Is my cat overweight?

A very common concern amidst cat owners is:  Is my cat overweight?  We’re glad you’re reading this because obesity in cats is a frequent diagnosis in the veterinary world and can lead to many more serious health issues.

The average cat is between 7 and 13 pounds (3 to 6 kilograms) but of course, just like humans, cats can vary in shape and size.  Your cat may fall outside this range and still be healthy but here are three simple tips to make sure:

1.        Looking at your cat from above, the area between his hips and ribs should move inward slightly, creating a defined waist.  Looking at them from the side, the area just behind their ribs should have a smaller diameter than the chest.

2.       While gently petting your cat, you should be able to feel the outline of his ribs, spine, hip bones and shoulder bones without pressing down too hard.

3.       Your cat’s saggy belly is referred to as their “primordial pouch” and is actually meant to protect a cat’s stomach.  It should hang loose and mostly be comprised of skin but if it seems to be filling out with fat, this can be an indicator of obesity.

After walking through these three steps at home, if you are concerned that your cat is overweight, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

If your cat is in fact overweight, your vet may recommend a change in diet.  Some of the common diet foods for felines are designed to either be lower in calories per cup of food, or make your cats body think it is full so they eat less.  One of these two types foods may be prescribed for your chubby kitty, along with tips on how to make the change in diet gradual so as not to upset your kitty’s tummy.

Cats will work for their food.  You could try using a puzzle-like device that they have to dismantle to obtain their meal.  This encourages exercise, the next most important thing after diet.  Have a variety of toys available to them and take 20-30 minutes each day to play with them.  If you’re away from home a lot, consider getting your cat electronic, interactive toys to keep them busy while they’re alone.  Some cat owners will even build their pals a “catio” (a cat patio)!  This is especially great for an indoor cat to get out for some fresh air and exercise!

So why is it so important to monitor your cat’s weight?  As mentioned above, obesity in cats commonly leads to more serious health issues.  Increased weight can place an excessive burden on joints, ligaments, and tendons, causing arthritic changes and making it harder for them to move or jump.  Heart and lung function can become strained, causing high blood pressure and making them a greater surgical risk.  Obesity often brings on diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease – all three of these very serious health concerns in cats and more than likely shortening their lifespan dramatically.

Obesity in cats should be taken very seriously so make sure to ask your veterinarian about it at your cat’s next annual wellness check-up!