Obesity in Cats – How to safely manage an overweight cat

Noticed your cat is carrying some extra weight under all that fur? While many of us can relate to putting on a few extra pounds here and there – and even joke about it – the fact remains that putting on too much weight (human or cat) is unhealthy.

We all want our feline friends to be a part of the family for as long as possible, so it’s up to us to manage their health. That includes their weight.

Like us, our cats can overindulge – often without even noticing they’re doing it – and therefore quickly gain weight.

A little extra padding won’t overly harm your pet cat or impact their health too much.

However, this little extra padding can quickly escalate and can have consequences for their overall health and well-being.

That’s why we recommend taking quick action if you notice your cat is gaining weight.

How to tell if your cat is overweight

It’s relatively straightforward to tell if your moggy has been putting on a few extra pounds.

Perform a simple ‘vet check’ on your cat, so you can see if they’re overweight or not.

Some simple checks for an overweight cat include:

  • The ribs – You should be able to clearly feel your cat’s ribs. There should ideally be a thin layer of skin and fat over the ribs, but no more.
  • The back – You should also be able to feel your cat’s spine under a similar thin coating of skin and fat. You shouldn’t be able to see individual vertebrae and you shouldn’t feel a thick layer of fat either.
  • The belly – An overweight cat may have a larger or more rounded belly. A spayed female may have a sagging belly, which is normal. It shouldn’t be overly big, though.
  • The waist – A cat in good health should have a narrow waist you can clearly see when looking down from above. If your pet is bigger round the middle or has less difference around the middle, they may be overweight.

If in doubt, take your cat to your vet and ask them to check. They’ll often have comparison charts on the wall you can use to accurately gauge how much weight your cat has put on.

When is a cat considered obese or unhealthily overweight?

Carrying a small amount of excess weight shouldn’t harm your closest companion over the long term, but it should ideally be tackled early before it gets more serious.

If your cat is 10% over their ideal weight, they will be classed as overweight.

If your cat is 20% over their ideal weight, they’ll be classed as obese.

Either way, your furry family member may need a little intervention to get back into condition.

Risks associated with having an overweight cat

As you might expect, there are some significant health risks associated with having an overweight cat.

Every cat is different, but we recommend avoiding weight gain as much as possible to give them the best chance at a long and happy life. 

Intervene early and you could save some issues down the road:

  • Joint issues – Just like with humans, carrying excess weight puts extra pressure on joints, bones, ligaments and tendons.
  • Diabetes – Did you know cats can also suffer from diabetes? Being overweight can cause it or make it worse.
  • High blood pressure – Cats can also suffer from high blood pressure through being overweight. This places extra pressure on the heart, which has to work much harder to maintain circulation.
  • Urinary tract disease – Cats are already susceptible to urinary tract disease and being overweight just adds to that. Make sure your cat always has access to fresh water to help offset it. Cat fountains help keep your moggy hydrated and happy.
  • Organ function – Overweight cats’ kidneys, liver, heart, stomach, lungs and other organs often have to work overtime to maintain basic function.

These might sound scary, but by recognising the signs and risks of obesity in cats, you can do something about it.

How do you adjust feeding for an overweight cat?

You can adjust feeding by slowly reducing the amount of food you feed your friend. Keep the food and the schedule the same, just gradually reduce the volume.

Over time, this should reduce the calorie excess that’s causing your cat to gain weight. Hopefully without them noticing (otherwise, be prepared for some indignant meows)!

There are many ways you can regulate the amount of food your cat can access throughout the day; automated cat feeders and microchip cat feeders can both help moderate access to food and the amount of food available.

If you have more than one feline friend, a microchip feeder can help prevent one cat from raiding another’s dinner. This can also help prevent one cat gaining weight while another loses it too quickly!

The MiBowl Automatic Microchip Pet Feeder from Closer Pets only allows access to paired cats via their implanted microchip or a Closer Pets Electronic I.D. Disc, which comes included as standard. It’s an award-winning concept that helps control portion sizes and provides the perfect solution for owners with pets who require weight management or those with special dietary needs.

How to help your cat lose weight

You can help your cat lose weight by managing their diet. Slowly reduce portion sizes while keeping the frequency the same and encourage them to run and play.

The equation is simple. Fewer calories in and more calories burned means no more weight gain.

Over time, that will slowly turn into a calorie deficit to help your cat lose weight, and that beach body is within reach (just kidding!).

Use an automatic pet feeder when you’re out or at work, and play with your cat more when you’re home. Not only will you be helping your cat lose those extra pounds, this has the added benefit of creating a greater bond with them while you play. That’s a win in our book!

If in doubt, always take your cat to your vet to ask about healthy diets for your cat or kitten and, if needed, how to help them safely lose weight.