Caring for our cats is a responsibility with many facets. We ought to keep them safe, comfortable, well-groomed, happy, and of course, well-fed — without too much weight gain.
Unfortunately, the process isn’t always easy since many variables are at play. Every cat is different, which means their needs are different. Often, these needs change over time.
One of the most difficult things for pet parents to manage is their cat’s weight. Being overweight or obese is one of the most common issues for cats, affecting over half the domesticated cat population in developed countries.
Weight issues can pose risk to the health, safety, and quality of life a cat needs.
Today, Spot Pet Insurance is here to help pet parents understand weight issues for cats. Specifically, we will be talking about the ideal weight for cats and how to identify if your cat has weight issues.
Helping a cat lose weight: an introduction
If you think your cat may be struggling with weight management and carrying extra pounds, you’re not alone. Numerous studies of domestic cats in developed countries have shown that up to 63% of cats are obese — far beyond the healthy cat weight range. Even more may be overweight. Finding an underweight cat is a rare thing.
Such staggering health issue statistics aren’t exclusive to cats. Dogs and other household pets are struggling with excess weight and similar health problems like heart disease and pancreatitis too.
The most important distinction to make is between being overweight and obese.
An overweight cat is 10-20 percent above its ideal body weight, while an obese cat is more than 20% above its ideal body weight.
The ideal body weight is a figure that changes with every breed and even with every kitten or adult cat. Age, gender, breed, and more can play a role.
Dangers of being overweight or underweight for cats
There are serious health risks and quality of life impairments posed by cats being overweight or obese.
One of the first effects most overweight cats show is reduced mobility and physical activity. As your cat becomes less active, their weight issues can often compound.
Additionally, behavioral disorders such as depression and anxiety may develop due to obesity or worsen.
In general, obese cats have a shorter life expectancy and greater risk for numerous diseases.
How to tell if my cat might be overweight
Identifying the problem is the first step to solving it. Every cat breed and cat individual is different.
Since so many factors can be at play, the most important step is to consult with a trusted, professional veterinarian if you think your cat is above the average cat weight. A vet can analyze your situation and help discern what your cat’s weight should be and the best steps forward.
Before your vet visit, you may still want to know how to tell if your cat is overweight. This could also be useful during weight loss, so it’s valuable knowledge.
First, we need to identify your cat’s ideal weight.
What is the ideal weight for my cat?
The ideal weight for each cat is also called their expected weight, meaning it is the weight we expect them to be under normal conditions.
As you might expect, a Siamese kitten has a very different ideal weight from an adult Maine coon cat. Age and breed are two of the most significant factors in determining ideal weight. Male cats typically weigh more than female cats as well.
For most domestic cat breeds, the ideal weight sits around eight to 10 pounds for adults. Some breeds have an ideal weight that falls as low as 5 pounds, while others could be as high as 25 pounds.
Being heavy or light does not necessarily mean a cat is unhealthy — it’s all about their weight relative to what would normally be expected.
You can estimate your cat’s ideal weight using online tools that make things easier for you, but the most reliable method is to bring your cat to a trusted veterinarian.
Can I tell my cat is overweight without weighing them?
If you don’t know your cat’s ideal weight or you’re struggling to get them near a scale, never fear. You can still get an idea of whether they may be overweight.
Start by taking note of your cat’s figure. The feline body should be shaped like an hourglass. If you look from above and can’t identify their waist due to obstruction by body mass between the ribs and hips, this could indicate they are overweight.
From the side, if you’re seeing a saggy belly rather than a curvy stomach, there could be a problem. The exception to this rule is a cat that has recently lost weight since they will likely retain a saggy stomach for some time.
You can also evaluate your cat’s weight by a test of touch. Start by moving your hand over your cat’s ribs. If you can’t feel them, or there is significant body moss between your hand and their ribs, this could be a sign they are overweight.
You can perform a similar test around their spine and hips. If layers of fat obstruct your hand from your cat’s bones, that could indicate obesity. Likewise, the base of the tail shouldn’t have a fat covering.
You should also keep an eye out for symptoms such as reduced activity or lack of grooming.
If your cat shows signs of obesity during these tests, consider seeing a veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss your cat’s weight.
What causes weight problems in cats?
Weight issues are common amongst domestic cats for a reason. Overweight and obese conditions can easily sneak up on you, which is why it’s so important to know the signs and the causes.
Ultimately, a cat becomes overweight when their daily caloric intake significantly exceeds their daily caloric expenditure. In other words, if your cat eats too much and doesn’t exercise enough, they will likely become overweight.
How cat diet can cause obesity
Let’s start with what your cat eats. Eating too much food will threaten your cat’s caloric balance, but eating the wrong kind of food can do the same.
Dry food often contains more carbs per bite than wet food, which is why many veterinarians recommend a switch for cats prone to overeating. Canned food at set meal times can also help control eating in comparison to “free feeding” practices where dry food is left out for the cat to eat at any time of day.
You should also consider how many treats your cat gets. Treats should generally make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake, with 90% of their calories coming from professional formulated cat food for their specific dietary needs.
Remember that most human food needs to be classified as a treat for your cat as well. Cats have unique digestive systems that are very different from humans, so we’re better off not feeding them people food most of the time.
How lack of exercise can cause feline obesity
Exercise is equally as important for your cat’s weight as its diet. Like humans, cats burn calories through many different means. A cat that lays around all day still burns calories, but not very many. Cats need to be active to keep up with their caloric intake.
You can encourage exercise for your cat by providing play time and infrastructure for them to stay moving. Cat towers, high perches, and similar places to climb, run, jump, and play encourage cats to be active. Using toys that draw on your cat’s natural instincts to hunt is another popular technique.
How can cats safely lose weight or gain weight?
Looking for your cat to lose some weight? The best way forward always involves partnering with a trusted veterinarian. You should not start a diet for your cat without doing so since there could be an underlying condition contributing to their weight.
Your vet can help you create a plan for increasing your cat’s exercise and improving their diet. They may even prescribe a special diet food for your cat.
Know that weight loss is a slow and steady process for most cats. You shouldn’t expect overnight results, and things may be more challenging for older cats. With diligence and professional help, there are many positive steps you can take to help improve your cat’s quality of life and health, hopefully for years to come.
Here at Spot Pet Insurance, we’re dedicated to helping pet parents through every step of their journey, from choosing the right breed to keeping your pet healthy and happy, even when accidents happen.
Owner and Cat-Related Risk Factors for Feline Overweight or Obesity | Frontiers Veterinary Science
Obesity in Cats | VCA Animal Hospital
Hands-On Guide to Checking if Your Cat Is at a Good Weight | Cat Health
Exercising Your Cat for Weight Loss | VCA Animal Hospital