runts. They stay behind in many aspects, including learning how to properly eat. I’m so glad that you discovered what was happening to her. Poor little girl. Sounds like you are doing a great job. Keep mixing dry with milk replacement, or soft food with milk replacement, and she should be fine. If she had a dental problem she would not be eating. Trust me. If you’d rather get her checked for dental issues, that’s fine, but dental problems usually, for the most part occur in older cats. What you describe sounds like she is just slow at learning how to chew her foods. She’ll get it. Just keep an eye on her as those kitties can get sick easily. As long as she takes in her nutrients she should be fine. I love that you are taking such good care of her…..

One more thing..I would record her weight every week to keep track of how well (or not) she is feeding.
874521 tn?1424120397
just an additional note to whats already been said, I'm glad you are soaking the dry kibble, however what I would like to see her have is canned food, make sure its 'kitten food' with all the extra calories....the canned food is so superior to the dry, even if its not a high quality canned its still superior.!!!!
It would be easier for her to eat and digest..like PK said, mix it with the milk replacement so its mushy, than when she is doing better you can slowly start to lessen the amount of replacement added...I would be sure to feed her separately for awhile so you can monitor how much she is eating and not one of the others getting it.
Avatar universal
Canned food gave all of them diarrhea.  I know it contains more calories, so that is why I am mixing a bit of oil and corn syrup into the moistened dry food.  The other issue is that she is a long hair and with the sucking, she puts her whole head and front paws into the bowl when she eats.  Needless to say, that requires almost a full bath after each feeding to keep it from drying in her fur and creating mats.  Since she is so small, I don't want her to be chilled from being wet from having to bathe her so often.  She still gets pretty messy with the soaked dry food, but not as bad as with the canned food and I can usually get that off her by just wiping her face and paws with a damp towel..

I am now feeding her separately so I can see how much she is actually consuming.
I've converted weighing her from ounces to grams so I can see more precisely any gains or losses.  She was 375 grams this morning, just slightly over 13 ounces, after her first feeding.

I hoping it is just slower development that she is still sucking food.  She was actually found about 10 days sooner than her other two litter mates, so she either had that much less time on mother's milk, or mama rejected her, which could also account for slower development than her sibs.

One other thing I had noticed is that she had been very noisey.  Meowed a lot of the time.  It didn't sound as though it was a distressed or pained cry, so I had just chalked it up to her being a talker (I have an adult Bengal that talks a lot just cause she wants to), but it may have been from chronic low level hunger.  She still "talks" a lot, but since yesterday it's been mostly while she is playing or if someone speaks to her or walks by.  Previously, she would talk even when just sitting and no one else was talking or moving around her.
874521 tn?1424120397
good for you for going that extra mile for her...poor little girl.
You know thats probably why the sucking..she was abandoned by her mother 'to soon' and didn't get that initial sucking that she needed and now is trying to substitute. or like you say it maybe because of the slower development also..
another theory is could the mother have abandoned her because she had a health problem?..some animals will turn away their sick ones and let them die.
If you can bring this little girl to a healthy stage and eating properly you will need a huge pat on the back.
I would just love to do what you are doing and help out our local shelter, I'm ashamed to say I just CAN'T...and I'm being realistic about that, I wouldn't be able to not bring too many home. so GOOD FOR YOU!!!
Avatar universal
Well so far her change of diet doesn't seem to be helping either.  Still no weight gain and she is starting to seem to be a bit more listless compared to her previous level of activity.  Her belly seems full, but not distended, but she sure is getting boney on the rest of her little body.  I wonder if she may have some sort of nutrition absorption problem.  Don't know what else I can do, so will just keep doing what I am doing and hope for the best.
541150 tn?1306037443
Poor little girl. Is there any way a vet can see her? It’d be a shame, after all your hard work, if she passed just like that.  I don’t understand. She is eating and drinking. Could this be just a stage in her life where she is just having difficulty developing properly? Runts can be tough to deal with. Some are naturally sick. I’ve raised runts and it has not been easy. They tend to be skinny and not active. And sometimes they will die for no apparent reason. Keep a close watch on her. Now that she is skinny, you may want to try covering her with a blanket to help her be comfy.  Just make sure she eats and drinks water. She could potentially bounce back!
Avatar universal
I emailed the shelter kennel manager about having the vet take a look at her.  They have one that comes in a couple times a week to do spay/neuters and an exams beyond what the resident vet techs can do.  She seems a little perkier again today as compared to yesterday.  Thing is, I would guess that even for the vet to determine if there is an underlying physical problem would require a complete blood panel and as little as she is, they were barely able to get the 3 drops needed for a feline leukemia test.  Plus, that's pretty expensive and the shelter has no budget for diagnostic medical testing beyond the standard heart worm, and feline HIV and leukemia.  So unless they can pay for it from a donation fund, that isn't likely to happen.  
Avatar universal
Well this just baffles me.  No weight gain for almost 4 weeks and then suddenly she went 375 to 410 grams in one day.  I checked my scale with a couple of known weights and it is accurate.  She also seems to be eating a little better in terms of biting her food instead of sucking it.  It kind of looks llike a sucking motion until she gets it to her mouth and then she actually bites and chews.  I gave her a little bit of left overs from a beef roast last night and she really liked that. I minced it real fine.  Sure hope this weight gain holds and continues.
874521 tn?1424120397
the slight weigh gain can be attributed to the extra calories you've been giving, and that is a good start.
Don't switch their food right over from dry to cans, that will cause diarrhea as you saw, the switch has to be gradual...try 25% canned to 75% dry than gradually decrease the dry it will be easier for her to eat and MUCH better for all the kitties!!
she IS hungry thats why all the meowing...so getting her started for now on some cooked meat is good, will also encourage the 'chewing' action.

I'm glad she will be seen by a Vet soon, even their standard blood panel would rule out many of the problems she could be having, I would think if something more serious is occurring they would be against spending the money to treat kitty???
lets hope they are able to get sufficient amount of blood from her.

541150 tn?1306037443
heheh---- That's great that she's gained weight! whoohhoo!!!
Avatar universal
Thank you both.  She gained again from yesterday to today,.  After gaining nothing for almost 3 weeks she has gained over 2 ounces in the last 2 days,  She is at 440 grams today which is about 15.5 ounces, a 2 1/2 ounce gain in 2 days!  She is also eating from the bowl more normally with less sucking.  She still manages to get it all over her face but at least she isn't putting her whole head and front paws in the bowl like she use to.  

Their initial diarrhea wasn't from switching from dry food to canned food, it was from switching from formula to formula with canned food added when they were still too young to chew dry food.  What I am feeding her now is mostly dry food that I have made into wet food by soaking it in formula and then mashing it. I add just a tablespoon or so of canned food to a bowl full of this mix and diarrhea hasn't been a problem.  I am also trying to be careful not to get them away from the dry food too much, since that will be their diet at the shelter.

Working as a volunteer for the last several months at 2 different shelters, I have really gotten an education and appreciation of public shelter operations.  The staff are wonderful caring people who work extremely hard and long hours for not a lot of pay.  The shelters are funded by taxpayer dollars from city or county jurisdictions.  Their budgets are pretty much limited to day to day operations (payroll (and they are chronically understaffed), and routine housing and feeding of the animals.  There really is no budget for medical care other than basic vaccinations and tests.  Volunteers who do fundraising, work along side shelter staff cleaning the facilities and caring for the animals, and fostering animals who are too young or sick, or have behavioral problems are essential.  The shelters could not function with out them.  There is no overnight staff, so animals that need a special diet and need to be fed every few hours just can't make it at the shelter and need to be fostered. The county shelter I volunteer with has over 400 animals on average and a total staff of maybe 2 dozen people, no more than 12 of which are working at any given time and that includes administrative and supervisory staff, so only 4 or 5 whose primary duties are working directly with the animals.  I am constantly in awe of how much they do with so little to work with.  I feel fortunate that I am retired and now have the time to do my part to help.  In addition to fostering, I spend a couple days during the week working at the shelter and most Saturdays or Sundays I take dogs to off site events to promote adoptions, donations and and talking to people about being a shelter volunteer or foster parent.  Even those who can only spare a couple hours per week are desperately needed by local shelters.

I didn't really intend to get off on this tangent.  It is just something I'm into and can get rather passionate about....LOL    
874521 tn?1424120397
Its the care and compassion of good people like yourself that make these shelters able to run and do such wonderful work....I for one am so grateful to you for doing what you do and to all the others who volunteer their time to these poor unfortunate little ones that are born and discarded/abandoned...if only more of us could do what you are doing to make their lives more comfortable and with such a passion, it would make such a huge difference
sooo glad baby boy is eating and gaining, how proud you must be to perhaps saved him, I just pray now he will find a loving home to go to and not a cage.
541150 tn?1306037443
I agree with Opus. Volunteering is an act of kindness which only God would be fully able to reward. One of my cats comes from a rescue organization which has a no kill policy. My other cat comes from the county shelter. I'd rather adopt my animals from places like that than buy one from a breeder. Shelter cats/dogs turn out to be the best pets in the world, from my experience. That kitty will turn out to be beautiful and healthy, and will live for many, many years. I hope you'll find her a good home soon. She must be so cute after all.  And I can tell she is learning fast and has a strong will to live. This is such good news.
Avatar universal
Not sure if this link will work from here but these are some photos of my 4 little guys in a facebook album.

874521 tn?1424120397
Oh that sure did work.....those kittens are gorgeous!!.....that little tabby has such a beautiful face, how could one not love it....and the one with the black face and grey body, that is sure unusual coloring I think that one is adorable too. I have an all black cat but colors ar enot whats important, its the personality isn't it.
How on earth do you foster these little guys than give them up??? don't you become attached?
God I know I end up keeping them all, are you considering???
Which one is the one thats not eating/gaining? and how is she doing today?
bless you!
Avatar universal
Sky is the gray tabby and he is the only known survivor of his litter.  He has a great personality and very playful and sweet.  The other 3 are from the same litter, but interestingly one is a long hair while the other 2 are short hairs.  Their black heads and silver gray bodies are gorgeous, but I have been told that will fade as they grow and they will probably end up being solid black.  Jess, the long hair is the little runt that is so tiny.  The other 2 are Jo Jo and Toby.  Those three are real talkers, especially Jess and Jo Jo (the 2 females, go figure...LOL).  

Jess is the one I have been talking about mostly here that was so little and not gaining weight.  She is the one in the photo on the color blocked carpet and in most of the photos with Sky.  The last two photos in the album are Jo Jo and Toby, respectively.

Jess is still doing well today.  I weigh her each morning and she has finally gained over 2 ounces in the last 3 days.  

I have obviously become quite fond of all of them, but my job is to make sure they are healthy and hardy enough to be adopted and litter training them and socializing them to improve their odds of adoption.  Kittens and puppies usually go pretty quick, so I am confident all of these little guys will find homes fairly quickly once I take them back to the shelter.  And when one of the animals that I have fostered or trained gets adopted that just makes my day and that makes my efforts and the bittersweet need to give them up all worthwhile.  One of the many reasons I foster and volunteer for shelters is that it gives me the opportunity to work with a lot of different animals that otherwise I wouldn't be able to.  I do have 3 older cats of our own that have been with us for many years.

Avatar universal
A milestone this morning!  Jess is now a pound!  16.4 ounces to be exact.  She is almost caught up to her sister, Jo Jo, who is just over 18 ounces, and her brother Toby who is 21.5 ounces.  Sky, who is a week older and from a different litter,  wouldn't sit still this morning so couldn't get an accurate weight on him but he hit the two pound mark almost a week ago.
541150 tn?1306037443
I KNEW IT!!!! I knew she was going to pull through. This is such good news. I'm so happy for this kitten. I truly hope she'll find a good home.
541150 tn?1306037443
It's a shame I can't see the picture. I bet she is very pretty :-)
Avatar universal
I found where I could upload photos here, so if you click on my name it should bring them up.  I've also added some of my older cats, Zylo, Zena, and Zany.
Avatar universal
Today is a bittersweet day.  I am taking Sky back to the shelter today.  He is big enough to be adopted.  I'm taking the other 3 back as well because I will be out of town for a long  weekend.  Not sure yet if some one else will take them home while I am gone or if they will stay at the shelter.  The shelter doesn't make them available for adoption until they weigh 2 pounds.  I won't know until I get back if I'll be bringing those 3 back home or if they have others that are in more critical need of fostering.  In any case, those 3 seem to be over the hump in terms of the critical period from the time they were found abandoned, to now where they seem to be completely healthy and developing on their own.  Those 3 are now 8 weeks old, and while they are still a low weight, they have been gaining steadily since the end of last week.
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