It’s hard to resist spoiling our adorable, well-deserving pets with their favorite food and treats… but these acts of love may actually be doing more harm than good.
In 2018, more than half of all cats in the United States were considered overweight. With all of the chonky, extra-fluffy cats making internet appearances, it can be difficult to understand what “normal” should look like in terms of your cat’s weight.
Keep reading to learn how to assess your cat’s weight, along with some tips on how to help her lose some of those extra pounds.
Cat Weight Gain: Why is it a Problem?
Cats may not deal with body image issues the way humans do, but Fluffy’s extra fluff can still have negative effects on her physical health, mental health, and hygiene habits.
Being overweight can both cause and exacerbate a variety of health problems including skin issues, joint and mobility issues, kidney problems, heart problems, and more. Plus, there’s a good chance that those excess pounds could be shortening your kitty’s overall lifespan.
Those extra pounds can also make it harder for your kitty to keep up with her personal hygiene, too—especially in those already hard-to-reach spots. That weight-related lack of mobility can also affect her willingness and ability to engage in physical activity; healthy physical outlets are important for maintaining your cat’s mental health.
How to Tell if Your Cat is Overweight
Every cat is different; what’s considered healthy in terms of numbers on a scale can vary from cat to cat, so leave it to your vet to determine whether that number is a concern.
That said, there are a few ways you can assess your cat’s weight at home, especially if she hasn’t been to the vet in a while and you suspect she may be a bit, well, bigger than she’s supposed to be.
When you’re petting your cat, gently feel along her rib cage. You should be able to feel her ribs through a light layer of padding; if you have to press firmly in order to feel her ribs (or can’t feel them at all), your cat may need some lifestyle changes.
There are also a few visual cues you can look for. For example, if you look down at your cat from above while she’s standing, you should see a waistline with a slight indentation. If she’s looking a bit more “blimp-shaped,” she’s likely overweight. Another red flag would be a pronounced “pooch” under her belly when looking at her from the side.
Your kitty may also be overweight if she’s having trouble grooming herself, or isn’t as interested in playing and moving around as before. You know your cat best—as a precaution, it’s generally a good idea to contact your vet anytime you notice changes in your cat’s behavior or appearance.
Common Reasons for Cat Weight Gain
If your cat is overweight, there are a few reasons that could explain her weight gain.
It’s worth noting that if you have an indoor cat, she’s more likely to be overweight than her outdoor counterparts. You’ll probably have to be more intentional about making sure your indoor kitty gets the necessary amounts of physical activity between lounging and snoozing in her favorite sun spots.
How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take as a pet owner to keep your cat’s weight under control.
Make sure your kitty has access to plenty of interactive toys, along with things to scratch and climb. Whenever possible, try to engage in two 15-minute play sessions with your cat every day, using toys such as wands and laser pointers. Not only is this a great form of exercise and mental stimulation, but it’s also a great way for you to bond with your feline.
Talk to your vet about your cat’s diet, too. Perhaps it’s time to switch to a diet meant for older cats; maybe you simply need to cut down on the portion sizes by switching to a puzzle feeder, or transition to scheduled mealtimes with an automatic feeder.
It’s also important to stay on top of regular vet visits. Your vet will be able to address any health issues contributing to your cat’s weight; they’ll also be able to recommend dietary changes or even medications as needed.
You may also need to cut down on the cat treats. Once in a while is okay (especially when you’re rewarding your kitty for behaving well during a claw clipping session), but it’s probably a good idea to start showing more affection with cuddles and quality time rather than treats.
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