Making Sure Your Cat Is Not Obese

It is important to make sure that cats have plenty of exercise and are not overfed. Being overweight can cause health problems, the same as it does in humans.  

But how do you know if your cat is overweight? When you stroke your cat, you should be able to easily feel their ribs. You should also be able to see a waistline when you look at them from above.

If a cat is 15% over their ideal body weight, this usually means that they are overweight.

If they are 30% over their ideal weight, they are classed as obese. It can be hard to feel an the ribs in an obese cat as they are covered in a layer of fat. There may also be a “skirt” of drooping fat and skin underneath the cat. They will not no obvious waistline.

The age of your cat can affect their tendency to gain weight. A cat aged under two years of age is less likely to gain weight. As they age, they use less energy, so between the ages of two and ten, they can be at increased risk of being overweight.

Once a cat is over twelve, there can be more tendency to be underweight.  

But does it really matter if your cat is carrying a bit extra weight?  You might think your fat cat looks cute and cuddly, but unfortunately, obese and overweight cats can have a poor quality of life.  There can also be the risk of killing your cat through overfeeding.

  • Being overweight and obese can restrict their ability to groom themselves, to keep themselves clean.
  • They can get joint problems.
  • There is more risk of weight related diseases such as diabetes and urinary infections.

If you do think your cat is overweight, seek advice from your vet. Do not put your cat on a “crash diet” as this can be harmful. A steady decrease over a period of time can be more helpful.  

Multi Cat Households

Cats are solitary creatures in the wild and don’t tend to live in social groups as dogs would.  They can find it stressful to live in a household with other cats, even if they are their siblings. This stress can cause cats to overeat.  If you live in a household with more than one cat, it can be difficult, as the cat may finish off food the others have left, so try to:–

  • Feed the overweight cat in another room. Don’t let him/her out until the other cats have finished eating and any left over food taken away.
  • Put food into feeder toys. This will mean the cat also has to take exercise to get the food.
  • Put food into cardboard boxes with holes that are only small enough for the other cats to fit in, not the overweight one. This means the other cats can eat when they wish, but the overweight one can eat when you give them food.  
  • You can buy bowls that have microchips in them and will only open for the cat with the specific microchip, so this can prevent the overweight cat from eating food from other cats.

If you ever feel your cat is unhappy, ill or gaining or losing weight, seek advice from your vet.

Cats and Hunting

An important part of cat health - both mentally and physically, is that they live in an environment which encourages healthy physical activity.

Cats are hunters. They share ancestry with the African wildcat, who can spend hours hunting prey. They will use short bursts of energy often, then followed by periods of rest.  They don’t hunt because they are hungry, they hunt because they can’t guarantee they will always catch prey, so it makes more sense to keep trying, rather than wait until they are hungry and then start looking for food.

During their hunting, they will stalk, pound, play and kill. This releases endorphins in the cat’s brain – these are “feel good” hormones.  It is important that any cat is given opportunities to play and hunt often, to keep them mentally stimulated. If a cat plays outdoors, they will often engage in hunting behaviour – playing with leaves, the grass blowing, chasing small animals and so on.

If they are an indoor cat, you need to encourage the hunting behaviour to make sure your cat is happy and reduce their stress. You can do this by using toys, such as fish rod toys or wind up toys that the cat can chase.