Do you think your cat is eating more than she should?
A Visit to the Veterinarian is Needed
A trip to the veterinarian is the first step toward determining if your cat has packed on too many pounds. In addition to weighing your cat, the veterinarian will do a physical once-over and run some diagnostic tests to find out if there is an underlying medical reason for the weight gain. Consulting your veterinarian is most important when you’re considering putting your cat on a diet or if you feel kitty isn’t the weight you think she should be.
Certain cats have particular body types and it’s important to know that before you decide that your kitty is or isn’t at her ideal weight. The body type of a cat such as a Persian will in no way resemble the slender body type of a Siamese or Aby. If you’re unsure, again, consult your veterinarian.
Have You Looked at Your Cat Recently?
A general way to get an idea of whether your cat has gained too much weight is to stand over her and look down. Do her sides bulge out? Can you see any kind of an indentation above her hips? In general, the average cat should carry a little fat over the rib cage. If you have a shorthaired cat, you should be able to detect a slight indentation above the hips.
Now place your hands on either side of your cat. If you firmly stroke her sides can you feel her ribs? With firm stroking you should be able to. If you can actually SEE her ribs then your cat is underweight. If the only way you can feel your cats ribs is by applying very firm pressure then she’s overweight.
When stroking your cat, if you can’t feel her ribs at all, even with very firm pressure, or you feel fat pads along the backbone, then your cat is not just fat, but obese.
Does your cat’s belly hang down to the ground? After spay surgery it’s normal for a cat to lose some muscle down on the underside but if there’s a pouch hanging down there, then she’s overweight.
The Dangers of Being Overweight
If a cat gets too overweight it becomes too difficult to engage in normal daily personal hygiene. Some overweight cats can no longer reach around to keep the anal area clean. Lift your cat’s tail up and see if her hindquarters are being neglected because she can’t access the area? Not only is this situation very unhealthy, it’s very stressful for the cat. Your cat depends on being able to groom herself and if she can no longer reach that area of her body, it can lead to anxiety.
Cats who are overweight are more prone to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other medical conditions. Ironically, some owners actually don’t even know what their cats’ ideal weights should be and are shocked when I tell them that their cats look overweight.
If you’re in doubt about whether your cat is too fat or are unsure about how much you should be feeding, consult your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the proper amount to feed your cat based on her age, health, physical body and activity level.
Establish a Safe Plan
If your veterinarian advises you to put your cat on a diet, you will be given instructions on how to do that safely. Cats can’t go on drastic diets because it can lead to a serious liver condition known as hepatic lipidosis. You must gradually restrict calories. Your cat didn’t get overweight quickly so the weight loss program must be gradual as well. Your kitty’s health depends on it.
Need More Help?
For more information about cat behavior and training, refer to Pam’s books, including Think Like a Cat.
Note: This article isn’t intended as a medical diagnosis. If you’re concerned about your cat’s weight or health, consult your veterinarian. Don’t put your cat on a diet without the guidance of your veterinarian.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.