Whilst you will undoubtedly love your cat whether she’s thin or extra-cuddly in size, just like humans, being overweight places extra stress on your cat’s body and the health risks can be serious. Eating too much or inactive lifestyles are the two main causes of cats becoming overweight, with older and indoor cats most at risk.
How do I know if my Cat is Overweight?
Different breeds of cats have different body shapes and different hair lengths, so it’s not always easy to tell if your cat’s overweight unless she’s very obese. As a rule, you should be able to feel (but not see) her ribs when you run hands down her body, and see a defined waist from above.
Health Risks to Overweight Cats
Overweight cats that don’t get enough exercise are more at risk of insulin resistance, which is part of diabetes as a feline illness. Treatment for diabetes in cats includes a special diet and insulin injections up to twice daily. Trying to prevent diabetes is the best option.
2. Heart Problems
Just the same as with humans, any excess weight your cat carries puts stress on her heart and can make existing heart disease worse. Heart conditions can be very serious and lead to complete heart failure, and although they can often be managed with diet, medication and stress reduction, any cats with heart disease must be a healthy weight.
3. Liver Disease
As well as diseases such as diabetes that are linked with feline obesity causing more damage to the liver, feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, is a big risk. If your overweight cat drastically reduces her food intake, whether because of stress, illness or an inappropriate diet, fat can build up in the liver to such an extent that it can be fatal.
Excess weight naturally puts stress on your cat’s joints, causing mobility issues and exacerbating the pain and inflammation that’s caused by arthritis. Our cats’ joints will naturally degenerate as they get older, but any extra weight doesn’t help and will make any arthritic issues so much worse.
5. Skin problems
Non-allergic skin problems like feline acne and other infections are more common in cats that are overweight, and if they’re particularly obese and struggle to groom themselves, this causes problems of its own. Dull and matted fur that doesn’t get groomed can lead to a breeding ground of nasties on the skin underneath, causing infections, rashes, redness and dry and flaky skin.
6. Increased Risk of Problems During Surgery
Overweight cats have a higher risk of complications under anaesthesia for many reasons, including the additional pressure placed on their lungs. They also need more anaesthetic than smaller cats, so they’re more at risk of overdose and take longer to come around afterwards.
An overweight or obese cat potentially faces a number of health issues, which can impact their quality and length of life. That’s why we believe in keeping our cats’ weight under control, and incorporating regular exercise and movement into their daily routines. With Charlie, our classic over-eater, weight control is very important so we are vigilant about what he eats, maintaining regular feeding times and providing him with fun and varied options for playtime. He still has a little weight to lose, but he’s on the right track.
For more information, check out our previous articles on overweight and obesity in cats: Fat Cats are a Growing Problem and How to Treat Feline Obesity.