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How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight: The Causes, Effects and Management of Obesity in Cats

Obesity in Cats: How can you help your cat lose weight?

by Vetic Editorial
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45% of all cat parents across the world say their cats are obese! Is it true? Sadly, yes. 

Obesity is one of the most common diseases plaguing the feline population in the 21st century. 

Any cat that weighs 20% more than their maximum average (ideal) weight can be called obese. 

However, the best person who can determine if your cat is overweight or obese is your veterinarian. If your cat seems to be “fluffier” than usual, especially around their waist and belly, you should check with your veterinarian ASAP. 

So, today we will talk about –

  1. What is obesity in cats?
  2. How can you understand if your cat is overweight or underweight?
  3. What causes obesity in cats: 6 Factors that cause weight gain in cats
  4. What is the treatment of obesity in cats: 4 ways to help your cat lose weight
  5. How to prevent obesity in cats: 4 steps to prevent obesity in cats
  6. Helping your indoor cat lose weight
  7. How does obesity in cats affect their life?

What is obesity in cats?

A cat that weighs more than 10% to 20% of their ideal body weight is considered overweight. 

When the cat weighs more than 20% of their ideal weight they are considered obese. 

Now, depending on your cat’s breed, early age care and nutrition, age and neutering status, the ideal weight will vary significantly. 

For example – it is extremely difficult to determine an indie cat’s ideal weight. Depending on their gender and genetics, a full-grown indie cat may weigh between 3 kg to 7 kg. 

On the other hand, purebred Siamese, Himalayan and Persian cats have standard ideal body weights. 

The ideal weight of a Siamese cat is typically between 3.5 kg to 5.5 kg. The ideal weight of a Himalayan cat is usually around 3.2 kg to 5.4 kg. And, the average ideal weight of a purebred Persian cat is between 2.5 kg and 5 kg. 

However, a cat’s ideal weight depends on multiple factors just like human beings. Kittens grow rapidly and they can gain between 7 grams to 14 grams per day. Senior cats often lose muscle mass due to reduced activity and their weight can be lower than the ideal body weight for their breed. 

At the same time, if your cat has just given birth and is breastfeeding, their weight will fluctuate irrespective of complete nutrition

So, speak to a cat specialist near you for personalised advice and guidance. 

How can you understand if your cat is overweight or underweight?

Infographic titled body condition score cat - cats with a body score between 1 and 2 are thin, 5 is ideal, 6 - 7 are overweight and 8 - 9 are obese. obesity in cats can easily be detected by owners by following this chart.

There is an easier way to determine if your cat is within their ideal weight range. Refer to their body score chart to understand their current health condition. 

If your cat’s body condition score is 4-5 then your cat is within their ideal weight range. When a cat is in their ideal weight range their ribs should not be visible, but easily felt. Their waist should be slightly narrower than their shoulders and hips but they should also have a very small amount of abdominal fat. 

Any body condition score below 4 is an underweight cat and above 5 but below 7 is an overweight cat. 

If you cannot see your cat’s ribs at all, their waist is not visible and there is abdominal fat/distention, your cat has a body score of 8 or 9. That shows that your cat may be obese. 

So, here are the signs of obesity in cats –

  • Reduced activity levels
  • Difficulty in jumping up and climbing the stairs
  • No visible waist
  • Ribs and hip bones cannot be felt 
  • Haircoat or fur is messy and dirty around their anus and base of the tail

What causes obesity in cats: 6 Factors that cause weight gain in cats

Many are too quick to blame the pet parents for overfeeding their cats. However, that may not be the case for many cats with weight issues. 

Obesity in cats can have multiple causes. Some of these include –

  1. The age of your cat: Middle aged cats between the ages of 8 and 12 years are more likely to gain weight as compared to young adults and junior cats. 
  2. Neutering status of the cat: Neutered and spayed cats are more likely to gain weight rapidly as their bodies tend to store more percentage of fat as compared to intact cats. 
  3. Health conditions: Older cats with joint issues or arthritis have restricted mobility. Hence they gain weight rapidly. Other health conditions such as hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism, (Cushing’s Disease) and diabetes. 
  4. Environment: Indoor cats often fall victim to obesity due to the lack of enough exercising area. 
  5. Feeding Style: Free feeding style often contributes to excess eating in cats and accumulation of additional fat. 
  6. Food Quality/Type: Feeding high caloric food (for example – only wet food or kitten food for adult cats) to cats constantly leads to weight gain in cats of all age, gender and neutering status. 

What is the treatment of obesity in cats: 4 ways to help your cat lose weight

Image of a very obese cat sitting on the floor with his hind legs splayed out looking at the camera. The cat is grey with a white underside and muzzle. Obesity in cats is very common nowadays

Your cat will require personalised treatment and diet plans from your veterinarian. 

Speak to your veterinarian or a feline nutritionist if your cat has been gaining excess weight.

Depending on your cat’s health and current weight, your veterinarian may recommend –

  • A low-calorie diet: Your veterinarian will likely recommend a low-calorie diet if your cat is living indoors, not getting enough exercise and has been eating commercial cat food or home-cooked food. A low-calorie diet will ensure that your cat feels full after each meal, but consumes fewer calories each time. This kind of diet will strike a balance between their calorie consumption and expenditure. 
  • Prescription diets: Prescription diets and speciality diets are mandatory for cats with underlying issues such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Disease, diabetes and joint problems. Your vet will likely prescribe an obesity or satiety diet for your cat so they can get all the nutrition they need to address the cause of weight gain and at the same time drop a few pounds.
  • Canned (wet) food: Canned or wet food has more protein and fewer carbs. Even canned food can be prescription food. Cats often prefer wet food over their dry counterparts because wet food is more palatable for our feline friends. Your vet might prescribe canned food because your cat will need to consume less to gain the same level of essential nutrients, but fewer unnecessary carbs (calories)!
  • Restricted feeding times: If you have been free feeding your cat, you will need to reduce the quantity of food you put out. And if you have been feeding your cat around 5-6 times per day, you may need to reduce the frequency of feeding. However, you will need veterinary guidance to reduce the quantity and frequency so your cat doesn’t suffer from gastric issues and nutrient deficiencies. Never try to reduce your cat’s food quantity or feeding frequency by yourself.

Personalised diets and exercise plans can help any cat lose weight healthily. These steps are particularly helpful for neutered and senior indoor cats who have gained too much weight.

How to prevent obesity in cats: 4 steps to prevent obesity in cats

Preventing obesity in cats is much easier than treating obesity in cats. 

To prevent your cat from becoming overweight, follow these steps –

  • Avoid free feeding if possible
  • Feed your cat the appropriate calories as per their age and activity levels
  • Check your cat’s weight every couple of months and chalk out how much cat food they require per meal
  • Avoid giving your cat too many treats

Speak to your veterinarian to determine exactly how much food your cat needs according to the brand they are eating. Each cat food brand has a different caloric value per 100 grams. 

Helping your indoor cat lose weight?

It is challenging to get an indoor cat to lose weight. Even if you have an indoor-outdoor cat it can be difficult since you cannot control what they are eating outside the house. 

Either way, restricting their calories and feeding them obesity or satiety diets can help reduce your cat’s weight. 

Get new toys that your cat can chase. The more they expend their energy, the better it is for their joints. 

For rapid weight loss in cats, you can invest in a cat-friendly workout wheel or treadmill. Although, you will have to train your cat to use them. 

When giving treats remember to count their calories as a part of their daily diet and adjust their staple food accordingly. 

How does obesity in a cat affect their life?

Obesity can reduce the quality of anyone’s life. Here’s how obesity in cats can be harmful –

  • Obese cats have difficulty moving around
  • Obese cats are prone to joint issues
  • They can also have their lifespans reduced by 2-4 years
  • Obese cats are more likely to develop UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)
  • They can also be susceptible to diabetes

Keep your cat within their ideal weight range. After neutering, speak your veterinarian about maintenance food for neutered or spayed cats that will prevent excess weight gain. 

Obesity is not cute! It is dangerous and you should take your cat to a professional veterinarian or cat nutritionist ASAP.

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