Cats vary so much across and within breeds and between male and female that it is impossible to give a definitive weight for any given cat.
Your vet will use the Body Condition Score (BCS). The BCS is a scale ranging from 1 to 9, where 1 indicates a severely underweight cat, while 9 suggests obesity.
The ideal range for most cats is typically between 4 and 5, where the cat has a well-proportioned body without an excessive, layer of fat.
Fortunately, you can monitor your cat’ s condition by assessing three key areas of the cat’s body:
Run your hands along your cat’s sides. In a cat with a healthy BCS, you should be able to feel the ribs without pressing too hard. If the ribs and spine are easily felt or are visible, the cat might be underweight, while difficulty feeling the ribs suggests overweight.
View your cat from above. A cat with an ideal BCS will have a discernible waistline between the ribcage and hips. A lack of a defined waistline could indicate excess weight.
Examine your cat’s belly. A cat with a healthy BCS will have a slight tuck-up in the abdomen. An overweight cat may have a rounded or sagging belly, while an underweight cat may have a visible tuck-up.
What does this mean?
Being underweight in a cat that is properly nourished and free from stress can indicate a variety of serious health conditions such as parasites and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes, dental issues, kidney disease and cancer so you should consult your vet.
Being overweight can bring on a long list of serious conditions:
diabetes – Excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance, making it more challenging for the body to regulate blood sugar levels.
increased stress on a cat’s joints, which can lead to arthritis and decreased mobility. Joint problems can result in pain and a reduced quality of life for the cat.
increased risk of heart disease – The heart has to work harder to pump blood through the additional body fat, leading to potential cardiovascular issues.
difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity. This can contribute to respiratory issues and compromise their overall lung function.
Fatty Liver Disease (hepatic lipidosis) a serious liver disorder that can occur when the body breaks down fat stores too rapidly.
compromised immune system, making overweight cats more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
urinary tract problems, including urinary tract infections and a condition called feline lower urinary tract disease.
digestive problems in cats, including constipation and an increased risk of developing hairballs.
What to do with an overweight cat
If your cat is severely overweight, consult with your vet. They can assess your cat’s overall health, determine an appropriate target weight, and provide tailored advice. They may recommend transitioning your cat to a nutritionally balanced, high-quality cat food formulated for weight management.
If your cat is tending towards becoming overweight, this can be headed off with a regime of eat less – move more.
Instead of free-feeding, establish a consistent meal-feeding schedule. Portion control is crucial. Divide the daily food allowance into several small meals throughout the day.
Reduce treats or substitute for healthier alternatives.
Be gradual, crash diets can actually bring on fatty liver disease, a serious condition.
Encourage your cat to work for their food by using interactive feeders or puzzle toys. This not only provides mental stimulation but also slows down their eating, helping them feel more satisfied.
Engage your cat in regular play sessions using toys that encourage movement. Interactive toys, laser pointers, feather wands, and climbing structures can all promote physical activity. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of play.
Enrich your cat’s environment with scratching posts, climbing structures, and window perches. This provides mental stimulation and encourages natural behaviours, contributing to overall well-being.
This article is for general advice only and if in any doubts about your cat’s health, check in with your vet.
But, with a some careful observation and, perhaps, a little tough love, you can see your cat on the right weight track.
The research and education work of the Feline Health Research Fund in entirely supported by cat loving organisations and individuals. Your support would be appreciated.