I come from a rather large family. One could say that my parents had the mating voracity of cats. As kids, I remembered that one of my brothers was pretty petite for his age but he sorted that out with a few growth spurts.
Our cats are pretty unique in their own right. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some smaller, some bigger. But what if you have a cat that just seems a tad smaller than expected?
Should you be concerned about your cat being small?
A cat’s natural size is predetermined by the cat’s gender, breed and own genetics. The quality of the cat’s diet can also play an integral part in their actual adult size. There are other health reasons that cause a cat to be smaller than the average cat.
If you are somewhat concerned about your cat’s current size, this article might help set your mind at ease or point you in the next best direction.
Let’s get started.
At What Age Do Cats Stop Growing?
A human is considered to be an adult upon reaching the age of 18. This number can be extended to 21, depending on the country.
Given the nature of cats, it can be harder for us to know when our little fur babies have graduated from kittenhood to being a full-grown adult.
There isn’t a set age that determines when a cat is fully an adult. There are several growth milestones in the early years of a cat that determines its growth cycle.
Dr. Nicole Fuicher of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America states that most kittens tend to stop growing once they hit 12 months of age. Most cat breeds are considered to be adult cats at this point.
That being said, a cat can still continue to fill out some part of its body after 12 months, like adding more girth to its body.
Most adult cats when fully grown should weigh about 10-12 lbs.
There are some cat breeds, like the Maine Coon, that are slow to mature and can continue to grow for 2 -5 years. This explains why they are also known as the gentle giants of the cat world.
Some Maine Coon male cats can tip the scale at 25 lbs!
Why Is My Cat So Small And Not Growing?
The above section would have given you a good idea of your cat’s growth milestones. If your cat is still younger than 12 months then it still has more growing to do.
But what if your cat is beyond that and is still small?
Here are some possible reasons that could explain your cat’s current size.
Your Cat’s Breed
Not all cat breeds are made equal when it comes to their final adult sizes. The beauty of having a large selection of cat breeds is that cat owners can decide if they want a more petite-looking cat or a lion in cat’s clothing.
Here are some common cat breeds that tend to be on the smaller side.
Munchkin cats are very recognizable at first glance. Their huge personalities make up for their short and stubby legs.
Despite their little legs, they are active, playful and very affectionate. A fully grown adult weighs about 6-9 lbs.
Although they do reach the average weight of an adult cat, their short legs do make them seem a lot smaller than they actually are.
Devon rex cats are a type of breed that you either love or head. They have skinny and almost hairless bodies, bat-like ears and a rather small head.
They are extremely friendly and affectionate with humans once they get to know you.
A fully grown Devon rex can reach between 5-10 lbs in weight which is pretty light and small if it is on the lower end of the scale.
I once had a neighbor that had this cat breed and he was really small for a fully grown male cat.
I could support his entire weight with just one hand while he rested on my shoulder, which these cats love to do.
A very similar breed to this would be the Cornish Rex but they do have different physical traits.
This cat breed gets its name from the country where it originated from, Singapore.
They are really small cats and are known to be the smallest recognized cat breed. This gives the Singapura cat a small head in relation to its body.
A full-grown adult can weigh between 4-6 lbs. The newborn kittens of this breed must be really tiny if the adult is already this small.
Don’t let the size of this cat breed fool you though.
The Singapura cat is incredibly agile and can disappear up a tree faster than you can say “Where did my cat go?”
Your Cat’s Gender
The most noticeable difference between male cats and female cats is the size. Male cats are usually bigger and heavier than female cats.
A male cat is usually around 10-20% taller and heavier than its female counterpart of the same breed.
This is even more obvious if the male cat is not neutered. Tomcats or unfixed male cats tend bigger heads and much wider cheeks that help to protect their facial features when they get into fights.
This is due to the presence of testosterone in the male cat’s body which gives the cat more muscle mass and bigger bones.
Some cat owners are adamant that male cats are more affectionate than females.
If you have a female cat, it can look smaller due to its gender.
The Runt Of the Litter
In most newly born cat litters, the kittens are more or less of the same size. However, there can be times when you will have one kitten that is a lot smaller than the rest of its siblings.
This kitten is called the ‘Runt of the litter’.
Dr. Ron Hines DVM PhD states that we can consider the runt of the litter to be about 25% smaller than the rest of the litter.
In reality, it is difficult, even for vets, to come to a general consensus on what actually defines a runt.
But this term is usually reserved for that one kitten or puppy who is smaller than the rest.
If your female cat has just given birth to a new litter and you noticed one that is a lot smaller. You need to keep a close watch on that special kitten.
Mother cats are known to ignore and abandon kittens that they deem too weak or small to survive.
It does seem cruel but it is nature’s way of ensuring that there is sufficient milk for the rest of the healthier kittens.
If the runt isn’t able to get enough tit time as compared to the rest of the litter, you need to remove this kitten and start to hand feed it before it starts to fade away.
Your Cat’s Diet Is Poor
Parents tend to put a lot of focus on their children’s diet and nutrition but not so much when it comes to their pets.
It is important that we feed our cats a good quality diet throughout their natural lifespan. Poor nutrition in cats can definitely affect their growth rate.
Most kittens are weaned off their mother’s milk after six to eight weeks. This is when they can start being fed solid food.
As a pet parent, you want to be feeding your cat a diet that is as close to what they would eat in the wild.
Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they need a high protein meat diet to survive and not just thrive.
It might seem a lot easier and more convenient to just feed your cat dry cat food but you are in fact doing more damage in the long run than good.
Good with good quality canned food with as few fillers as possible. Or a raw meat diet can also be considered if you are willing to learn more about it.
I know that it can be common to feed your cat human food every now and then but try to not make it a habit as many of our foods contain stuff that can be toxic to cats.
Even if it’s cat-safe, do it only as an occasional treat.
If you are hand feeding the runt of the litter, do not just feed it milk that you have in your fridge.
Newborn kittens require a special milk formula that is as close to their mother’s milk as possible.
You should be able to get the right milk formula after speaking to your vet.
Your Cat’s Feeding Pattern
How often you feed your cat during its growing years can also have an impact on its size. Younger cats are more active and tend to burn off more calories.
A young cat has almost three times the energy level of an adult cat.
You need to ensure that your cat is fed a good quality diet often enough to replenish its lost calories.
You can use this cat calorie calculator to roughly estimate the amount of calories that your cat needs.
Newborn kittens can eat up to six times daily or even more. The rule of thumb is when your little one cries for food, you feed it.
Once they transition to adult cats, feeding them once or twice a day would suffice.
It also depends on the type of eater that your cat is.
My cat is a grazer which means that he only likes eating a little each time. So through trial and error, he works best with 4-5 smaller meals a day.
My friend’s cat is the direct opposite.
It wolfs down whatever is laid out in front of him so a feeding pattern of 1-2 times a day is good enough.
Your Cat Might Have Intestinal Parasites
I was a pretty skinny kid that had the appetite of an adult and my parents were always joking that it was because I had worms in my stomach.
It isn’t a joking matter when it comes to cats as they are very prone to getting such parasites.
Cats can get infected by these parasites when eating infected prey or ingesting fleas when grooming themselves.
Kittens can get it from their mothers from birth or when feeding on their milk.
What these parasites do is latch themselves within your cat’s digestive system and absorb the nutrients that your cat consumes.
It won’t be much of a problem if it is just one worm. But a typical infestation can consist of hundreds of worms and the number will keep on growing.
The most common gastrointestinal parasites are:
The symptoms that your cat will show are:
- Lack of appetite
- Dull coat
- Bloated belly
If you have recently adopted a new cat or have never dewormed your cat before, it would be best to get your cat checked at the vet.
If such parasites show up in your cat’s poo, the vet will prescribe a dewormer tablet like Drontal that your cat needs to take until the infestation clears.
Diabetes Or Hyperthyroidism
If your cat has been losing weight even though it has been eating as usual, it could be a sign of feline diabetes or hyperthyroidism.
Cats that are overweight are more at risk of being diabetic and hyperthyroidism tends to affect older cats.
Your cat will need to seek medical attention for the vet to do a proper diagnosis.
Can A Cat Be A Dwarf?
It is possible that a cat’s small stature could be due to a condition called dwarfism. Dwarfism in cats is when the cat show signs of stunted growth and abnormal body proportions.
One main factor that separates a cat with dwarfism as compared to a naturally small cat is the presence of health problems.
Cats that have dwarfism suffer from a condition called Achondroplasia. The tell-tale signs are cats with a large head, normal-sized body and short bow legs.
These cats can also suffer from heart and lung diseases and mobility problems.
You do need to give such cats a lot of care and regular medical attention as they aren’t always in the best of health.
How Small Is Too Small For A Cat?
There isn’t a fixed standard as to how small is too small when it comes to a cat. It largely depends on your cat’s breed first and foremost followed by its own genetics.
If your cat’s biological parents are small, then you can expect your cat to be on the smaller side too.
As a gauge, an average male cat would weigh between 10-12 lbs and a female cat between 8-10 lbs.
You should be more concerned if your cat is at a healthy weight for its size. A 10 lb frame on a small cat might be too much.
Here is a good way to tell if your cat is at a good healthy weight.
Is It Normal For A Cat To Be Small?
Yes, it is perfectly normal for a cat to be small just like how some humans are shorter than average.
What matters most is that your cat is healthy and you can be sure that your cat’s smallness isn’t due to health or nutritional issues.
Love your cat even if its smaller than normal because you can be sure that your cat’s heart is a lot bigger and filled with love for you.