Humans aren’t the only ones that can become overweight. Even cats can pack on extra pounds. In the US over half of the pet cat population is overweight or obese. Cats carrying too much extra weight are at risk for serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and kidney disease, among others. These health issues could not only hurt your cat’s quality of life, they could also take years off of their lifespan. Below we give some tips for determining if your cat is overweight along with some advice for getting them back to being healthy.
Cats are much smaller animals than us so slight amounts of weight gain can significantly affect them. One pound of extra weight for a cat is around 20 pounds of extra weight for a person. Because we see our pets every day, it can be hard to notice weight gain – it’s something that can happen slowly over time. One simple way to find out if your cat has gained a few too many pounds is to stand over them and look down. A normal-sized cat should have an indentation at their middle. If you cat has a circular shape or is bulging at the waist, it may be time to cut back on food and treats. One note: female cats that have been spayed tend to get a saggy belly, and this is not always a sign of excessive weight gain. It could just be a lack of muscle tone in that area.
Feel It Out
If you have trouble with the above method (or if your cat is longhaired) try feeling for your cat’s ribs and the bones of their back. You shouldn’t be able to find these bones too easily (that could be a sign that your cat is underweight) but you shouldn’t have to press too hard to feel their bones either. If you have trouble feeling the bones your cat is most likely above their healthy weight.
To help your cat lose some weight, get them active. Exercise is just as critical for cat health as it is for human health. It’s very important for indoor-only cats to exercise so be sure to be set aside time each day for playing with your cat. Get them moving as much as possible, and try different cat toys to see what gets them running and jumping. It’s best to increase their activity level gradually, especially if they are very overweight, and be sure to keep it up. Your cat’s health depends on it.
We all love our cats, and an easy way to show our fondness for our felines is to give them all the food and treats they want. An occasional treat is fine, but too many can actually harm our cats. It’s a good idea to get your cat on a diet of high-quality food and cut back on their treats. Your vet can help you come up with a good food plan. Be sure to do this gradually – cats can develop serious health problems if you cut back on their amount of food too quickly.
If you’re still not sure if your cat is too heavy, consult your vet. They can let you know the proper weight for your breed of cat, and determine if your cat is above or below it. They should also be able to help you come up with a healthy diet and exercise plan for your cat to get them feeling and looking great.
By Niels Ingvar
About the Author
Niels Ingvar is a freelance writer specializing in animal care and behavior, as well as Nordic film and literature. Niels, a native of Aarhus, Denmark, has been living in Los Angeles, CA for 15 years where he writes and actively volunteers at various animal rescues throughout the area.