Cat Care: Weight Management for Cats

At least 30% of pet cats are overweight or obese, making obesity the most common nutritional disease seen in cats. Obesity, defined as excess body fat, can cause significant health issues in feline patients. Obesity is a result of caloric intake being greater than energy expenditure.

The terms “overweight” and “obese” are similar and describe a difference in degree of excess body weight. Overweight is defined as 25% or less excess body weight, while obesity is defined as more than 25% excess body weight. In veterinary medicine, the body condition scoring system is typically used to determine how overweight a cat or dog is. On the 9-point body condition score (BCS) system, 1/9 is emaciated, 4-5/9 is ideal, and 9/9 is extremely obese. Animals that are 6-7/9 on the BCS scale are considered overweight while animals that are scored at 8-9/9 are considered obese. Your veterinarian can help determine your cat’s body condition score and can tell you if your cat is overweight or obese.

Excess weight can impact a cat’s health in many ways. The most significant effect is the health consequences of obesity in cats. Diabetes, osteoarthritis, skin conditions, lower urinary tract disease, and other inflammatory conditions can all be related to obesity in cats. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, similar to what is seen in overweight humans, can occur in cats and weight loss can significantly impact a cat’s overall health and response to treatment. Osteoarthritis is commonly seen in overweight cats due to the stress placed on the joints by the excess body weight. Overweight and obese cats are less likely to groom themselves, resulting in disorders of the skin and coat. Overweight cats also have difficulty posturing to use the litter box and can have more problems with lower urinary tract disease.

Excess weight can impact a cat’s day-to-day behavior is through decreased activity level. In addition to decreased grooming, overweight and obese cats are less likely to play, and are usually more sedentary than healthy cats in ideal body condition.

There are steps pet owners can take to keep their cats at a normal, healthy weight.  Increasing activity level through play, enriching the environment with toys and puzzles, and making cats “hunt” for their food throughout the house all increase energy expenditure.  This is especially important after spaying or neutering your cat, as these surgeries can decrease the metabolic rate of cats, which can result in weight gain.

There are steps pet owners can take to keep their cats at a normal, healthy weight. Increasing activity level through play, enriching the environment with toys and puzzles, and making cats “hunt” for their food throughout the house all increase energy expenditure. This is especially important after spaying or neutering your cat, as these surgeries can decrease the metabolic rate of cats, which can result in weight gain.

Feeding a proper diet for your cat in appropriate amounts can also help maintain weight.  Cats that are obese or overweight should be placed on weight loss plans under the direction of a veterinarian with an appropriate weight loss diet.  Cats that are prone to being overweight but who are not currently overweight should have a complete and balanced diet designed to keep cats at a healthy weight and should receive meals versus free-feeding.  Treat intake should also be restricted.  Restricting intake can be difficult for pet owners but allowing a cat to eat as much as he or she wants can lead to unwanted and unhealthy weight gain.  Your veterinarian can provide advice regarding diet selection and appropriate amounts of feeding.

For a healthy cat weight loss diet, learn more about ROYAL CANIN FELINE HEALTH NUTRITION cat food.

Tips to Take Away

  • Feeding a proper diet for your cat in appropriate amounts can also help maintain weight.
  • Treat intake should be restricted.
  • Your veterinarian can provide advice regarding diet selection and appropriate amounts of feeding.