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What's a healthy weight for cats?

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Battle the bulge

Has Mr. Snuggles been packing on the pounds? Are you worried that your cat could be the next contestant on The Biggest Loser? If so, your kitty might be one of the estimated 58% of cats that are overweight or obese in the United States.

You may think a little extra weight on a cat is no big deal, but it is. Obesity puts cats at risk for many diseases and other health concerns.

Face the facts

Your little tubby buddy may be cute, but all that extra weight is unhealthy for him. Just like humans, extra weight puts cats at risk for many serious health problems. Diabetes mellitus, arthritis, heart and respiratory disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, skin problems, some forms of cancer and a shorter life span are just some of the risk factors that come with feline obesity. You love your cat and you want to keep him around as long as possible, so it's time to help him get healthy. But how do you know if your cat is overweight?

So what's a healthy weight?

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, the following weight ranges are appropriate for healthy cats. Keep in mind that a couple of extra pounds on a small animal like a cat is much different than a few extra pounds on you. With an animal as small as a cat, even a couple of pounds of extra weight can make a big difference in its overall health. If you are concerned, it is always best to check with your veterinarian.

  • Domestic cat: 8-10 lbs
  • Persian: 7-12 lbs
  • Siamese: 5-10 lbs
  • Maine coon: 10-25 lbs

How does your cat measure up?

We know there's nothing simple about getting a cat to sit on a scale. Fortunately, it's pretty simple to determine if your cat is overweight without knowing the numbers. Try these tricks to determine if your kitty is on the healthy side of the scale or not.

  1. Can you feel your cat's ribs? You should be able to feel each rib distinctly with just a little fat covering beneath the skin. If your cat's ribs are visually protruding, your cat is too thin. If you cannot feel his ribs at all, your cat is obese.
  2. When you look at your cat from above, can you see his waist? A cat's waistline should go inwards. If your cat does not have a distinct waist or if it protrudes outwards, it is likely that your cat is overweight.
  3. Check the bony areas of your cat's body. You should be able to feel the bones of the spine, shoulders, hips and base of the tail. There will be a slight fat covering, but the bones should feel prominent.

  4. When you view your cat from the side, does it have an abdominal tuck? Is the diameter of the cat's waist smaller than its ribcage? If so, your cat is within a healthy weight range. If the waist is the same size or larger than the ribcage, your cat is likely to be carrying extra weight.

Visit your veterinarian

If you think there's a possibility that your cat might be overweight, he probably is. Schedule a visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible. They can confirm your cat's weight issue and help you formulate a plan to get him back on track. He'll also confirm that your cat is healthy enough to begin a diet.

The weight loss plan

Weight issues with cats are pretty similar to the weight issues humans deal with. Weight gain happens when cats take in more calories than they work off, making it more common in house cats than in animals that spend large amounts of time outside. To help your cat lose weight, cut his calorie intake and encourage him to be more active.

It's not easy to get a cat to exercise, but you can make a big difference through play. Get him to play with toys or chase a flashlight around a room.

Don't expect to see big results fast. Healthy weight loss happens slowly. Ask your vet exactly how much weight your cat needs to lose and how long you can expect the process to take.

More ways to keep your cat healthy

How much should a cat eat? You'll be surprised
My cat is fat! What should I do?

5 Exercises you can do with your indoor cat

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