How to Keep a Skinny Old Cat Young


Karma just can’t fit into Seren’s bed these days, but that doesn’t stop him from trying!

My faithful readers know that Seren-Kitty (aka “The Queen”) is a skinny old cat and has struggled for the past year or so with the “schnorkles” and “sneezles.” I’ve written about her increasingly scary bouts with URIs (upper respiratory infections) in this post. URIs is one of the major reasons that cats refuse to eat.

Thank goodness, Seren still has an appetite. Her sneezle-attacks began last Friday and alerted me to the potential problem. So early Monday morning, I called my veterinarian and got a refill on the liquid Clavamox that helped so much the last time. After just two days, she’s already breathing a bit easier. God bless veterinarians!


Old cats get sick quicker and take longer to get well. August happens to be Senior Pet Month–and both Seren and Magical-Dawg are senior citizen pets. So this post is doubly appropriate.

Nutrition is a huge issue for older pets, too. Seren has always been tiny and had trouble eating enough nutrition to maintain a good body condition. At her heaviest she weighed 7 pounds. This past winter, Seren had dropped weight to 5-1/2 pounds. Her fur looked unkempt, claws were overgrown so she “clicked” walking on the hardwood floor, and she just wanted to sleep. The dry therapeutic diet she’d eaten for the past several years became difficult for her to munch, and she asked to be lifted up to tabletops she’d previously scaled with ease–arthritis rearing its ugly head. Honestly, I feared my dear old girl might be ready for that final trip across the Rainbow Bridge…


Then Karma-Kitten came home. Suddenly, the new-kid-on-the-block disrupted the household, adding stress to Seren’s life, and a wee bit of excitement.

Karma chased the dog, and Magic chased him. Karma chased Seren–she was not amused, and told him so. He continued to pester until she got off her furry nether regions to tell him off. I kept them separated when I couldn’t supervise, fearing the bruiser-kitten would hurt Seren.

Karma also ate EVERYTHING, including Seren’s food (the dog’s, too). So again, I had to supervise feedings so Seren wouldn’t starve when Karma cleaned out her bowl.


Seren’s food wasn’t appropriate for a kitten and when he showed up, all I had in the house were samples of dehydrated kitty ration I got at from The Honest Kitchen (You can get free samples here). He loved it! And as a plus, I figured that would keep him out of the other pet’s food. I really like not having to refrigerate leftovers, and mixing only the amount needed for meals ensured it was fresh and still warm when served. And when The Honest Kitchen read about Karma’s homecoming and how the food helped so much, they sent me additional samples of various flavors to try out (even some for Magic!).

Now, with kittens, you don’t want to limit food since they’re growing so fast. I think Karma wrote those instructions. He packed on pudge, and still tried to swipe the other pet’s food, and I feared Seren would shrink even more.

Instead, The Queen Seren took control, and she began to steal mouthfuls of Karma’s food. And chase HIM across the room!


Now folks, I’m a huge proponent of feeding appropriate foods for pets. Seren had been eating the Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d from my veterinarian to support her kidney function since she tested in the borderline range for kidney insufficiency. Her teeth, though, weren’t handling the dry kibble very well so I listened to Seren–she really liked the warm wet ration she’d stolen from Karma. So I ran the Hill’s k/d kibble through my blender, and then softened each meal with warm water. Granted, I could purchase canned food of the same formulation (I’d recommend you do this and have it on hand from the beginning). But I’d just purchased a big bag of the dry food and figured this was better than wasting good nutrition.

Eureka! Seren loved it, and began eating better. But she still wanted Karma’s food, too.

And frankly, at age 17, I decided Seren’s quality of life meant any time she asked for food, I’d give her what she wanted. That means a mix of foods including tastes of lean meats from my plate if she asks; a scoop of KarSD_FL_D_adt_NA_o_PWt_n_orig_500_enma’s Honest Kitchen ration or a taste of plain yogurt; or even a sip of water from my glass. When the dry food ran out, I continued with the dehydrated diet, offering a teaspoonful at a time, many times a day.

These days, Seren still steals Karma’s food, which isn’t ideal since we’ve switched him to Science Diet Perfect Weight to slim down the pudge. He weighs 13 pounds or so, over twice as much as Seren, and the Perfect Weight seems to be working.

What about the dog? Well, Magic gets treats by cleaning up any kitty food leftovers, plus his own occasional treats of The Honest Kitchen. It’s a bit pricy to feed as routine ration to a 90+ pound dog like Magic, but for treats it’s ideal. I was just sent samples of THK Halcyon “Duck Recipe” and Magic can’t wait to try that, too.


Notice the name ‘MAGIC’ on the box…that’s because my husband tried to feed this dog-ration to Seren while I was gone. She was NOT amused!


Forgive me for a bit of philosophical musing. I truly thought Seren was near the end of her life, and then Karma showed up. Running away from him force her to get up and moving. Guarding her own bowl gave her reason to get up in the morning. Chasing after him keeps her arthritic joints lubricated and she now jumps up anywhere she wants. Wet food enticed her to eat more–she now wakes my husband at 3 am for a treat and, being the well-trained human he is, he accommodates her. I don’t limit her to a single diet and my veterinarian is fine with that. (Always check with your vet!)

Shortly after Karma arrived, Seren began grooming her claws again, so she could CHASE and chastise Karma. She began grooming her own fur better and caring about her appearance. Seren also now demands lap time in the evenings (to keep HIM out of my lap, LOL!). According to her last vet visit, Seren is back up to about 6 pounds. She’s active, interested in life again, and (I pray!) has at least one more of her 9 lives to spend with me.

Karma came unexpectedly, a clown-cat and snuggle-puss that makes me smile every day. Seren remains a serious, dainty Queen who wishes he’d go away–but when he came into her life, he shared with her the Karma cure.

She’s shared the sneezles with him. Ahem.

What about your pets? Have your fur-kids ever influenced the other cats (or dogs) to get healthy–or the opposite, do they teach each other bad habits? How do you manage feeding multiple pets? Do tell!

I am not being paid for this post. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. I initially received free samples of The Honest Kitchen, as well as Science Diet Perfect Weight for Cats to try. The fur-kids did so well on both products, I’ve continued to purchase and feed them. I do have an affiliate relationship with The Honest Kitchen.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


How to Keep a Skinny Old Cat Young — 19 Comments

  1. Rex is a Irish wolf/deer hound mix that my daughter brought home from a rescue group. He was a real mess physically and so damned depressed. He was a six year old dog that had very bad skin with huge hunks of dandruff all over his fur, cracked and bleeding skin, arthritic hips and legs and stunk to high heaven. Holly found a vet who helped her clean him up. His medicine bill each month is quite high.

    Living with Holly Rex was content and enjoyed visiting me when she and her husband were traveling. Problems arose when Holly had a baby girl, my granddaughter Faith. Rex just wasn’t able to adapt to a toddler in the home. For one he’s a cranky old man at eleven. For another he’s often in pain and doesn’t feel good, with his physical problems it’s understandable. As far as I’m concerned it’s just personality. For the record I’m fond of curmudgeons.

    So now my handsome man lives with me full time. As I mentioned he has arthritis in his legs and hips which makes getting up and down, never mind the steps outside, hard for him.

    A year ago we rescued a mixed pit bull by name of Samantha Jo. Sam is saucy and mischievous. She keeps both our seniors (Jade, our black lab, will be ten in September) on their toes. She loves to tease them into wrestling with her and racing around with her.

    Rex, on his good days, enjoys getting up to play with her. I think she reminds him of what it’s like to be young again if he ever knew. I know he was happy with us but she makes him happier. Watching them makes me think God sent her just to give Rex in particular some good times before he crosses the bridge. God knows he deserves them.

    • Angela, thanks so much for sharing. This made me a bit weepy but with lots of smiles, too. Samantha Jo does sound like she’s got a God-mission, LOL! The old guys are so special, aren’t they? Seren’s a bit of a curmudgeon, too. 🙂

  2. I have two Shiba Inu dogs, Isabella (we call her Izzy) and Ryka (named after one of the Mord Sith in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series). Izzy was used to being an only child and having the run of the place. She was unimpressed with Ryka. We’d heard that animals tend to live longer if they have other pet siblings. It took the girls a while to get along, but they’re fine now. Izzy let’s Ryka think she runs the place until she decides to put her foot down. Of course, having Ryka around has kept Izzy more active and she lost a couple of pounds. Having another dog with her has also helped ease some of her anxiety during thunderstorms.

  3. Hi Kitt! I visited your blog, too, from Susie’s place. 🙂 Thanks for sharing about Ryka and Izzy. The relationships and how they evolve is endlessly fascinating. My old girl Seren hated Magic from the beginning but has mellowed and now actually tolerates him more easily than the new kitty.

  4. Juno, a Pomeranian dog was my fifth Bday gift.After some years Dad felt Juno needed company so Gypsy came home.After the evening walk, Dad used to wash their paws. Juno would lick and clean his paws afterwards.Gypsy, knew little about this routine. So after her first day out, we found Juno licking Gypsies paws and teaching her how to do it too!!
    Furry friends can be good teachers too!!

    • Hi Emily, thanks for visiting! My Seren never had any bad behaviors but Karma makes up for her, LOL! And Magical-Dawg is even following Karma’s lead. He never tried to get on tables to snarf up leftover food before Karma came and started doing it! Forces me to be a better housekeeper, LOL!

  5. I love this and can see where the interaction has paid off! We recently had a puppy house guest and it was very hard to keep them from sneaking each other’s food.
    Thanks for bringing this to the party. Have fun mingling with the guests!!!

    • Hey Susie, thanks for visiting! I’ve already visited/read about a dozen posts from your “guests” what a great concept. And yes, hard to control the munchers. Probably won’t hurt a sneak-taste now and then but dogs get fat on cat food, and cats…well, cats can go BLIND or develop heart problems from exclusively eating dog food. So I’m extreee keeerful. *s*

  6. Twice now we have gotten a pup when an older dog seemed ‘on the edge’. Both times it has made a huge difference in activity and attitude of the older dog. Both times I got the pup(s) for me as I didn’t think I would be able to get a pup after the older dog was gone. You can’t replace a lost family member but having the love of a current member helps with the coping. My husband wasn’t so sure but he has gotten much closer to the youngsters than he thought he would.

    • Jeanie, that’s a great point. In particular, losing an “only” pet leaves an incredible empty space not only in your heart, but your home. When our first dog died while we lived in a tiny cramped 2-bedroom apartment, suddenly the place echoed with silence. Another furry presence would have helped enormously during those awful first weeks…I have wonderful friends and spent time with THEIR pets to help ease the ache. Thanks for sharing, and I’m so glad your youngster-pets have helped with your situations, too.

  7. I adopted Pasha from a shelter. I never knew his story, but though he was a loving dog, he had no clue how to play with toys. He never chased a ball or a stick. He was afraid of squeaky toys. He didn’t pay attention to stuffies. Then we adopted puppy Rosie, and she taught Pasha how to play. He had a second puppyhood, and learn the joy of chasing, running and tugging!

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

    • Susan, I’ve heard this again and again, about dogs being taught to play when intro’d to another playful pet. What a great story, and hurray for Pasha and Rosie!

  8. Our dear rescue cat Oscar was happy with his life as it was before little juvenile Samantha came on the scene. He was depressed and angry but gentlemanly when she arrived. (That is when he first saw her as we kept her quarantined for two weeks….)

    I’d say that Oscar is more active than before Samantha. Sometimes he chases her, sometimes she chases him. They are teaching each other. She is trying to learn to be Oscar — a good thing since we think he’s perfect. He’s sees some of her tricks working on us and tries them. They “say” they don’t like each other but we have caught them greeting with whisker touches and sitting as close to each other as a foot apart facing each other. They both wanted to be only cats and are adjusting. She didn’t know when she was starving and chirping for help & we picked her up that we had a grumpy older cat at home who didn’t want her. (And her response was to jump on him as though he were kittenish…) They both have learned they can ask us to let them go to their rooms & close the door for them if they are truly tired of the other and that helped.

    I’m enjoying reading your accounts and others as well. We do feel Oscar is reenergized by Samantha though he is only 9.

    • Brenda, the same thing is happening between grumpy Seren and delinquent Karma. She’s never care much for toys, but she does seem to enjoy watching him play. And nope, she won’t admit that he’s…sorta kinda okay. LOL!

  9. I need to update my blog again on the subject, but we recently brought home a kitten as well. Little miss Simba Sue 2 is very well behaved, but insistent on playing with Anubis. Which was okay when he was feeling well enough to back her down, but then his stomach got torn up by a couple REALLY big hairballs. We had to fight to keep her away from his food, and from jumping on him. We don’t have a good room to set her aside in right now that she can play in freely. Final straw was when, half-starved (he had lost about 10% of his body weight in 2 weeks thanks to his stomach getting torn up like that) and moving toward his food bowls (yes bowls, we are giving him ALL THE THINGS right now – egg yolk, fish, chicken, and soft food – favorites of his), she tried to body slam him.

    Now, it’s not really her fault because she’s just doing what babies do, and she really LIKES him. But we don’t have the ability to watch her 24/7. So I called my parents, and they have very kindly agreed to kitten-sit for as long as it takes for him to get better. In the meantime we are going to try and clean up our storage room to convert it into a kitten room, while we try to get Anubis to pack on a couple pounds (we figure it’ll probably take a few weeks to a month). But she has already been a very good kitty for them the last couple days, they like her, and they enforce the same rules we do for kitty behavior, so it’s a good situation for everyone all around. She doesn’t have to get told “no” as often since she’s not got Anubis to jump all over, mom gets to borrow a lap cat for a while, and Anubis gets time to recover. If he’s still becoming fearful of her when we try to bring her back home, I know she’ll have a loving home with my parents (even if she ends up getting moved out to the garage with their other kitties – they always bring them in at night and only let them roam when they can be supervised).

    • It’s so good that you have an alternative like that. I’m very fortunate to work at home so I can supervise the kitties’ antics. When I was out of town, my husband had to keep the cats separated and Karma shut in “his” room, and…while the kitten probably didn’t mind and Seren loved it, my husband felt guilty. 🙂

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