Why Is My Cat So Small?


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While I’m sure we all adore the large, and majestic feline breeds, you must admit, seeing a munchkin cat running around on their short legs is another level of cuteness!

Perhaps for similar reasons some of us have wished for our kittens to stay small forever, even if we still loved them when they didn’t! But what if that wish came true for you?

Should you be worried, and should you be looking for an explanation?

Why would a cat stay small? While cats can vary in size, their breed, gender, health, and feeding patterns can have an impact on how small or big they’ll grow. Even with the right nutrition, any number of reasons could result in your cat staying smaller than the average cat. 

If you want to dive deeper into the possible reasons behind your cat’s small size, then you’re in the right place!

Let’s get started!

When Do Cats Stop Growing?

Whether you’re a new cat parent who just adopted a kitten or the best friend of an older but surprisingly small cat, knowing the feline growth cycle is a good start. Kittens in general are fast growers and they reach adulthood at 10-12 months of age.

According to Krista Williams, BSc, DVM of VCA, “their growth rate slows as they approach 80% of adult size at about 30 weeks of age, and they reach adult body size at about 40 weeks of age.”

So, if your cat is an adult there’s not much you can do to make them grow bigger, but if they’re still a kitten or underweight then it’s important to understand what might be causing this weight loss and the ways you can get them back up to a healthy size!

Why Is My Cat So Small?

While looking into the reasons behind your cat’s petite size you’ll discover that it could be connected to many factors, like their breed, a complex process of interactions among genetics, the surrounding environment, and most importantly, nutrition.

So, let’s solve this cat-mystery one by one by looking at all the possible reasons.

1. Your Cat’s Gender

When talking about the size of a cat it’s important to remember that every cat’s measurements can differ and still be normal and healthy. That being said, female cats are usually smaller than their male counterparts.

It may not be easy to notice among stray cats where the average size may fluctuate but by looking at breeds, you may notice that male cats tend to be much larger. Some believe that early neutering can stunt growth, especially in males but multiple studies have shown that it’s not true.

In fact, “the removal of hormonal influences on the growth plates of the long bones results in delayed closure, resulting in bones that are actually a little longer.” But the growth it’s so small that it’s almost not worth mentioning.

2. The Runt Of The Litter

If you’ve noticed that your kitty is significantly small, especially if you have a cat brother, or sister from the same litter to compare it to, then your kitty might be the runt of that litter.

There’s usually one runt kitten born in a litter and they are easy to distinguish since they’re the smallest and the weakest of the group. Some runt kittens might have congenital defects, which are abnormalities of structure, function, or metabolism.

Some abnormalities aren’t always visible, and there are runt kittens that can be nursed back to health, as long as their owners or the veterinary shelter give them extra attention. Unfortunately, in the wild, these kittens rarely survive, but if you have one in your home then remember how special your little fighter is!

3. The Feeding Pattern

Noticing that your kitty is small could be a sign of an underweight cat. That’s why having a feeding schedule is important because it will ensure that your feline companion is eating the necessary daily food portions for maintaining a healthy weight.

Since cats in the wild are comfortable in hunting small prey, they eat multiple times a day. You could easily mimic this feeding pattern, by splitting their daily portions into several small meals.

Having a multi-cat household might be also affecting your cat’s feedings. One of the cats might be stealing all the food, or the small cat could be depressed and not eating, because of the new feline intruder. Solving these anxieties can bring back their lost appetite and their normal weight.

Keeping their food and water bowls next to each other or worst, next to the litterbox could also be the cause of their reduced appetite. How much your cats should eat in a day can also depend on their age, lifestyle, and health. If those things are overlooked it’s possible that your kitty isn’t eating enough and has simply lost weight making them look smaller, than they naturally would be.

4. Poor Nutrition

One of the main reasons your fluffball might be small is due to poor nutrition during their kittenhood. Cats usually stop drinking their mother’s milk after 8 weeks of age, and that’s when the owners step in. Proper nutrition is the foundation of a healthy adulthood, and of healthy growth. That’s why make sure the new kitten in your home is eating the right amount of food, with the required nutrition!

If you’ve adopted an already grown, but small-sized cat, it could be because they weren’t eating enough while they were on the streets or the previous owner hadn’t invested in a “well-balanced, meat-based diet – suitable for their age, health status, and lifestyle.”

It’s also possible that your cat is underweight because the current food brand or type of food doesn’t meet their nutritional needs. When I tried to change the brand of cat food I fed my fluffy lordlings, I soon realized that one of them refused to eat it, while the other went crazy for it. That’s why if you have more than one cat, keeping an eye on them while they eat, or even feeding them separately can save you from any unnecessary weight fluctuations!

While your veterinarian will always be the best resource for finding the perfect diet for your cat, you can also check out our feline food & diet section for food reviews and nutritional information.

5. Your Cat’s breed

Not all of you will relate to this section, but even if your kitty is a stray cat of unknown origins, their ancestry might be connected to the following breeds.

Siamese

Believed to be the descendants of Thailand’s sacred temple cats, the Siamese is a gorgeous breed of medium size. They usually weigh between eight to fifteen pounds, but despite their small build, they make up for it with their big and talkative personality!

If you don’t believe me just check this chatty Siamese beauty!

American Curl

You might recognize the American Curl for their unusual ears, which are curled backward and aren’t necessarily pointy, but they’re also adorably small, weighing between five to ten pounds.

Cornish Rex

One of my most favorite breeds, the Cornish Rex is a sheep in disguise thanks to their curly fur! Weighing somewhere between eight to ten pounds, they’re on the small and delicate side.

Singapura

If you’re wondering why your Singapore kitty is so small, it’s definitely because they’re one of the smallest cat breeds, as they weigh somewhere between five to eight pounds.

Devon Rex

Another sheep-looking kitty is the Devon Rex, not only are they hypoallergenic, but they also weigh less than eight pounds on average, which makes them extra adorable!

Japanese Bobtail

While the Japanese Bobtail cat might entice you with their tiny pom-like tail, it’s important to remember that they also weigh anywhere between five to ten pounds and they grow as tall as eight or nine inches!

Balinese

Perhaps because the Balinese breed originated as a longhaired mutation of the Siamese cat, they’ve also kept the small proportions, weighing somewhere around five pounds, which is pretty tiny!

6. Cat Dwarfism

Feline dwarfism has won scientific interest, for the past few years, hoping to shed more light on this condition in animals and humans alike. The Munchkin breed has not been fully clinically and genetically characterized, but these cats likely suffer from a genetic defect pseudoachondroplasia.

While The International Cat Association recognizes Munchkin cats as an official cat breed the Cat Fanciers’ Association and American Cat Fanciers Association do not. And even though Munchkin cats are a type of dwarfism, there are cats with dwarfism that results in shortened limbs, unusual proportions, and underdeveloped parts, like the famous Grumpy Cat or Lil BUB for example.

If your kitty is not only small, but they also have a somewhat disproportionate body with short legs, then chances are they’re a munchkin kitty or have a form of dwarfism. Regular vet visitations might help you keep an eye on any health problems connected to their smaller stature!

7. Internal Parasites

Another reason your cat might be small, or your kitten isn’t growing to reach its natural potential are parasites they had earlier in their life or still carry as kittens. The common types of worms that can affect cats and stunt a kitten’s growth and development are hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms.

According to Ernest Ward, DVM “symptoms you might want to look out for include weight loss, other accompanying symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, bloated belly, constant coughing and worm segments in the poop or in the anus.” That’s why taking your newly adopted kitten to your vet and giving them anti-parasite medication is so important!

8. Diabetes Or Hyperthyroidism

If your cat has been eating regularly and you don’t notice any loss of appetite, but instead there’s a loss of weight then they might be ill. Weight loss is an important sign of Diabetes, and in this case, your cat may look small despite their increasing appetite.

The same goes for hyperthyroidism, which mostly observed in middle-aged and older cats. Look for signs like weight loss, increased appetite, thirst, and urination. You might also expect to find your cat vomiting, having diarrhea, being hyperactive and you may find your cat’s coat looking matted or greasy.

As always, if you notice any unusual behavior in your cat it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

Is It Normal For A Cat To Be Small?

Drastic changes in our cat’s weight or stunted growth in a kitten could all be signs of a serious condition or infection, and as cat parents, we have to be observant and being ready to take action not by self-diagnosing, but by taking them to the vet.

But if you look into your cat’s ancestry and discover that they’re part of a small-sized breed then you probably have nothing to worry about. A small cat is nowhere less than “normal” and if they’re eating properly and lead a normal life without any destructive or problematic behaviors then you can simply enjoy their size for what it is!

Your cat’s size can be part of their inheritance, their struggle to survive as the smallest of kittens, a sign of an illness they had fought through, or they could simply be naturally thinner specifically at the back end. If they’ve always been like this, all you have to do is love them for who they are!

How To Ensure That Your Cat Has A Proper Growth Cycle?

If you’ve adopted a kitten or a cat that still isn’t fully grown there are ways to make sure they’ll reach their fullest potential. But of course, the following advice isn’t only suitable for a kitten, but also for cats of all sizes and ages!

Monitoring Your Kitten

As we mentioned before being responsible for your cat’s diet, can help them reach their optimal growth, which according to veterinarians, “is a slow and steady growth rate that allows the kitten to achieve an ideal (optimal) adult body condition while avoiding excessive weight and obesity.”

Having a kitten eating as much as they want might result in an underfed cat or can result in your kitty reaching the maximal growth rate instead. This means that the kitten will grow as fast as possible and there’s a great risk of them becoming overweight and obese. Pay attention to your cat’s verbal or even physical signs of hunger, if they scratch around their food bowl, that might be their way of reminding you that it’s feeding time. Then again if they’ve had the recommended portion for the day it’s also important to not give in, or consult with your vet and see if your cat needs a different brand with higher protein to keep them full for longer!

Proper Nutrition

Keeping an eye on how much your cat or kitten eats isn’t enough to ensure that they’ll grow properly, because what they eat is even more important. Whether your cat is active or somewhat of a couch potato, nutritious food with lots of protein is necessary.

According to veterinarians, “The recommended protein range for healthy kitten growth is 35-50% on a dry matter basis with at least 9% dry matter from an animal source. These levels support optimal growth, so it is not recommended to exceed them.”

Wet food might also prove more beneficial since it’s high in protein, which should help maintain your cat’s muscle mass. In the journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Debra L. Zoran, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM, states that “cats are metabolically adapted to preferentially use protein and fat as energy sources”.

Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, and it also carries fat-soluble vitamins. Too much fat though can result in obesity, so the fat content for kittens should be between 18-35% on a dry matter basis. Your kitten’s food should also contain 0.8-1.6% calcium on a dry matter basis.

Unless you’re a vet yourself, the best way to know what your kitty might need or not need when it comes to vitamins, possible supplements, and food overall, is by visiting your local vet clinic.

Taking care of what your kitty eats might not help your kitty become bigger than what their genes intended them to be, but it will definitely lay the foundation for a healthy cat that can enjoy a long and happy life ahead of them!

Regular Vet Check-ups

From the moment you bring your new feline companion to your home, whether they’re a kitten or an older cat, regular checkups will help prevent any illness or signs of a parasite infestation. You might even discover any condition they might be suffering from in time to be treated.

If you’ve adopted a kitten that isn’t fully grown, your vet will be able to suggest the right diet to help them reach the optimal growth rate. Regular weigh-ins and body condition assessments are the most practical strategies and a professional at your veterinarian clinic will be able to give you the proper instructions to follow at home.

Finally, it’s important to remember that any significant changes in your kitty’s appearance can be the result of a certain health problem and it’s important that they’re not overlooked but treated at their earlier stages.

Closing Thoughts

There’s no doubt that cat parents around the world love their kitties no matter their shape and size, but before we accept our kitty’s appearance, we should make sure that their uniquely small size is a natural part of who they are and not a symptom of poor health.

But if your kitty is as small as nature intended them to be then rest assured. After all, their hearts will always be big enough to fit you in!

Now tell us, why is your cat so small? Is it because of their breed or do you have a unique story behind their tiny size?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

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