So you just came back from a visit to the Veterinarian where you were told that not only is your cute fluff ball overweight but she’s an obese cat. Wow. Your mind is flooded with all kinds of questions such as “is an overweight cat a bad thing”, “why is my cat overweight”, “how can I get my overweight cat down to a healthy weight”, etc? In this article, I will answer those questions along with discussing what defines obesity in a cat, what is a healthy weight; the health issues caused by cat obesity, the importance of diet and exercise and the best cat food for weight loss.
Best Cat Food for Weight Loss
If your cat is overweight and you’re looking to get him to a healthy cat weight it starts with the right type of cat food. Most cat foods are energy-dense and have loads of high carbohydrates. Weight gain occurs when cats have a positive energy balance for an extended period of time with no outlet for the release of that positive energy (exercise).
Cats are built to consume protein and fat, not carbohydrates. Excess carbs get stored in their little bodies as fat. A successful weight loss food regimen requires a loss of fatty tissue as well as maintaining muscles. What your cat needs is a diet cat food or weight loss cat food that is high in protein and low in carbs.
Best dry cat foodIams Proactive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Control
- contains chicken, and garden greens; high in protein
- reduces hair balls
- Calories: 332 Calories per cup
- 4.4 Customer rating
Purina Pro Plan Focus Weight Management Chicken and Rice Formula
- contains chicken, high in protein
- natural prebiotic fiber to help with digestion
- Calories: 427 Calories per cup
- 4.4 Customer rating
- made with natural ingredients plus vitamins, amino acids and minerals – no artificial flavors
- proven antioxidant blend to help support healthy immune system
- Calories: 300 Calories per cup
- 4.2 Customer rating
Best wet cat foodHill’s Science Diet Cat Food for Healthy Weight and Weight Management
- formulated for multi-cat household with cats of different breeds and weight
- Calories: 63 Calories per can
- 4.2 Customer rating
- optimal protein level helps cat lose fat, gain muscle
- Calories: ? Calories per can
- 4.1 Customer rating
How much should my cat weigh?
A cat’s weight determines longevity, quality of life and prevention of chronic diseases. In order to keep your cat at a healthy weight, it’s very important that you keep an eye on it.
So, how much should a cat weigh? Normal average cat weight ranges from 7-12 pounds. Those numbers are approximate and are dependent on the size of your cat’s frame.
For example, Main Coons are big cats so 25 pounds might be considered a healthy weight. Whereas, Siamese cats are small framed and a healthy weight could be 5 pounds. So healthy cat weight differs depending on the breed.
Cat Weight Ranges by Breed
|Breed ||Average Weight Range (pounds)|
|American Shorthair||Males: 11-15
|Main Coon||Males: 12-15
|Turkish Angora||Males: 7-10
Not sure how much your cat should weigh? Check out this weight calculator for the answer.
A cat is considered overweight when he is 10% heavier than the average cat normal weight; your cat is obese if he is 20% heavier than normal cat weight. Indoor domestic cats are more likely to be overweight than outside cats. The issue of obesity in cats is growing in staggering numbers. Vets are finding that 50% of their cat patients are overweight with 40% being obese. To gauge whether your cat is overweight, obese or normal, see the Cat Obesity Chart below:
Cat Obesity Chart
|Severely Underweight||Ribs, backbone and hip bones can be seen.
Exaggerated waistline when cat is viewed from above (overhead check by owner).
|Slightly Underweight||Ribs and backbone are easily felt.
Noticeable waistline when cat is viewed from above (overhead check by owner).
Slight tummy (with no body fat).
|Ideal Weight||Ribs can be felt and might be seen.
Clear waistline when cat is viewed from above (Overhead check by owner).
Visible tummy with slight layer of fat.
|Overweight||Ribs can be felt if firm pressure is applied; ribs not seen.
Unclear waistline when cat is viewed from above (Overhead check by owner).
Slightly outward tummy bulge.
|Obese||Ribs can't be felt or seen.
Additional fat around hips.
Tummy bulges and sags (swings back and forth with movement).
Diseases Associated with Obesity in Cats
Is having an overweight cat a bad thing? Yes, it can be bad for your cat to be overweight. Overweight cats are predisposed to a number of diseases which can compromise their quality of life and shorten their lifespan. Here are 6 common diseases associated with cat obesity:
- Urinary Tract Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease (such as hepatic lipidosis which is the accumulation of fat on the liver)
If your cat is obese it can be a bad thing for you as well. You can expect an increase in vet bills and who wants to think about the possibilities of losing your precious cat to diseases that could have been prevented. That’s tough!
My Cat is Overweight. What can I do?
It’s time to take a good long honest look at how much your cat is eating (and of what) and how much exercise she’s getting.
Let’s talk about exercise first. Cats are meant to be very active creatures. Cats in their natural habitat are hunters who expend a lot of energy in pursuit of food. When cats become inside pets that pursuit of food is taken away because the cat owner readily provides the food. Which is loving and awesome but now the cat expends less energy and which can lead to a cat becoming overweight.
So now let’s take a look at the type of food your cat is eating. In the wild, a cat’s primary source of food is animal protein and fats from birds, rats, squirrels, etc. They might chew on some grass every once in a while but ain’t a whole lot of carbohydrates for her to consume in the jungle. Also, in the wild, she only eats when she is able to catch something to eat which means meals can be few and far between.
Ahhh but once a cat is taken from the wild and placed in a good and loving home she is fed processed cat food. And a whole lot of processed food because most cat owners (present company included) fill the cat bowl up to the brim (daily) so that the cat eats continuously all day and all night. Couple that constant grazing with no exercise and very shortly you got you an overweight cat.
How can you get your cat back down to a good healthy weight and maintain it so he can have a long cat life? The short answer to that question is a healthy cat diet and proper exercise. Here are some tips and suggestions on diet and exercise:
- Feed your cat a high protein, low carb diet. Feed your cat the amount recommended on the label for the weight range your cat should be in; not your cat’s current weight. I recommend a gradual tapering of the amount of cat food. So, for instance, if your vet says your cat should weigh between 7-12 pounds and the amount recommended on the food label for a 7-12 pound cat is 3/4 cup of dry food per day than you want to gradually cut the amount of cat food over a period of time – say perhaps 3-4 weeks – until your cat is eating 3/4 cup of dry food a day. Also, make sure you provide your cat with plenty of water for hydration purposes.
- Cats will free-feed (constantly feeding themselves out of a full bowl of cat food) out of boredom. Instead, feed your cat twice a day (or 3 times a day) by cutting the total amount recommended food into halves (or thirds if you want to feed your cat 3 times a day). Once the bowl is empty, that’s it until the next feeding time.
- Switch out dry food for canned wet food. Canned food is higher in protein and lower in carbs than dry cat food. And because protein is so filling your cat will stay full longer and eat less (hopefully). Also, canned food is made up of 90% water which will ensure that your cat is receiving proper hydration. Again, the switch should be gradual.
- Please note: some cats can’t tolerate 100% wet food. It can cause diarrhea. So be sure to keep an eye out for changes in your cat’s stool. If you notice an increase in diarrhea, cut back on the wet food. Or you might find your cat can only tolerate an occasional half can of food every once in a while.
- If you are grimacing (I see you giving me the side-eye) at the thought of cutting back on the amount of food your cat is receiving, you could switch to a low-calorie cat food instead. (see my earlier recommendations for the best weight-loss cat food). A gradual switch of food over a period of 2 weeks is key to keeping your cat happy. Start by mixing 1/4 of the new cat food with the old cat food; stay with that mix for 2-4 days. Then, increase to half new food, half old food; stay with that mix for 2-4 days. Next, increase new food to 3/4, decrease old food to 1/4; stay with that mix for about 5 days then completely switch to all new food after that 5-day stretch.
- Absolutely no table scraps or leftovers.
- Exercise – Make your cat work for its food. It sounds cruel. But if you think about it, actually it’s rewarding for them!
- Use toys such as a string, feather chaser or my personal favorite; the Cat Charmer for your cat to chase. Start with 5 minutes (or as much as your cat can tolerate) then gradually increase the time (over time) to 15 minutes.
- Use toys such as a string, feather chaser or the Cat Charmer to get your cat to chase it up a cat tree.
- Get a food puzzle for your cat. It works like this: dry cat food is placed into a small container with little adjustable holes that your cat has to “work” in order for the food to come out. It helps to calm down cats who get frantic when its time to eat and it helps in providing stimulating exercise for your cat.
“A cat’s weight is one of the most influential factors of longevity, quality of life and disease prevention” (pet obesity prevention.org). With a few cat lifestyle changes such as proper diet and exercise, your cat can lose weight and live a long and healthy life.
Looking for more information on cat health and behavior? Check out the following articles: