Why Is My Cat Small For Its Age? – 6 Reasons Explained

Watching the patterns of growth and development in our feline babies is an easy way to monitor their well-being.

Physically, cats grow most rapidly when they are kittens. On average, they gain 1 pound a month between birth and 6 months of age.

Once they reach maturity, their growth rate drastically reduces until they stop growing between 12 to 16 months. At this point, most adult cats weigh approximately 10 pounds.

Why is my cat small for its age

Some cat breeds, such as the Maine Coon, continue to grow up to age 5. They reach weights of up to 25 pounds.

After physical development stops, feline mental development continues well into the older years of every cat.

Feline growth charts provide guidelines on how quickly our cats should develop. However, just like people, cats vary in size.

Naturally, there will be smaller and larger cats across different breeds or within a single breed. This is determined by genetic factors and nutrient intake.

Other times, a smaller body structure may be caused by health problems. Most of which are not life-threatening and can be easily managed or treated.

6 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Small For Its Age

If your cat has a small body, usually there isn’t much to worry about. A visit to a veterinarian will help to rule out any medical issues.

Extra attention and care may be required, however, especially for kittens.

Listed below are 6 of the most common reasons why some cats are small for their age.

1. The Runt Of A Litter

In every litter, it is typical to have a smaller kitten that has a birth weight much lower than that of its siblings. Commonly called the runt of the litter.

In the womb, each kitten has its placenta, and some placentas are closer to the source of nourishment. Accordingly, these are attached to kittens that receive more nutrients than others and develop well.

Kittens attached to placentas with meager nutrient supplies develop poorly in the womb and are born small.

Most runts catch up in size after birth, but some stay small. This is usually due to associated fetal developmental issues caused by low nutrient intake.

For instance, underdeveloped organs and weak bones.

What’s Important To Know

Human intervention is often necessary to provide runts with adequate food and care. This is particularly important in situations where the mother rejects a runt because she thinks it will die.

Food must be provided every 2 hours by assisting a runt in latching to its mother’s teat or feeding it with kitten milk replacement formula.

Runts must be kept warm and clean, as cats are most vulnerable to hypothermia and infections when they are young.

Runts must also be shown affection by cuddling and petting them often. When they are very young, they need assistance with toileting.

A mother cat stimulates her kittens to urinate by licking. If she is not doing so, a moist wipe can be used to rub the area.

2. Breed

There are over 100 domestic cat breeds globally, and their genetics greatly influences their sizes.

Most domestic cats have similar dimensions. The adults typically weigh around 10 pounds and are about 18 inches long (excluding their tails).

However, some breeds are larger, and others are smaller.

For example, the Singapura cat, which is often called the smallest cat breed in the world. Smaller cat breeds tend to have shorter developmental stages than the norm.

What’s Important To Know

Are you comparing your cat’s size to that of its siblings? It may be a runt, as explained above, or it may be of a different breed.

This is because it is common for kittens from the same litter to have different fathers.

Queens are promiscuous when they are in heat, and multiple fertilisations from different toms are common.

3. Sex And Fixed Cats

Male cats generally grow larger than females of the same breed. Additionally, spaying females and castrating males alter their growth and development.

Cats that are fixed before they become mature tend to grow bigger than those that are fixed after.

Puberty signals growth to slow down. When it is prevented, feline bones continue to grow for more extended periods.

What’s Important To Know

Timing is essential when it comes to fixing cats. If you have a cat that was fixed after it reached puberty, that may explain its small size.

Nonetheless, the bigger sizes of cats that are fixed early do not automatically make them better.

The extended period of bone development puts them at a higher risk of developing bone fractures.

4. Dwarf Cats, Miniature Cats, And Teacup Cats

Dwarfs, miniatures, and teacup cats all have genetic mutations that stunt their growth. Dwarfism is rare in cats, and the Munchkin cat is often considered the original dwarf breed.

The condition is caused by a genetic defect that results in the development of disproportional adult cats.

They have normal-sized bodies, but big heads and abnormally short limbs.

Also, they often have health issues that include deformed limbs, undersized jaws, and curved spines.

Heart, lung, and neurological problems are also a commonality.

Additionally, dwarf cats have restricted mobility, which makes them highly prone to developing obesity.

Miniature and teacup cats are undersized for their age but have normal body proportions.

The main physical difference between them is that teacups are smaller than miniature cats.

Miniature cats have genetic defects that cause them to be about one-third to one-half the size of cats of the same breed.

Teacup cats are born with a form of dwarfism that affects their entire bodies, not only their limbs.

They are about two-thirds the size of average adult cats. They can have medical issues such as soft bones, enlarged hearts, bowed legs, and abnormal reproductive organs.

What’s Important To Know

Most dwarf, miniature, and teacup cats that are sold are bred selectively.

Breeders take advantage of the genetic mutations to create breeding lines where the small size trait is continually recurring.

The ethics of selective breeding are debated globally because of the health issues associated with many dwarf cat varieties.

Additionally, even if you do not purchase a cat that was bred to be small, it is possible to end up with one.

The genetic mutations that lead to dwarfism or miniaturization can still occur when “normal” cats mate.

Especially when inbreeding occurs over multiple generations.

5. Malnourishment

Your cat may be small for its age due to poor nutrition. If cats do not receive adequate nourishment, they develop slowly.

Stunted growth, in particular, can occur if cats do not receive enough vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid.

Long-term malnutrition will also cause chronic diseases in cats that include osteoporosis, heart disease, and kidney disease.

A variety of things can cause malnutrition in cats:

  • Owners are not feeding cats enough or providing an unbalanced diet. This is more common in cats that are solely fed on dry food diets. They can be supplemented with inexpensive homemade broths or stocks to improve nutrient content.
  • Hereditary conditions that cause malabsorption. This is the inability to absorb one or more nutrients from a diet.
  • Picky cats that do not eat the food they are provided.
  • Other pets or animals are consuming their food.

What’s Important To Know

Cats must be provided with wholesome diets, following veterinary guidelines. Specialized diets may be required, and kittens must only be fed with either their mother’s milk or formula.

If your cat is not getting enough nourishment, you can monitor it when it eats.

As a measure to check that they consume enough food, and other animals are do not eat their food.

6. Worm Infestations

Intestinal parasites can also impair growth in cats. This is observed more in kittens as the infections tend to overwhelm them.

The most common parasitic worms include tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

They live in feline intestines and either feed on nutrients from the diet or on the blood of infected cats.

What’s Important To Know

Veterinarians can diagnose and treat worm infestations.

If your cat is small and you do not know the reason, it is advised to take them for a check-up.

Worm infections occur commonly in cats and can be a major cause of small cat sizes.

Additionally, they can be passed on easily to other pets or people, and the infections can be life-threatening in kittens.

Small Cats Have Their Advantages

If you are concerned about your cat being small for its age, go to a veterinarian to identify any health issues.

Most small cats are perfectly healthy and live just as long as ordinary-sized cats.

Smaller cats also have their advantages. They are ideal for small living spaces, they are adorable to look at, and they are easy to cuddle.

Their vocalizations are generally softer than those of bigger cats, and they cause less damage when they claw at furniture.

Additionally, when cats are small because of health conditions, it does not make them substandard in any way.

We just have to ensure we provide the extra care they need to keep them as healthy as possible.