Cat Weight Issues

Cats come in all shapes and sizes. Whilst some breeds such as Bengals will be more slender, others will be more rotund. With some breeds of cats, it’s hard to tell what’s fur and what’s fat.

Yet, it’s important to ensure that your cat keeps to a healthy BMI weight. Yes, they can look adorable when they pack a few extra pounds, but this will be putting their body under stress. With the right diet and exercise, your cat can live a long, and happy life.

All cats, regardless of age and breed require a complete and balanced diet. What kind of diet they need will be based on their age, the amount of exercise they get and their breed. It is now easier than ever to pick up competitively priced age-appropriate cat food. This will ensure they are going to get the necessary vitamins to boost the immune system and say healthy. Stay away from the ‘one size fits all’ foods. Your cat will have different energy requirements at different stages of their lifespan. Food intake should also be adjusted regularly. As cats between the ages of seven and twelve are most likely to carry extra weight.

If your cat could benefit from a reduced calorie diet, there are many formulas available online. Always follow the instructions on the packet unless advised otherwise by your vet.

Making sure a cat gets some exercise may seem like an impossible task. Yet there are plenty of ways to encourage exercises with cats. Cats tend to be more active in the morning. Use that window to use toys with your cat. Encourage natural hunting behavior with laser pointers or fishing rod style toys. But remember, cats are solitary hunters. Be sure to give your cat plenty of time and opportunities for independent play. This is easily achieved by scattering toys around your home.

Whilst obesity is the main issue when it comes to your cat’s weight, there are more issues to look out for. We’ve listed the most common problems below.

8.1 Diabetes

Whilst diabetes is a long-term condition, it’s also easily managed. However it is vital that you get your cat’s diabetes in check as soon as you spot the symptoms. As with diabetes in people, there are many types of diabetes that your cat could be succeptible to. Yet the most common in cats is Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Diabetes Mellitus (DM).

DM occurs when your cat struggles using sugar as an energy source. DM will change the way their muscles use energy, if left untreated, this could lead to further illness. After eating, your cat should be able to absorb the glucose from their diet. After absorption the glucose is carried around the body before reaching the organs. This includes the heart other muscles. Before your cat can use the glucose as an energy source, it needs insulin; a hormone produced in the pancreas. Yet, with DM your cat’s pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. Meaning that energy doesn’t get to travel to the limbs or heart, it stays put. In the absence of glucose, your cat’s organs will use fat and protein instead. This can then lead to the loss of weight and muscle mass.

Older and overweight cats will be more prone to DM than younger, healthier cats. Here’s how to spot the signs:

  • Increase in appetite/water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Coat deterioration

Diabetes is easily diagnosed from a simple water sample. If your cat is suffering from DM, there will be a higher sugar content than usual. When high amounts of glucose are present, you may be required to administer insulin at home. This will generally be done alongside a controlled diet. Their progress will need to be monitored at regular intervals until you and your vet have found the perfect balance for your cat.

8.2 Obesity

Just as it is unhealthy for humans to be underweight, cats can also suffer the detrimental impacts of obesity.

Obesity is a nutritional disease which is the result of excess body fat. We all like to treat our cats, but over-nourishment can lead to serious life-long problems. Even if your cat is an indoor cat, you still need to give them the ability to exercise. Otherwise they will be at high risk of becoming obese – even if they’re only moderately obese. Their bones, joints, respiratory organs and digestive organs can all feel the impact.

Generally, obesity will impact middle-aged, neutered or indoor cats. It’s fairly easy to notice if your cat is suffering from obesity. Their weight will increase and they will have an unwillingness to exercise.

Causes of obesity include:

  • Imbalance between energy intake and usage
  • Ageing
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Neutering
  • Unbalanced glucose levels

To diagnose obesity, your vet will assess their condition with a physical examination. This is completed on a nine-point scoring system which will allow you to monitor your cat’s weight. Your vet will then recommend the right diet to follow to get your cat back to a healthy weight.

8.3 Underweight

At the other end of the spectrum to obesity, malnutrition in cats is an equally serious issue.
If your cat is underweight, this can lead to further health issues down the line. There are multiple reasons why your cat may not be able to reach a healthy target weight. Thankfully, it’s easy to spot when your cat is under weight. If you can see a marked indent between their ribs and hips this is a clear sign they are underweight. Your cat may seem lethargic and apathetic to grooming if they are malnourished. Which is why it is important to consult with your vet about your cat’s diet.

If your cat suddenly starts to lose weight, consult a vet immediately.

The possible underlying causes of weight loss include:

  • Worms and other intestinal parasites
  • Liver problems
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Kidney disease

Generally, an adult cat needs between 220 – 335 Calories each day. Whether you chose to feed them wet or dry food, always ensure they are getting the minimum calorific intake. The amount of nutrition your cat needs will depend on their size and age. Make sure to always follow the guidelines on your cats food. However your vet may suggest a high-calorie diet.

Your cat will need a high protein diet to help them sustain a healthy weight. This can be achieved by feeding your cat 100% meat products. Note that these products are not intended to replace regular feeding. Your cat will still require complete and balanced nourishment.

Always feed your cat in multiple servings a day or try ‘free feeding’ and leave bowls out all day for fussy cats. If your cat is apprehensive to head to the food bowl, try placing their bowls somewhere out of the way.

There are always fun treat options to supplement a diet! Any nutritional treats should only make up 10-15% of your cat’s daily calorific intake.

If you struggle to get your cat’s weight up yourself, your vet may provide vitamin supplements.

8.4 Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a common glandular disorder caused by an excess off thyroxine (T4). T4 effects the bloodstream and organ systems which can mean the condition is easy to spot.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased urination
  • Scruffy or dull coat
  • Panting
  • Excess shedding
  • Diarrhea (usually affecting 50% of affected cats)

Hyperthyroidism isn’t breed specific, but exclusively affects older cats. Between 12 and 13 years is the average age for onset off the condition. Less than 6% of cases affect cats younger than the age of 10.

Your vet will diagnose the condition using a blood test to test the levels of T4 in the blood.

Treatment options include:

  • Oral antithyroid medication – which can take effect after two weeks of treatment. There may be some side effects to the condition and the treatment will have to be administered
  • Removal of the thyroid of the gland. Whilst invasive surgery is the last option it may be mandatory treatment if the hyperthyroidism was caused by a benign tumor.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy – this is the most effective and safe treatment option. The iodine is administered via an injection and will destroy the hyperfunctioning tissues of the thyroid.

Hi! My name is Jamie Fallon. I run, an online cat health and cat behavior resource. If I’m not sat in front of my PC—and I usually am—then I’m either spending time with my cats or my other half… Whoever jumps on me or asks me for food first!