Now that you are a cat parent, you want what’s best for your fur-baby and keeping your cat at its optimal health. It’s no secret that the human prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically over the last few decades, and cat obesity is also a growing problem. And according to vets, it is a prominent health issue among domestic cats.
Whether you are a first cat parent or an experienced owner, you are probably wondering how you know if your cat is overweight or underweight? What does the average cat weigh, or if your cat is within a healthy weight range? At one point, you may be discussing how to maintain a healthy weight or reach the ideal weight of your cat with your veterinarian.
Obesity is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. According to some estimates, more than 50 percent of cats are overweight and 25 percent of cats are obese. Obesity is more common in older, less active felines and in spayed female felines whose weight is not well-managed. Cats that are fed bottomless bowls of food are more likely to be obese than others.
Ideal Weight For Cats
Most domestic cats should weigh about 10 pounds, though that can vary by breed and frame. A Siamese cat may weigh as few as 5 pounds, while a Maine Coon can be 25 pounds and healthy.
Your vet can let you know if your cat is overweight, but there are some signs you can look for on your own, says Melissa Mustillo, DVM, a veterinarian at A Cat Clinic in Maryland.
“Cats should have that hourglass figure when you’re looking down at them, they shouldn’t have a saggy belly hanging down, and you should be able to feel their ribs,” she says.
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is an accumulation of excess body fat. Extra body weight and extra body fat tend to go hand in hand, so most overweight cats will have excess body fat.
Body weight is easy to measure when assessing if a cat is overweight or obese – easier than trying to measure body fat. Using body weight as a guide, cats are considered to be overweight when they weigh 10-20% above their ideal body weight. They are considered obese when they weigh 20% or more above their ideal body weight.
What Are The Risks With Obesity?
Obesity shortens a cat’s life and makes them more likely to develop disease. Even being moderately overweight reduces a cat’s life expectancy. In cats, a 2.8-fold increase in mortality has been shown in obese cats (8-12 years old) compared to lean cats.
A large, lifetime study of Labrador Retrievers found that a moderately overweight group of dogs lived nearly two years less than their leaner counterparts. This is a sobering statistic as it was always accepted that heavy dogs lived a shorter time than lean dogs, but only by around 6-12 months. It is reasonable to expect we would see similar results in a study performed on overweight cats.
Previously, fat was considered to be relatively inactive tissue, simply storing excess energy calories and adding to body mass. Scientific evidence now reveals that fat tissue is biologically active. It secretes inflammatory hormones and creates oxidative stress on the body’s tissue, both of which contribute to many diseases. Thinking of obesity as a chronic, low-level inflammatory condition is a new approach.
How Do I Know If My Cat Is Obese?
The very first step in dealing with an overweight or obese cat is to recognize and acknowledge that there is a problem. Unfortunately, we are inundated with images in the media of cats that are consistently too heavy, which makes it challenging to understand what normal looks like. Your veterinarian and veterinary health care team can assist with an assessment.
Rib coverage is not only an important measurement to help you identify if your cat is overweight, but it is also easy for you to do at home, on your own. If you hold your hand palm down and feel your knuckles with the flats of the fingers on the opposite hand, this is how your cat’s ribs should feel just behind the shoulder blades. It is also a good method for measuring weight loss progress between formal weigh-ins.
How Do I Adjust My Cat’s Meals To Help Him Lose Weight?
Once you have identified that your cat is overweight or obese, it is important to adjust feedings specifically for weight loss – using a specific nutritional product, portion, and meal frequency. There are scientifically formulated nutritional products to help with healthy and safe weight reduction in cats such as Hills® Prescription diet metabolic, Royal Canin® Satiety Support Weight Management and Purina Overweight Management®. It is not appropriate to simply reduce the volume of their current food. This will cause malnourishment over time.
It is appropriate and important to feed a nutritional product that has lower overall calorie density, yet maintains an appropriate nutrient balance Your veterinarian can help you determine which nutritional products are best for your cat.
Once the new food has been selected and the new portions are determined, it is critical that you be consistent with feeding – portions and meal frequency – and to resist the temptation to provide inappropriate snacks. Ask your veterinarian what treats are recommended for your cat’s diet plan.
Why Is Maintaining A Healthy Weight So Important?
Obesity causes health problems in cats, similarly to humans. Overweight cats can be at risk of:
- Pancreatitis (a painful condition caused by a high-fat diet)
- Arthritis/joint problems
- Skin sores
By keeping an eye on your cat’s weight, you will lower their risks of these problems and keep them a lot healthier.
How Much Should My Cat Weigh?
It varies depending on the breed but for most domestic cats, you can take 10 pounds (4-4.5 kg) as an ideal weight. Certain larger breeds can weigh as much as 25 pounds (11 kg) and smaller breeds can weigh as little as 5 pounds (2.2 kg).
Average Weight Of A Male Cat
The average cat weight of a male cat is between 11-15 pounds (1). Male cats tend to be slightly larger than female cats. They tend to have bigger frames to carry more fat and muscles than a female cat.
Average Weight Of A Female Cat
The average cat weight of a female cat is between 8-12 pounds (2). A female cat’s weight may fluctuate more than a male cat, especially if she is not spayed.
When a female is pregnant, she would and should gain weight. The average weight a pregnant cat can gain is between two to four pounds, which she will lose 40% off during delivery (3). And she will lose the remaining excess weight during the laborious feeding of her young.