Identifying whether any given cat is overweight or simply large is a very subjective process, with the normal healthy weight of different adult cats covering a fairly large range of sizes. Anything between 3kg and 8kg can be considered an average cat weight, dependent on breed and build, and at the top end of the scale, some breeds such as the Norwegian Forest cat or the Maine Coon can weigh even more and still be perfectly fit and healthy!
So, how can the cat owner judge accurately if their cat’s weight is within normal healthy parameters- and what can they do about it if they are not? Read on to learn more.
If you have owned your cat for a long time, you will probably become aware of the encroaching advancement of their weight by observation, or by noticing that your cat is more squishy than they used to be when you pick them up!
You can tell by looking at your cat if they are healthy and lean with the normal amount of padding or if they have taken on a rather rotund appearance. While monitoring their exact weight is vital in order to identify any changes and monitor the success or otherwise of your attempts to reduce their girth, do not take weight at the start as your only indicator- as mentioned, cats can maintain a healthy weight dependent upon their build across quite a range of sizes!
Look at your cat objectively (or ask someone else to) and judge the following factors:
If you do identify that your cat is overweight, it is important to tackle this as soon as possible. Carrying too much extra weight can lead to a range of health problems for cats, just as it can for people, including heart problems, joint issues and problems with mobility, thyroid problems and a range of other conditions too.
But you cannot simply suddenly drastically change your cat’s feeding routine to address this, or dramatically reduce their food portions. It is important to both make any changes carefully and gradually, and to take an inclusive approach to managing your cat’s weight.
First things first, if your cat is overweight, you will need to make some dietary changes. The first place to start is by considering the amount of food that you give to your cat and that your cat consumes, to see if you are overfeeding. If you do find that this is the case, you will need to reduce their portions, but very gradually so that your cat can adjust to the change and does not feel hungry.
You might also wish to change your cat over to a special lower calorie diet for overweight felines, that contains less calories per portion and can help your cat to consume less without feeling hungry. You should talk to your vet before doing this, and take their advice on what food to use and how to change over gradually.
A core element of helping your cat to burn off their excess weight is by increasing their activity levels- but unlike dogs, you cannot simply put them on a lead and take them for a walk! It is important to enable play and exercise for your cat that they will enjoy and want to get involved in, and not to push your cat into doing something that they don’t want to do. Get some interesting toys that will catch their attention- such as a laser pointer, ball, feather on a string or anything else that encourages your cat’s natural hunting instinct, and make time to spend with them each day trying to encourage them to get moving.
If you feed your cat treats often, or let them eat your table scraps, this has to stop! You can still give them treats now and then, particularly if you use them as an incentive to get involved in play, but make sure that you give low calorie treats such as dried shrimp, rather than artificial packaged treats that might be high in sugar or fat. Close your cat out of the room when you are eating if they tend to beg or look for scraps, and be firm about it- remember it is in your cat’s best interests.
Even the happiest, most well cared for and secure cats will sometimes find themselves friends in other homes, which may feed them, encourage them in or give them treats! Try to identify if this is happening with your own cat and make sure that no one else is feeding them apart from you. If your cat wears a collar, consider having one made up with “do not feed me” written on it!
If your cat is a keen hunter, usually the energy expended when hunting will make up for the calories they consume from their unlucky prey! However, you can aim for getting the best of both worlds if your cat likes to hunt- allowing them to continue with the exercise side of hunting while making it less likely that they will actually catch (and eat) anything, by putting a bell on their collar to warn their potential prey that they are coming!
Your vet can help you to monitor and tackle your cat’s weight, and after an initial consultation, your vet might invite you to sign your cat up for a special weight clinic that is run by a veterinary nurse, to help you to manage your cat’s weight.