Tips for Nutrition Assessment in Cats
World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress Proceedings, 2018
Ping-Chih Teng, DVM
National Veterinary Hospital, Cat Only Clinic, Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China

Sarcopenia in Geriatric Cats

The age-related loss of muscle mass and strength is a multi-factorial condition that occurs in old cats. In veterinary medicine, skeletal muscle atrophy is often observed in cats as they reach old age, but the process is not well understood. Weight loss and muscle wasting are very common and important for the health of senior cats. There are a lot of factors to be considered in assessing the nutritional needs of senior cats to ensure their health condition.

Cats spend most of their time sleeping and grooming. Therefore, a 5-year-old cat may not move much more than a 15-year-old cat. Elderly cats also require more dietary energy because their fat and protein digestion is impaired. Approximately 30% of cats older than 12 years of age have decreased fat absorption, and 20% have decreased protein digestibility. Protein should not be restricted in elderly cats that do not have underlying renal diseases. Therefore, senior diets may not be appropriate for all geriatric patients, and the veterinarian should assess body condition and overall health status before making a dietary recommendation. A basic nutritional assessment should be performed when a vet group is initially evaluating a cat. The first steps when developing a nutritional plan is for complete history, physical examination, and laboratory tests to be performed to rule out diseases responsive to specific nutritional modifications. A key component of physical examination should be assessment of body condition.

The Global Nutrition Committee (GNC) developed global nutrition guidelines, which were first published in 2011. The goal of these guidelines is to help the veterinary healthcare team and pet owners ensure that dogs and cats are on an optimal nutrition plan tailored to the needs of the individual dog or cat.

In 2012, the GNC launched a Global Nutrition Toolkit, containing a suite of resources to assist practitioners and nutritionists to educate pet owners that each pet should receive an individual nutritional assessment and recommendation. They are also published and translated into many languages. In Asia region, Chinese and Japanese versions are available.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

BCS scales typically range from 1–9. This scale allows us to assess subtle changes in your pet’s weight. Using this scale, cats are scored from 1 to 9 out of 9, with 5/9 being an ideal body weight.

Muscle Condition Score (MCS)

Veterinarians also use muscle condition scoring to determine a cat’s health. The muscle condition score also helps estimate whether or not the pet is receiving enough protein. MCS is a useful toolkit to evaluate the muscle wasting in sick or old patients.


Resting Energy Requirements (RER)

Resting energy requirements (or RER) can be calculated by multiplying the cat’s body weight.

  • RER (kcal/day) = (body weight kg)0.75 x 70


  • RER (kcal/day) = (body weight kgx30) + 70


This presentation will address communication strategies for nutrition discussion, along with clinical case examples focusing on muscle wasting and weight management.


1.  World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee: Global nutrition toolkit.

2.  Harper EJ. Changing perspectives on aging and energy requirements: aging and digestive function in humans, dogs and cats. J Nutr. 1998;128:2623S.

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

4.  Lund E, Armstrong P, Kirk C, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for obesity in adult cats from private US veterinary practices. Intern J Appl Res Vet Med. 2005;3:88.


Speaker Information
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Ping-Chih Teng, DVM
National Veterinary Hospital
Cat Only Clinic
Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China

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