Help! My Cat Is Overweight
How to help him slim down 🐱
That little extra pudge on your cat is so cute — but is he actually overweight?
If he is, it can actually cause a bunch of extra problems for him. So it’s super important to take him to the vet ASAP to get him healthy again.
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Cristina Bustamante, an associate veterinarian with Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Florida and founder of Dr. B. Vet, to find out everything you need to know in order to help your overweight cat.
Is my cat overweight?
Trying to figure out if your cat is overweight can be tricky. It’s not as simple as plopping him on the scale.
Vets actually conduct a certain type of physical evaluation, known as the body condition score, to determine whether or not your cat is overweight.
“Veterinarians recommend using a body condition score scale to evaluate if your pet is overweight,” Dr. Bustamante told The Dodo. “This is part of your pet’s general physical exam and involves your pet’s overall body shape, but also if you are able to feel certain body parts (such as ribs) or if there is too much fat or chubbiness that you can't feel them.”
What is a healthy cat weight range?
There’s no universal healthy weight range for cats since it’s going to vary based on a whole bunch of characteristics.
“This really depends on the size of the cat,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Large breeds like Maine coons can have a healthy weight and weigh 20 pounds, and other smaller cats like domestic shorthairs have ideal weights [of] around 10 pounds.”
Male and female cats of the same breed can also have different definitions of a healthy weight.
“Females tend to be smaller and weigh less than male cats,” Dr. Bustamante said.
Your cat could go from a healthy weight range to the overweight range if he consumes more calories than he burns.
“Cats become overweight from receiving too much food, too many treats and not enough playtime,” Dr. Bustamante said.
Problems for overweight cats
Overweight cats can develop a whole bunch of health issues simply because they’re overweight.
“Obesity increases the risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and joint problems,” Dr. Bustamante said.
If your cat’s overweight, he’ll need to see the vet more often to monitor for any of these conditions.
“Healthy young (under 7 years old) cats should be evaluated by a veterinarian once a year,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Obese cats should be evaluated more often in order to monitor their weight and do appropriate lab tests to make sure they are otherwise healthy.”
And if your cat gets diabetes from being overweight, he’s going to need some extra care.
“Diabetes is a serious and common condition in obese cats which is managed with injections of insulin twice daily,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Managing diabetic cats at home can be time consuming, stressful and expensive. It is easier to help your cat lose weight than to manage a diabetic cat.”
If you’re at all worried about your cat’s weight, the best thing you can do is bring up the issue with your vet, especially since they might not always broach the subject unprompted.
“Obesity is a huge problem in cats, and if this concerns you, make sure to bring it up to your veterinarian and their staff during your visit,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Many vets will approach this problem in healthy vaccine visits, but rarely do they have time to discuss your pet’s obesity during sick visits, such as an appointment for an upset stomach or ear infection.”
How to help your cat lose weight
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help your cat lose weight.
“Diet and playtime is the best way to manage your cat’s weight,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Your veterinarian can help you make a weight reduction plan. These usually consist of changing the amount of food, food schedule, type of food, treats and playtime.”
Diet cat food
Working out a weight loss plan that involves giving your pet limited amounts of diet cat food on a precise schedule is going to be a huge help.
“It is usually easier to help cats lose weight when they are on a strict feeding schedule instead of having food available 24/7,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Consult with your veterinarian prior to starting a weight loss plan for your cat since losing too much weight too fast can be harmful for their health.”
And there are specific weight loss cat foods just for this.
“There are commercial diets for weight loss, which make your cat feel full without actually eating that many calories,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Wet food on a feeding schedule can help too!”
Cutting back on cat treats can make a big difference, too.
“Imagine as if each treat was a donut; therefore, decreasing the amounts of treats will help your pet lose weight,” Dr. Bustamante said. “It is extremely hard to lose weight if you eat three donuts a day!”
Your cat will also need plenty of exercise — aka playtime — to get back to a healthy weight.
“Make playtime with your cat part of your daily routine,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Play with a feather toy while you are having breakfast.”
We tried this KONG feather teaser on our own cats, and they loved it!
There are also toys that’ll slowly dispense food or treats (after knocking them around a bit), which can help burn some calories.
“There are interactive dry-food-dispensing toys that make your cat work for their food,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Make sure to show your cat how to use them so that they don't become frustrated and lose interest in the toy.”
Our own cats tried the PetSafe SlimCat interactive feeder and thought it was so much fun!
So if your cat is overweight, it could cause some major issues. But it’s not the end of the world! There are so many ways to get your cat back to a healthy weight — just make sure to work on it with your vet so your cat is losing weight safely and effectively.
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