According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and based on 2016 population projections, approximately 50.5 million cats are considered to be too heavy. If you’re asking yourself, “is my cat fat?” this article can help you tell if your cat is overweight, and how to get him or her back to an ideal body condition.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CAT IS OVERWEIGHT
Cats can become overweight when excess energy is converted into fat and stored as fat in a cat's connective tissue. This accumulation of body fat may be gradual over many years or it may be rapid, depending on the difference between energy intake and energy use.
It may not seem like a big deal if your cat is a little heavy. But extra weight can affect the overall health of your cat and increase long-term health costs. One extra pound on your cat is much more significant than a pound on you. For example, every excess pound on an average cat is equal to approximately 14-15 pounds on a 5’4” woman.
WHAT CAUSES CATS TO BECOME OVERWEIGHT?
There are a number of reasons cats can become overweight, including the following:
- Excess caloric intake is the most common cause. The cat consumes too much food and does not expend the energy required to use the calories and maintain normal body weight. Many pet owners encourage an overweight condition by overfeeding or giving excessive treats or table scraps.
- Genetic predisposition may contribute to obesity, especially in certain breeds like Manx and Maine Coons.
If you believe your cat is overweight, an examination by your veterinarian is suggested. Any predisposing abnormalities can be diagnosed or treated or your veterinarian may recommend a weight reduction program.
WEIGHT REDUCTION GUIDELINES
The following feeding guidelines for cats who are overweight or have the tendency to become overweight are presented as suggestions. They are not intended to replace the advice of a veterinarian.
- Reduce your cat's caloric intake by feeding fewer calories. Talk to your vet to get a recommendation for a weight management formula that’s right for your cat.
- Measure your pet’s food. Without measuring, it's easy to overfeed.
- Omit feeding food from the table. Often, eliminating feeding table scraps is sufficient to achieve the desired weight reduction. Keeping your pet away from the area where the food is being prepared and served helps retrain him/her not to beg for or expect table scraps.
- Do not feed high-calorie treats.
- If you are omitting table scraps or reducing the amount of food being offered, feed the daily amount in two or three servings. You will feed less, but help prevent your pet from feeling hungry and help keep him/her from begging.
- Do not allow your pet to have access to garbage cans or other sources of additional food.
- The cooperation of all family members is needed to help ensure a successful weight reduction program.
- Combine exercise with diet management.
- Make certain fresh drinking water in a clean bowl is available for your pet at all times.
EXERCISING YOUR PET
Although cats are not likely to respond to a planned exercise program, it is possible to encourage them to exercise through play. Toys with "cat appeal" can be as simple as a ping pong ball rolled across the floor or a piece of string dragged across the floor or dangled just out of reach.
Some cats can be taught to walk on a leash. Others can be taught to retrieve. Training for these activities should start during kittenhood.
ESTIMATING YOUR CAT’S BODY CONDITION
There are various ways to determine how to tell if your cat is overweight. However, estimating weight is sometimes difficult because standards vary among different breeds and among individual cats. For example, long hair on a cat may tend to mask obesity or a thin condition. If you think your cat is too heavy, you can evaluate his or her body condition with our Body Condition Tool. And as always, for an accurate evaluation of your cat’s weight and body condition, it is advisable to visit your veterinarian.