On-Target Body Condition for Cats

October 16, 2018

Feline obesity is an increasingly recognized concern, but veterinarians and owners must be on alert for the flip side of the problem: unintended weight loss.

“Good nutrition and a healthy body condition are fundamental to pet health,” says Christina Fernandez, DVM, MRCVS, DACVECC, Professional Services Veterinarian with Kindred Biosciences, Inc. “There are certainly health concerns when cats are overweight, but we should also be on the lookout for unintended weight loss, which can signify an underlying disease.”1

Cat owners know their animals best and should watch for any change in eating or drinking. A change in body weight of more than 0.5% to 2% in a week can be a cause for concern.2,3 Regular assessments by your veterinarian can help monitor weight changes and can include other assessments such as body condition score (BCS) evaluations and muscle condition score (MCS) evaluations.

Body composition cannot be determined visually. Muscle loss often is found only after the veterinarian physically examines the cat. Obese cats may have significant muscle loss that is overlooked due to the presence of adipose tissue, or fat.4 According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), animals can have significant muscle loss even if they are overweight.5

“Assessing both body condition and muscle condition, in conjunction with body weight, is increasingly recognized as a best practice in veterinary medicine,” Dr. Fernandez says. “When combined, the results can provide practitioners with a global assessment of the cat’s nutritional and metabolic health.”

Unintended weight loss in cats can be an indication of an underlying disease. Once weight loss is identified, proper nutritional support can be provided to help support healing and recovery.

Current therapeutic options for managing weight loss may require hospitalization or rely on a cat’s willingness to eat. Pain, nausea, or vomiting — among other signs — can significantly affect a cat’s willingness to voluntarily eat or accept oral medication.

“Now veterinarians have other options. Recently, the FDA approved a transdermal medication to help manage weight loss that doesn’t require a pill,” Dr. Fernandez says. “Cats can succumb quickly to the negative effects of weight loss because of their unique nutritional and metabolic requirements. Unintended weight loss is just as important to identify and treat as obesity. In either case, we must change course to achieve optimal health for the animal.”

Mirataz is indicated for the management of weight loss in cats.

Important Safety Information

Mirataz® (mirtazapine transdermal ointment) is for topical use in cats only under veterinary supervision. Do not use in cats with a known hypersensitivity to mirtazapine or any of the excipients. Do not use in cats treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Not for human use. Keep out of reach of children. Wear gloves when handling/applying, wash hands after and avoid contact between the treated cat and people or other animals for 2 hours following application. Use with caution in cats with hepatic and kidney disease. Cat’s food intake should be monitored upon discontinuation. Safety has not been evaluated in cats less than 2 kg, less than six months of age or in breeding, pregnant or lactating cats. The most common adverse reactions observed during clinical trials were application site reactions, behavioral abnormalities (vocalization and hyperactivity) and vomiting. For product label, including complete safety information, click here.


1. Pittari J, Rodan I, Beekman G et al. American association of feline practitioners. Senior care guidelines. J Feline Med Surg. 2009;11(9):763-778.

2. Brooks D, Churchill J, Fein K, et al. 2014 AAHA weight management guidelines for dogs and cats.
J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2014;50(1):1-11.

3. Laflamme DP. Nutrition for aging cats and dogs and the importance of body condition. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2005;35(3):713-742.

4. Weeth LP. Nutritional support for critically ill dogs & cats. NAVC Clinician’s Brief. August 2010.

5. WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee. Muscle condition score chart – cats. WSAVA Global Veterinary Community website. http://www.wsava.org/WSAVA/media/Documents/Committee%20Resources/
. Accessed September 11, 2019.