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Why (Or Is) My Cat Fat?

Obesity is a growing problem that currently affects the majority of U.S. cats. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2015 survey, veterinarians consider an estimated 58 percent of cats to be overweight or obese. That makes excessive body weight the most common feline health problem — not just an abnormal weight issue.

Our feline friends can become too heavy or too thin for a variety of reasons, ranging from poor-quality food to underlying health problems. Some mixed-breed cats may be more likely to gain weight than purebred cats, and some cats may have a naturally slower metabolism. Any medical condition that decreases a cat’s activity, such as arthritis, can lead to unwanted weight gain. And while there are other health issues that cause obesity in cats, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), overactive adrenal glands (Cushing’s disease) or a tumor of the pancreas (insulinoma), they aren’t very common.

So what’s the most common cause for tubby tabbies?

A combination of too much food, too many treats and too little activity or playtime.

How do you tell if your cat’s weight is normal?

Figuring out your cat’s ideal weight can be challenging. Although cat breeds have different ideal weight ranges, the number on the scale doesn’t really tell you if your cat is at an ideal weight for her.

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Is your fluffy feline fat or thin?

Veterinarians typically use one of two body condition scoring systems to determine whether your feline friend is overweight, just right or even underweight. Both body condition scoring systems are easily found online, complete with pictures of how underweight, ideal weight, overweight and obese cats look from different viewpoints. You can compare your cat to the scoring system’s pictures to get an idea of your kitty’s body condition score. You can also determine if your cat has an appropriate body condition by using the following approach:

  1. Can you easily feel your cat’s ribs? Run your hands along your cat’s sides as if you’re petting her. If you can feel her ribs using only slight pressure, your cat is likely at an ideal weight. But if you need to apply pressure to feel the ribs, then your kitty is likely overweight or worse.
  2. Does your cat have an easily identifiable “waist”? When you look down from above your cat, do you see an hourglass shape with a waist between her abdomen and hip joints? Does her belly slope upward from the ribs to the back legs when you look from the side? Or does her belly apron (the skin of her tummy just in front of her back legs) swing when she trots or runs? If your cat’s abdomen is wider than her shoulders or hips, chances are she’s overweight.
  3. Is your kitty’s back flat? Do you feel matted or greasy fur or see dandruff down the middle of your cat’s lower back? Overweight or obese cats may look like they have a potbelly or even an egg shape when sitting. If your cat isn’t grooming her hips or lower back, she’s most likely overweight.

If you have a fat cat, you’re not alone. More importantly, you’ve taken an important first step toward addressing the problem — you’ve recognized it. Your next step is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who can determine if there’s an underlying medical reason for your cat’s extra weight and create an appropriate weight management program to help your kitty achieve her ideal weight and body condition. Members of the veterinary healthcare team can provide support and encouragement along your cat’s weight loss journey.

A different cat food may be necessary

Your veterinarian may recommend feeding a specifically formulated cat food to help your kitty lose weight safely and slowly. That’s because weight management diets are designed to provide all of the nutrients a cat needs while reducing the number of calories eaten. Diamond CARE Weight Management Formula for Adult Cats is one food that can help address your feline friend’s weight issues. You can learn more about this new cat food by visiting the product information page.