Do you love to feed your cat treats or tidbits off your plate? A 2020 study looked at the attitude that pet owners have towards cat overweight and obesity.
Despite a high percentage (30-35% of the general feline population) of cat’s tipping the scale, the study showed that 39% of pet owners disapprove of feline obesity. So maybe the problem is that many don’t know what to do when their kitty is chubbier than normal.
There is no perfect weight for cats, and while 20 pounds may be normal and healthy for large cat breeds like Maine Coons, 5 pounds is healthy for smaller breeds. Most domestic cats weigh around 10 pounds. Not sure if your cat is overweight or obese? Or not sure what to do about those excess pounds?
Take a moment to read this article and find out how to deal with your fat cat.
Table of Contents
What is Obesity?
Obesity is a nutritional disease that is defined by excessive body fat. To truly measure your cat’s ideal weight, a body condition scoring assessment needs to be done.
This nine-point scoring chart looks at the fat covering over the ribcage of a cat, the abdominal areas and general proportion of your furry feline. A healthy score is 5. Cats with a body condition score above seven are considered to be obese.
If your pet is lazy, inactive, greedy, or over the age of five, they are more at risk of becoming obese. A mature or senior cat becomes less active and loses interest in playtime. The dwindling interest in playtime can cause them to pick up the pounds.
It is also at this stage that cats see a drop in their metabolism. Many cats that are predominantly kept indoors, without mental and physical stimulation are also in danger of picking up weight unless their diet plan changes and their owner takes active steps to keep them at optimal health.
Health Risks in Obesity
Pet obesity needs to be taken very seriously as it can lead to a number of adverse health problems. Not only will their body mass decrease their life expectancy, but fat cats experience pressure on their joints, bones, lungs, heart, and digestive organs. Obese cats are more likely to be diagnosed with the following health risks:
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Respiratory Disease
- Non-Allergic Skin Disorders
- Oral Cavity Disease
- Liver Disease, known as Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver disease
- Osteoarthritis and general joint stress
- Heart Disease
- Lowered immune system
How Do I Know My Cat is Obese?
So your kitty is a little on the heavy side, but how do you tell if they are obese? First off, identify any risk factors that could make your cat more susceptible to weight gain. A paper by DVM P. Jane Armstrong mentions genetics as a risk factor.
Mixed breed cats and Manx cats are more likely to be obese than most purebred felines. Studies have also noticed that obesity is more prevalent in male cats, with neutering further increasing their chances of weight gain. Your cat’s age, eating habits and diet choice are all variables.
Signs of Obesity
If your cat ticks the box for any of those risk factors then you may need to take a closer look at behavioral or health changes. Pet owners need to act quickly if they notice an increase in body fat. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- An above-average body condition score, according to your cats ideal weight as determined by your veterinarian.
- Loss of appetite
Obesity can be accompanied by other symptoms that indicate the diseases we’ve listed above. For example, if your cat is inactive, lethargic and limping, this can be an indication that joint degeneration and arthritis has already taken hold.
While weight loss will alleviate joints, the strain has already caused damage and chronic conditions cannot be reversed. Your best chance of avoiding chronic conditions is prevention, prevention, prevention.
Are you seeking the triggers for obesity in cats so you know what to look out for? You’re on the right track. Whether you’re in the stages of prevention or treatment, it’s good to know what dangers can lead your kitty down the path towards an overweight or obese body weight.
Your pet’s access to food may be a problem. Free choice feeding systems, or overfeeding pets, as well as spoiling them with excessive treats has been associated with obesity. Dry food is often to blame due to the high carbohydrate content. Highly palatable foods and high fat foods will raise their weight above the average, due to their dissatisfaction and desire to come back for more.
The imbalance between energy intake and expenditure is often the thing that will tip their weight over the edge.
Pet obesity can be a sign of hypothyroidism in cats. If portion control or diet isn’t the problem, get your cat checked out by your local DVM for an assessment. Hypothyroidism is caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormones.
The hormones produced by the thyroid are responsible for many bodily functions, including metabolic rate. A cat with an overactive thyroid will burn more energy and overeat. Weight reduction is a more common symptom, but due to the cat’s desire to overeat, fat gain can also be a sign of this disease.
Insulinomas are malignant fast-growing cancerous tissues in your cat’s pancreas. Insulinomas secrete excessive insulin which in turn causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and causes weakness in your precious kitty.
Symptoms of insulinoma include lethargy, physical collapse and neurological abnormalities. Cat’s might overeat to mitigate the symptoms of extreme weakness, causing weight gain.
Also known as Cushing’s Syndrome, hyperadrenocorticism is when there is an overproduction of cortisol in the adrenal gland, which can lead to diseases such as diabetes. This disease is more common in senior or mature cats and is commonly caused by the presence of a tumor in the adrenal or pituitary glands.
One of the symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome is overeating. The increased intake of calories causes an increase in body mass.
Studies have shown a clear correlation between weight gain and neutering in cats. Gonadal hormones, such as oestradiol, progesterone and testosterone, are responsible for the production of reproductive cells in mammals. These powerful sexual hormones also influence general food intake and metabolism.
Once a cat is neutered, their gonadal hormones are interrupted. This change in various hormonal productions induces obesity, and messes with your cat’s metabolism.
Spaying and neutering your cat is important and can prevent a number of diseases, as well as their desire to wander which puts them at risk for trauma incidents. Speak to your veterinarian about adjusting your cat’s food intake after their procedure.
How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
Is your cat’s weight a problem? Unfortunately your cat may flick their tail in annoyance if you try to motivate them to exercise or eat less. The efforts to get your kitty to an ideal body weight starts with you. We know you want to see your pet at their ideal body weight so here are a few adjustments you can make to their lifestyle, and yours.
Talk To Your Veterinarian
Calling to make an appointment with your vet is the first step to take once you realize your cat is overweight or obese. Vets are able to assess your cat’s body condition and find out what your cat’s ideal body weight should be.
Together you can come up with a plan and record weight loss progress. Having your vet on board will keep you motivated in your cat’s weight loss journey.
Get on a Specialized Diet
Help your cat lose weight with a good quality food. In the wild, a cat’s diet would be one that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, so you should aim to do the same. Feed your cat a diet that is filled with dietary protein with a moderate amount of fiber and low fat.
Protein stimulates the metabolism and boosts energy. It will also keep your kitty fuller for longer so that they don’t keep begging for more food.
As part of a weight loss program, your vet may suggest a “diet” brand for your overweight cat. Canned food for cats may also be the solution to your cat’s weight dilemma. Portion control is often easier with canned food and because of the higher water percentage in wet food, there are often lower calories than dry food, up to 1.5 less calories per gram.
We know you don’t want to count calories, but it may be necessary if you’re hoping to help your overweight or obese cat to drop the fat stores. Hold back on treats for a little while, or take their calorie amount into account for their overall daily intake.
Portion control will make a huge difference if your cat is overweight. Count calories and you can count on a drop in body fat.
Make Them Work for it
Get your kitty to drop the body fat by making your cat work for their food. Moving their food dish to a new spot daily or introducing puzzle feeders are a great way to add the fun of the hunt to mealtime.
As a result, your cat will eat slower, get fuller sooner, and burn some calories while they’re at it. Plus, you can have a laugh watching your kitty scramble around on the floor while they try to get dry food out of their slow-feeder ball.
Make Playtime Active
There are so many cat toys on the market that will encourage your furry friend to get some low-impact exercise. Many cats love climbing posts. Choose one that has some toys dangling from it to encourage some playful behavior.
Even senior cats love some lazer play; get that fat cat moving with a bouncing light. Many pet owners find it works best to schedule playtime so that their overweight or obese cat gets the activity they need.
Maintaining an Ideal Weight
So your cat is at their ideal weight and has that sought-after hourglass figure (this is the shape you want to see when looking down at them). Keeping your feline protected from health risks is worth the effort it takes to maintain an ideal weight.
Stay focused, get your family on board and stick with the plan. Your cat won’t be the only one taking strain if their weight continues to increase, you will too. Vet bills for disease treatment are exorbitant.
By partnering with your veterinary team, your cat can get the perfect score on their body weight chart. It’s important to weight your cat regularly. Routine wellness exams and early diagnosis go a long way in helping your cat to stay slim and healthy.
Cat Obesity – Get Your Kitty Healthy Again
Listen up pet owners, your cat’s weight is your problem. Getting them to their healthy weight may seem intimidating, but it can also be fun. Indulging in play sessions with your kitty will increase their life expectancy, but it will also increase your bond with your companion pet.
Today is the day to change bad habits, adopt a weight loss program, and slowly but surely increase your cat’s quality of life by achieving a healthy weight. Take your cat’s weight seriously and you can look forward to many more years of purrfect play sessions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is considered obese for a cat?
Obesity in cats has various factors. To truly assess your cat’s ideal weight, a body condition scoring needs to be done. This nine-point scoring system looks at the fat covering over the ribcage of a cat, the abdominal areas and general proportion of your furry feline. A healthy score is 5; cats with a body condition score above seven are considered to be obese.
How do you treat an obese cat?
Calling to make an appointment with your vet is the first step to take once you realize your cat is overweight or obese. Vets are able to assess your cat’s body condition and find out what your cat’s ideal body weight should be. Together you can come up with a plan and record weight loss progress.
Is 20 pounds big for a cat?
There is no perfect weight for cats, and while 20 pounds may be normal and healthy for large cat breeds like Maine Coons, 5 pounds is healthy for smaller breeds. Most domestic cats weigh around 10 pounds.