Is my cat too fat?

More and more often, cats that present to the vets are overweight or obese. It’s estimated that between 40-55% of cats in the UK fall into the overweight or obese weight category.

Chubby cats may look cute, but excess weight and body fat is dangerous and can predispose cats to disease like arthritis, urinary tract disease, and diabetes. Thankfully, being aware that this is a risk makes it easier for cat owners to assess their own cats and keep them fit and healthy.

How to tell if my cat is overweight or obese?

While most breeds of cats have an ideal weight range, there is a more holistic way that vets assess weight, known as body condition scoring, or BCS. 

Using a scale of 1-9, the vet assesses certain areas of your pet and then gives each a number, averaging them to get an overall score. Areas evaluated include the ribs, the fat pad, spine, and waist.

The ideal score for a cat is 4-5, which means that the cat would have a defined waist, a minimal fat pad, and the ribs and spine would be easily palpable but not obviously visible.

Is my cat at risk of becoming overweight?

There are certain situations that would increase the chances of a cat becoming obese.

When a cat gets spayed or neutered their metabolism decreases by about 20% following the surgery. This means that a spayed cat needs less calories per day to keep at a healthy weight. So, if you feed the cat the same amount as before the surgery, the excess calories would equal increased body weight.

Your cat's age can also be a risk factor. From the age of 2 to 10, a cat’s energy requirement decreases, as does their activity level. Again, if being fed the same amount as a fast-growing kitten, that could lead to an increase in body weight.

When cats reach their senior years, from age 10 onward, their appetite decreases and the cat is actually at risk of becoming underweight.

What can I do to control my cat’s weight?

There are a lot of really easy things you can do to make sure your cat is at its ideal body weight. Below are our top tips for keeping your cat fit and healthy!

  • Be sure that you feed your cat an appropriate diet for their stage of life and activity. Ask your veterinary surgeon for advice on diet and nutrition. They’ll work with you to determine the activity level of your cat, as well as any health concerns to develop a feeding program that suits your cat.
  • Instead of setting the food bowl out for the cat to pick at all day, try to introduce set meal times for your cat. That way you can be sure of exactly what, and how much, your cat is eating.
  • Treats can be a healthy addition to the diet, but if your cat is getting a lot of treats through the day, decrease the amount of food they are getting so they aren’t consuming too many calories.
  • Find toys that allow you to interact with your cat, like laser or feather toys.  Sensory toys, that use movements and lights, are a great way to keep your cat active and engaged.
  • Increase your cats activity by using toys that stimulate their instinct to stalk and hunt. Get out that toy mouse, and your cat will be tearing around the house and keeping fit and healthy!

Remember, if you have any concerns about your cat's weight, speak to your veterinarian. An increase or decrease in weight could be a sign of an underlying health problem, which your vet will be able to assess.