The majority of the cats in the US are overweight or obese, 59.5% to be exact. To make matters worse, the percentage of cats that are obese is on the rise. In 2018 it was 33.8% and 5 years earlier, in 2013, only 27.4%.
Helping your cat lose weight is all about improving the quality of food, adapting the quantity they eat, and providing ways to exercise and burn those calories.
If it was so easy though, probably the number of obese cats would be lower.
Should Your Cat Lose Weight?
The other day I posted a video on my Instagram. The video showcases Mia, then I ask her if she’s hungry, and she answers MEOW. After that video, I received tons of messages saying that their cats are always hungry and I just realized that I had to shed some light on the topic because having a fur ball might be cute or even funny to some but overweight cats have life quality issues and can develop a serious illness or even die from it.
A study from the association of pet obesity prevention shows that 68% of cat parents tried to help their cats lose weight. I asked the same question to my YouTube subscribers and the number it's not very far:
- 23% of cats from the audience are around problematic body weight.
- 47% of cat parents would like to help their cats lose weight.
- 20% of cat parents don't know if they should get their cats to lose weight.
If you are reading this article, I guess you are part of them. I got your back! I’m about to help you tell if your cat is part of the 59.5% of obese cats, the reasons behind your cat’s weight problem as well as what to do about it!
You can also watch a video version of this post on our YouTube Channel:
How to Tell if Your Cat is Fat?
The first thing you need to know is if your cat is fat. That is only half a battle.
The ideal weight for the average adult cat is between eight and 15 pounds, but without considering the size of your cat, this numbers don’t say much.
Method 1: The bird view
When looking at your cat from above, you should be able to see a slight narrowing around the waist area. If her sides bulge out instead, then your cat may be on the tubby side. As you can see in Mia, she barely has any narrowing…
Method 2: The ribs check
When you pet your cat along their chest and sides, you should be able to feel their ribs. For a healthy cat, the padding shouldn't feel any thicker than the padding over the back of your hand, says the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. If you have to press firmly in order to feel her ribs, then she may be overweight. If you can't feel her ribs at all, then your kitty may actually be obese. In this case, I my cat’s case I feel them and there’s a slight layer of fat but she passes this test. Note that for cats with long hair this is more difficult to identify.
Method 3: The activity check
With the exception of geriatric cats, healthy cats should be able to move around with ease and enjoy activities like playing and chasing. Mia is very active and always down to play, so se passes this one as well.
Method 4: The watermelon trick
If your cat looks like a watermelon, they are fat.
Method 5: Body Mass Index calculator
BMI estimates your cat's body's fat content based on its proportions.The formula to know your cat's BMI is the below:
FBMI = (((rib cage/0.7062) - leg length )/0.9156) - leg length.
But there are FREE tools online, like the one from Omnicalculator will make it easier for you and will give you the calculation.
Once you have the result, you can use the BMI table below to understand if your cat is overweight or not.
|FBMI||What does this mean for your cat?|
If your cat is part of the 59.5% of obese cats in America, read until the end because I’m going to be covering all the things you can start doing today to get your cat back in shape and recover their health and wellbeing.
What should I do if my cat is fat?
Cats being overweight is more common among sterilized house cats because they tend to be less active if not stimulated properly.
I am not a veterinarian, also, for the sake of this video and to be able to provide you with actionable tips, I am keeping the information in this video simple, but if your cat is fat, you should take your cat to the veterinarian. Your cat might have an underlying health conditions associated or caused by overweight.
"You, as cat guardian, are the primary source of exercise and food for your cat. As soon as we take a cat into our home, it's our responsibility as cat parents to ensure they stay healthy"
If there are no medical conditions, lack of exercise and food excess are the only 2 reasons that can explain why your cat is fat. Simply put, if your cat is fat it’s because they are eating more calories than what they are burning off. Most likely you are the main provider for both food and exercise, so let’s discuss now about what might be making your cat chunky.
How much should I feed my cat
|Cat Weight||Indoor Cat||Outdoor Cat|
|10 lbs (4.5Kg)||200 Calories/Day||350 Calories/Day|
|12 lbs (5.4Kg)||
|13 lbs (5.9Kg)||
|14 lbs (6.4Kg)||
|15 lbs (6.8Kg)||
|20 lbs (9.1Kg)||
Most cats eat too many calories. The average indoor cat needs around 20 calories per pound to maintain weight while the average outdoor cat needs around 35.
If you are looking to help your cat lose weight, DO NOT STOP FEEDING YOUR CAT ABRUPTLY, that can upset their livers and cause death! (Hepatic lipidosis is also known as fatty liver syndrome)
Feed Spayed Cats Accordingly
It is recommended that all non-breeding cats be sterilized. Several health benefits are associated with spaying your cat. First, spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers. Second, breast cancer is the number one type of cancer diagnosed in intact (unspayed) female cats.
One side effect of spaying is that it will decrease the metabolism of your cat and may lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. This will cause your cat to put on weight if we don’t fix their calories intake. Look for a spayed-cat diet if you are buying commercial food or adjust the calories intake if you are feeding them a raw diet.
Fixing How We feed Our Cats
So how do we control what are we feeding our cats?
First, stop free feeding your cat. Free feeding is leaving a bowl of kibble always available for your cats to munch on. Free feeding will not only make your cat chubby, it will reduce the bond with your cat and your ability to train them.
Toss the commercial brand treats. Treats are to cats like snakes are for us. A complete, crunchy and flavorful experience that will release quick dopamine that brings almost no nutritional value.
If you want to train your cat, use kibble or healthier treats. Look for options that have less than 10 calories per serving. You can also achieve that by breaking treats into smaller pieces. However, it’s not all about quantity, also about quality…
The best Food You Can Feed Your Cat
Most cat food has way too much carbs. Even products that are labeled as grain free. Veterinarian Claudia A. Kirk, DVM PhD states that natural prey of cats contains around 55% protein, 45% fat and little carbohydrate (1-2%) on a dry matter bases. Dry food ranges between 20% to 50% carhohidrate. If the cat only needs 1-2% of this nutrient, why does dry kibble making it half of their diet? *add text Claudia A. Kirk, DVM PhD*
According to Dr Lisa Pierson, Cats have no dietary need for carbohydrates and, more worrisome is the fact that a diet that is high in carbohydrates can be detrimental to their health… *add text Dr Lisa Pierson*
Choosing the right food for your cat is the best way to keeping you cat healthy and with their weight under control. This is why I transitioned to raw food. Transitioning to raw it’s easy but you gotta get it right.
I have a full post talking about it so I won’t get into the details here. If you want to know more about the raw diet and why I chose it for my cat Mia, you should be reading that post next. If you are already convinced, you can try our favorite brand with a month worth of food for your cat for less than $15.
Don’t put your cat on a diet without speaking with your veterinarian.
If an obese cat fails to take in adequate calories begin to mobilize their fat stores for energy, leading to an infiltration of fat to the liver. Hepatic lipidosis with resultant liver failure will take place if the liver cells are unable to remove the excess of fatty deposits.
Helping our cats burn some energy!
We said earlier that there are 2 things making your cat overweight: Eating too many calories and not doing enough exercise. Exercise in cats can come from an enriching environment, playtime and outdoor walks.
Playing with your cat is not only going to keep your cat’s weight under control, it’s also going to make your cat happy and improve your bond with them.
Take a look at this video to learn 3+1 ways to interact with your cat:
Also, consider watching this video next if you want to help your cat burn some calories while walking them outside on a leash:
Stay wild, stay safe, see you outdoors!