Overweight cats: How to tell if your cat is obese

Posted by Nurse Whiskers. March 23rd 2016. Tagged: Pet diet and Pet health

Overweight cats are becoming a much more common problem and obesity in cats is known to cause health problems that could hamper the quality and length of your pet’s life.

Obesity can increase the impact of other underlying health problems and lead to other disorders such as diabetes, liver problems and arthritis. It is estimated that about one in three adult cats in the UK is obese – or 25% heavier than their ideal weight.

Overweight cat in garden

Is my cat overweight?

Vets use a nine-point scale to determine the condition of a cat’s body in terms of weight, ranging from very thin to obese. They judge the cat’s score by carrying out a few simple tests that you can do at home. The exact features will depend on your cat’s breed, sex and age but here are some general things you can test for.

  • Feel your cat’s ribs. You should be able to feel but not see the ribs. They should be covered with a thin layer of fat.
  • If you are struggling to feel your cat’s ribs, he or she is probably overweight.
  • Next, check your cat’s back, near the base of the tail. Again, there should be a thin layer of fat covering the bones. If you cannot feel the definition of the bones, your cat may be overweight.
  • Feel for other bony areas such as the spine, hips and shoulders – all should have a lean layer of fat.
  • Looking at the shape of your cat from above and from the side should also give you an idea of whether he or she needs to lose weight.
  • From above, the cat should have a defined waist, where the abdomen narrows behind the ribs.
  • Similarly, from the side, your cat’s tummy should tuck, with a smaller diameter than the chest.

Obesity is harder to detect in longhaired cat breeds, largely because it is more difficult to see the cat’s body shape.

However, you can weigh your cat relatively easily on household scales.

How to spot overweight cats: Download this free advice guide now.

What causes obesity in cats

Cats, much like people, will put on weight if they eat too much and don’t get enough exercise.

As cats get older, they are more likely to put on weight. And, if the owners are overweight, their pets are more likely to develop obesity.

Another cause of obesity in cats could be an underlying health issue or disease. This is why it’s important to see your vet if you are concerned about your pet.

Cat being active

How to treat obesity in cats

Most obese cats can be helped to lose weight with natural and gradual intervention, which will help them go on to lead happy and healthy lives. Regular exercise is essential but this can be difficult, particularly with indoor cats. You should try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes of play time, where you set your cat an active challenge to get him or her moving. Gradually, increase the amount of play sessions you have each day and up the intensity as you go along. Get your cat some new toys, such as a maze, to keep them active and interested.

When it comes to dieting, concentrate on giving your pet healthy food and keep a close eye on how much you are dishing up. Consider smaller meals, served more frequently. Look into getting a feeding ball, which encourages your cat to earn their food by playing a game. Alternatively, place food at the top of the stairs or somewhere that your cat will force your cat to climb to reach.

If you have more than one pet, it’s a good idea to feed them separately to prevent them from stealing food they should not be having. Cut down on treats or feeding your leftovers to your cat. Avoid the temptation to impose a crash diet. Giving your cat too little food is not healthy. Reducing your cat’s food by more than 15 per cent could cause health problems.

How to tell if your cat is actually underweight

Watch our quick video below, with one of our professional, resident vets, about how to tell whether your cat is either too thin or overweight.

For more information about how to care for your cat, head over to our We Talk Cat blog.

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