Obesity is becoming increasingly common among our feline friends due to numerous reasons. In fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that nearly 60 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese in 2018 .
Not only can being overweight negatively affect various organs, it can also shorten a cat’s lifespan. Any cat can be affected by this condition, but a recent study found that male cats were more likely to be overweight compared to female cats .
Pet parents can ensure their cats remain at an ideal weight throughout their lives through vigilance and regular veterinary care.
Find out how to tell if your cat is overweight—and what to do if your cat needs to shed some pounds.
Overweight Cat: Risks to Know
Several risk factors may increase the likelihood that a cat becomes overweight. These include a poor diet, inactivity, or underlying health issues. Free feeding and feeding a dry diet can cause obesity in cats due to an increased intake of calories over time. Lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyles may also contribute since less calories are being expended.
Cats who are overweight are at an increased risk of many health conditions, which may include:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory problems
- Urinary tract diseases
- Skin issues or hair loss
- High blood pressure
Is My Cat Overweight? 7 Ways to Tell
There are several ways pet parents can tell if their cat is overweight. Let’s discuss some of the most common signs to watch for and why these may be problematic for your cat.
Less Energy or Less Willingness to Play
If you notice your cat has slowed down or isn’t interested in playing anymore, weight gain may be to blame. Obesity can cause joint and muscle issues over time, which can limit a cat’s mobility and even cause pain. This inactivity can unfortunately lead to further weight gain.
Skin or Coat Issues
Overweight cats often have bellies that touch the floor, which can lead to a bald patch due to friction. Sometimes these cats can have other skin issues, like barbering or hair loss, as a stress response to being overweight. Skin and coat problems can be extremely uncomfortable for cats.
Urinary Tract Issues
Overweight cats are more likely to develop urinary tract disorders, such as infections or blockages. If you notice your cat straining to urinate, excessively grooming the genital area, or passing blood when urinating, you should schedule an appointment with the veterinarian. Urinary tract issues are very uncomfortable and can be very serious for cats if not dealt with promptly.
Inability to Jump
Cats who are overweight may have more difficulty jumping up onto furniture or other objects in the home. You may notice them resting in unusual areas or vocalizing below objects they previously were able to jump up on. This can happen due to joint problems that have developed from being overweight or simply due to the extra weight that the cat is carrying.
Poor Body Condition
As part of an exam, veterinarians assess a cat’s weight using a 9-point scale. Optimal body weight is considered a 5, while anything over that is considered overweight. A score of 6 would be considered a mildly overweight cat, while a score of 9 would be considered a severely obese cat.
Pet parents can assess their cat’s weight at home by gently sliding their hands across the cat’s ribs. The ribs should be easy to feel underneath the skin. Additionally, cats should have an hourglass shape. Pet parents can look at the cat from above to identify whether or not there is slimming near the hind end. If you can’t feel your cat’s ribs or see an hourglass shape, then the cat is likely overweight to some degree.
Extra weight can make it difficult for cats to properly groom themselves. Pet parents may notice matted fur on the hind end or a lack of cleanliness in the genital regions. While this can be uncomfortable for cats, it can also lead to urinary tract infections or coat problems over time.
Heavy or Raspy Breathing
Cats who are overweight tend to exert more energy performing simple tasks throughout the day. They may tire more easily or have difficulty breathing due to the extra stress of carrying a heavy load. Raspy breathing can also result from extra fat gathering along the windpipe. This may lead to chronic heart and lung problems if a weight loss program is not implemented.
What to Do if Your Cat Is Overweight
Overweight cats can greatly benefit from seeing a veterinarian so pet parents can receive guidance on weight loss. Weight management plans, including exercise and diet modifications, may be recommended. A veterinarian can also detect any underlying health issues that are causing your cat to retain excess weight despite an ideal diet and exercise routine.
Encouraging regular exercise is beneficial in helping cats maintain a healthy weight. Cats are naturally playful so offering plenty of toys is a great way to incorporate physical activity into each day. Adding cat trees or vertical space to the house can also help cats explore and burn calories.
Limiting treats is an easy way to prevent weight gain in cats. These extra calories can quickly add up, so it is important to be mindful and only give them sparingly. Likewise, many pet parents overfeed their cats because they allow free feeding. This means a cat’s bowl is continuously refilled throughout the day as the cat grazes. Free feeding increases the risk of obesity in your cat. By giving distinct, measured meals during the day, pet parents can promote an ideal weight in their cats.
Switching to a diet of wet food can help your cat to lose weight since there are less calories and fillers compared to a dry diet. Wet food is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates which is also beneficial for cats who need to lose weight. There are a variety of diets specifically formulated for weight loss that may be helpful.
If your cat is overweight, it is critical to work together with your veterinarian to develop a weight management program that works for your cat. Weight loss should occur gradually over time rather than abruptly. Regular check-ins with your veterinarian can ensure your cat is staying on track with weight loss, and it is a great time to get any questions answered that should arise along the way.
It should come as no surprise that cats who are at an optimal weight benefit from a greater quality of life and overall well-being. Ensuring our feline friends are happy and healthy is essential.