Does your cat polish your floor with his stomach as he walks? Is his food bowl bigger than your head? Do you grunt when you try to pick him up? Does he bounce when he lands on floor? Do you spend more on his food bill than your own?
People see fat cats as subjects of humor. They make cartoons with cute captions, manipulate photos into amusing cards, and crack jokes about their rotund companions. As harmless as it seems, obesity in our feline companions is not a joke. The health risks are very real. For nearly 40% of American cats, their lives will be shortened by years due to this preventable problem.
All cat owners should know if their cat is obese, what problems are associated with obesity, what causes obesity, and how to fix problem.
So how do I know if my cat is obese?
Obesity is commonly defined as being more than 20% above ideal weight. How that ideal weight is determined, however, isn't always cut and dried. Unlike humans, who have Body Mass Index and other various charts to guide them, there isn't an established chart of acceptable weights for cats due to large variations between different breeds. A Maine Coon will be much heavier than a Siamese. For this reason, obesity in cats is determined using body condition scoring. Body condition scoring usually ranges from 1 to 9, with 5 being ideal and 9 being grossly overweight.
So how can you tell if your cat's too fat? Feel his sides. Can you feel his ribs? A little fat covering is ideal. You should be able to feel his ribs if you put slight pressure on his sides, but you shouldn't be able to count them just by running your hand over his body. Look at him while you're standing above him. Can you see his waist? Yes, cats should have a waist. Look at him from side. Do you see his tummy tucking in a bit? It shouldn't be wobbling around in breeze (in neutered animals, a slight pouch of loose skin is normal).
For long-haired cats, it may be helpful to wet down their fur in bathtub to judge their body condition. All that fur can give illusion that cat is much heavier than it really is, or provide a great excuse to owner for why her cat looks fat. (See links following this article for an illustrated chart to help you.)
So He's Fat. Is It That Dangerous?
The short answer: YES.
The long answer: a list of known risks. Obese cats have a much higher risk of developing:
*diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) *hepatic lipidosis / FLS (a form of liver disease) *arthritis or other skeletal problems *lower urinary tract disease ('cystitis') *breathing difficulties *heart failure *renal disease *problems with anesthetic *surgical complications
But He Doesn't Eat THAT much...
Excess weight is all about eating more calories than body needs. If your cat is neutered, he uses less calories. If he's a barn cat, he uses a lot more calories. The more active he is, more calories he needs. Most of us have indoor cats that lay around much of time. They're not using energy to stay warm; they're not hunting for their food. They don't need to have a big bowl of food laying around to munch on 24 hours a day.
When humans diet, it is often recommended to keep a food diary because we lose track of how much we're really eating. You can lose track of how much your cat is really eating if you free-feed dry and toss treats at him several times a day. Be more conscious of what you're feeding him and remember that an animal that weighs 12 pounds doesn't need to eat all that much. Nor will he think you don't love him anymore if you stop tossing him treats every time you think he's being cute. If you want to show him your love, play with him. Give him some catnip. Spend time interacting with him. Don't equate food with love.