It’s no surprise that many pet parents love to spoil their cats (Team NOW FRESH included!). It can be easy to slip into a routine with more treats and less exercise than is ideal for our cats, which can quickly cause your cat to become overweight. The more they gain and the older they get, the harder it will be to help them get back to a healthy weight and prevent serious health conditions. So, we’re here to help! Read on to learn how to tell if your cat is overweight, what causes weight gain in cats, what health risks are associated with cat obesity, and how to help your cat lose weight.
What is a healthy weight for a cat?
Many cat owners may not be sure if their cat is overweight or not – unless you know what to look for, it can be hard to tell. In fact, the 2021 survey of cat owners by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows that 45% of cat owners think their cat is overweight, when other reports show true pet obesity rates at closer to 50%. Every cat is different, so the best way to determine a healthy cat weight is by using your eyes and hands. Ideally, your cat should have a slightly tucked tummy and a moderate layer of body fat, and you should be able to feel their ribs and hip bones without pressing hard with your fingers.
Cat Body Condition Score Chart
Check out our Cat Body Condition Score Chart for a guide of what to look for to determine if your cat is underweight, overweight, or just right.
Cat Body Condition Score Chart
What causes weight gain in cats?
Unsurprisingly, diet and lack of exercise are major contributors to weight gain in cats. It can be very easy to accidentally overfeed your cat, especially if you give treats in addition to their daily meals. Some easy rules to live by are to make sure any additional treats make up less than 10% of your cat’s daily food intake and reduce their meal size slightly if you give them a bunch of nutrient-rich treats. Another tip is to cut all table scraps out of your cat’s diet, other than an unseasoned piece of meat here and there. Our own meals are often much richer and saltier than what is ideal for our cats, and a little can go a long way to making your cat fatter than is healthy for them.
How to get cats to lose weight
Exercising is essential to maintaining your cat’s healthy weight. Cats are often expected to be very independent, but there are lots of fun ways to get your cat to exercise while also building a great relationship with you and boosting their confidence. High energy play sessions, such as fetch and flirt pole, are great ways to exercise your cat and satisfy their natural prey drive in a safe, controlled way (yes, cats can fetch too!). But that’s just the beginning! From cat yoga to food puzzles and the simple joy of an empty cardboard box, we offer a wide array of ideas for enriching your cat’s life, getting them active, and keeping them happy and healthy.
Healthy weight loss should be gradual, so be sure to make any changes slowly over time to give your cat time to adjust. A sudden increase or decrease in your cat’s weight can be a sign of a serious underlying problem, such as a thyroid condition. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if your cat has suddenly gained or lost a bunch of weight while on their regular routine that previously worked well for them.
Health risks for an overweight cat
Just like with humans, there are numerous serious health issues linked to cat obesity; keeping your cat at a healthy weight throughout their lives can help prevent these problems from occurring as they get older.
Diseases associated with cat obesity
High blood pressure: also called hypertension, high blood pressure can become fatal for overweight cats. The heart has to work extra hard to pump blood throughout an overweight body, which can lead to congestive heart failure if left untreated.
Type 2 Diabetes: being even just a few pounds overweight can indicate an increased risk of Diabetes, which can be fatal if not properly managed.
Osteoarthritis: joint problems are also common in obese cats as the extra weight can put a lot of stress on their joints and limbs, making it painful to move around.
How to put a cat on a diet
The good news is that helping your cat lose weight and avoid those health issues doesn’t have to be difficult. The best place to start is with their food, and the first thing to consider is how much you are feeding your cat. Premium cat food is made with natural ingredients, meaning the size and weight of the kibble varies. Therefore, it’s a good idea to weigh your cat’s food with a kitchen scale, rather than measuring it, to make sure you’re actually feeding the amount you intend to.
Switching up their regular recipe may also be the key to helping your overweight cat slim down. We recommend choosing a recipe with moderate fat – look for a crude fat percentage less than 15% on the Guaranteed Analysis – and natural fibre-rich ingredients such as flaxseed, pumpkin and lentils to help keep them feeling full even when feeding less. More specialized functional ingredients like L-carnitine, which helps burn fat, are also great additions to a healthy weight loss diet. You can often find this kind of formula in a Senior Cat recipe, so consider a senior recipe for your adult cat if they need help maintaining a healthy weight.
NOW FRESH Recipes for Senior Cats
Our dry food recipe for Senior Cats is crafted by our pet nutritionists with fresh turkey, salmon & duck. Formulated to maintain hip, joint & heart health, with moderate protein & fat to support a healthy weight, this recipe pairs perfectly with wet food.
View senior cat recipes
Overall, it’s important to remember that your cat’s body condition is a major contributor to and indicator of overall health. And while we love to spoil our cats with delicious treats and lazy days on the couch, it’s better for them in the long run to keep them fit and active so they can stay healthy, and you can enjoy their company long into their golden years.
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention; 2021 Pet Owner: Weight Management, Nutrition and Pet Food Survey. 2021 — Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 19 August 2019; Frontiers | Owner and Cat-Related Risk Factors for Feline Overweight or Obesity (frontiersin.org)
Feline Endocrinology, Chapter 10, 2019; Hypothyroidism: clinical signs and physical examination findings. 02.01_thyroid_gland.indd (edraurban.pl)
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention; Weight Reduction in Cats. Cat Weight Loss — Association for Pet Obesity Prevention