Ask A Vet: How Do I Know if My Cat is Overweight?

By Dr. Genie Bishop

Have you noticed that your cat can’t groom herself effectively because she can’t reach over the fat rolls? Or maybe your friends are asking when the kittens are due . . . but your cat is a male?

Overweight or Obese?

Perhaps it’s time to accept the fact that your cat is overweight. After all, it is estimated that more than 50% of cats in the country are.1 But what does “overweight” mean in a cat? “Overweight” is defined as 10%‒19% over ideal body weight, whereas “obesity” is defined as 20% or more over ideal body weight.2 So in an eight-pound cat, a gain of only 13 ounces means she’s overweight. Just that little extra weight can put your cat at risk of the following diseases, as well as other problems:3

  1. Lower urinary tract disease
  2. Diabetes
  3. Asthma
  4. Osteoarthritis
  5. Spondylosis (degeneration of the spine)

What You Can Do to Help

  • Listen to Your Vet: If your veterinarian tells you it’s time to start putting your cat on a diet, it’s because he or she has your cat’s best interests at heart and wants her to live a long and healthy life.
  • Focus on Nutrition (see attached treat and caloric intake chart): A 100-calorie treat doesn’t sound like much to a 150-pound human, but that represents more than 50% of a full day’s caloric intake for an eight-pound cat!4 Simply cutting back on the amount of your cat’s regular diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as an unhappy cat. Your veterinarian can recommend a safe, effective weight-loss program for your cat as well as the best food to use for weight loss.
  • Tap into Natural Behavior: Cats are natural hunters. A toy that releases food during play will encourage the cat to exercise more and burn calories at the same time.

Visit Your Vet

Your veterinarian is your best partner when providing care for your cat. Always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for diets or medications. Some veterinarians may recommend a diet that will help satisfy your cat’s appetite.

For more information about nutritional solutions for your cat, visit our website or sign up for our newsletter.


1. “2016 U.S. Pet Obesity Statistics”,

2.  Marisa Luisa Palmero, DVM, GPCertFelP ESVPS, Acred. Feline Medicine AVEPA, “The Obese Cat: A Ticking Time-Bomb”, paper presented at International Society of Feline Medicine 2015.

3.  Top 10 obesity-related pet conditions; DVM 360, March 2017, 34.

4. “Are You Overfeeding Your Cat?” copyright Royal Canin SAS 2014 M 312112r1214.

Dr. Genie Bishop is the Scientific  Communications Manager for Royal Canin Veterinary Marketing. Prior to that, she was in private practice for 30 years as well as serving as an instructor of medicine and surgery in a veterinary technician program.