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Is Your Cat Overweight? Signs, Symptoms & What to Do

Obesity in cats can threaten their health, longevity and quality of life. Today, our Central Illinois vets discuss the most common reasons cats become overweight, what to do about it, how to recognize it and when to see your veterinarian.

Why Your Cat's Weight Matters

While you may not think about your cat's weight on a regular basis, this characteristic factors into their overall health. Similar to their humans, kitties that carry extra pounds have a higher risk of developing serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. Even a few excess ounces can significantly impact your cat's overall health and vitality. 

Health Risks to Overweight Cats

If your feline companion is carrying extra weight, they face a significantly increased risk of developing one or more of these health conditions:

  • Chronic inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Skin problems
  • Joint pain
  • Urinary tract infections

How Cats Become Overweight

Cats that are obese may struggle with how they use energy and control their appetite. They may also have inflammation somewhere in their body. Generally, obesity occurs when cats overeat and/or do not get enough exercise. Either of these or a combination of both can cause excess weight gain. 

Eating Too Much Food

If your cat's bowl of dry food is left out for them to graze from or "free feed" during the day, this may contribute to weight gain and result in them frequenting the food bowl even if they are just bored - not necessarily hungry. 

Reduced Activity

Your cat will gain weight if they fail to burn enough calories for the type or amount of food they eat. This can happen if a cat doesn't get enough exercise, interaction or play. Health issues such as osteoarthritis can also cause a cat to gain weight. 

How to Tell If Your Cat is Overweight

Many cat owners end up asking themselves, 'Is my cat overweight?' at some point during their furry friend's lifetime. Guidelines for obesity help determine whether a cat is overweight. Typically, a cat with a body weight 20% over its average weight would be determined to be obese. Here are some common ways to tell if your cat may be overweight.

Watch Your Cat Jump

Cats are known for being graceful, nimble creatures, and cat's bodies are naturally perfectly designed for jumping. If your cat needs multiple attempts to jump onto their favorite piece of furniture or gives up, their weight may be an issue. 

Feel for Your Cat's Ribs

If your feline friend is at their correct weight you should be able to feel their ribs by running your hand along their chest. If you can't feel your cat's ribs, your cat may be overweight. 

Check Your Cat's Waistline

While your cat is standing, look down at them from directly above. Try to spot a slight indent just above your cat's hips where their waist should be (this can be a bit tricky with long-haired cats). If you can't see their waist or if their sides are bulging it means that your kitty is probably carrying excess weight.

Use Our Overweight Cat Chart

Look over the overweight cat chart below to get a better understanding of your cat's weight category, and whether your cat may be carrying an extra pound or two.

Overweight cat chart, South Charlotte Vet vet

How to Get Your Feline Friend's Weight Back On-track

Your kitty's breed, age, and lifestyle all make a significant difference to their nutritional needs.

If you think that your cat may be overweight make an appointment to see your vet for an exam. Your veterinarian will access your cat's current weight then let you know what your kitty's optimal weight is and how to help your cat reach their weight loss goals. 

For cats that are just a little overweight, sticking to their regular food but reducing the size of each meal could get your pet's weight back within healthy parameters. 

If your cat needs to lose a significant amount of weight, it may be best to switch your kitty over to a specialized food that is formulated to help with feline weight loss. We can help determine your pet's dietary and nutritional needs and create a dietary plan. 

Rehabilitation techniques (the equivalent of physical therapy) may help to manage some of obesity-related health issues and symptoms. You may want to ask your vet if this would be appropriate for your cat. 

Unexplained Weight Gain

If your cat has suddenly begun to put on weight without cause, it's time to see your vet. Unexplained weight gain can be a symptom of an underlying health issue.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your cat need to lose a few ounces? Perhaps they are gaining weight for a mysterious reason. Contact our Central Illinois vets today. We can address any possible causes and develop a treatment plan to get your feline's weight back on track.

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