Obesity in Cats

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: October 6, 2022
Obesity in Cats

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Cats are truly genuine animals and have characteristics that differ very clearly from any other type of pet. Amongst these traits we can say that, although they do not have 9 lives, they have surprising agility and are excellent jumpers.

Agility in cats is synonymous with health and the loss of this physical capability can warn us about a problem. If the loss of agility is coupled with weight gain, we should interpret this situation as harmful and find a remedy as soon as possible.

In this AnimalWised article we explain the causes and treatment of obesity in cats.

Feline obesity

Obesity is a pathological condition that affects about 40% of dogs and cats and is a serious situation as, from its onset, it acts as a trigger for other diseases such as diabetes or joint problems.

Obesity can be defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat, it is considered that a cat is overweight when it exceeds by 10% its ideal body weight, and it is considered obese when it exceeds by 20% its ideal weight.

The risk of this disorder is particularly important in adult cats aged between 5 and 11 years. However, very often the owner is not able to assess how suitable the cat's body weight is and appropriate and regular veterinary care prove to be a key factor to prevent obesity in cats.

Obesity in Cats - Feline obesity

Causes of obesity in cats

Obesity in cats has no specific cause, instead we must talk about factors of risk which can act negatively on your pet's body and trigger an excess in weight that is highly dangerous to its health.

Let's look at the risk factors which act as triggers in feline obesity:

  • Age: Cats aged between 5 and 11 years have the highest risk of suffering from obesity, therefore, preventive measures should begin when the cat is about 2 years old.
  • Sex: Male cats are at increased risk of obesity, the risk is further increased in cases of sterilization. Many experts consider feline sterilization to be the main factor associated with obesity.
  • Endocrine problems: The use of chemicals can alter the cat's hormonal profile, which decreases insulin sensitivity and predisposes it to body fat accumulation. Other diseases such as hypothyroidism may affect an obese cat.
  • Breed: Common or tabby cats have double the risk of suffering from obesity than pure-breed cats, except for Manx breed cats as these possess the same risk as any common cat.
  • Environmental factors: A cat that lives with dogs is more protected against obesity, by contrast cats who do not live with other animals and remain in a flat or apartment have a higher risk of being obese.
  • Activity: Cats that cannot be physically active outdoors are at increased risk of excess body weight.
  • Feeding: Some studies link the use of high-end food with a higher risk of obesity. Cat feed will also be one of the main factors to treat this condition.
  • Owner's behaviour: Do you tend to humanise your cat? Do you not play with it and mainly use food as a positive reinforcement? This behaviour has been associated with an increased risk of obesity in cats.
Obesity in Cats - Causes of obesity in cats

Diseases associated with feline obesity

As initially mentioned, one of the dangers of obesity resides in the fact that this condition acts as a trigger for multiple disorders and diseases. Studies so far relate obesity in cats with the occurrence of the following diseases:

  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Fatty liver
  • Hypertension
  • Respiratory insufficiency
  • Infectious diseases of the urinary tract
  • Joint disease
  • Unable to exercise
  • Decreased immune response
Obesity in Cats - Diseases associated with feline obesity

Treatment of obesity in cats

Treatment of obesity in cats requires veterinary care and a firm commitment from the owners. Of the treatments proposed by feline nutrition experts we can distinguish the following stages:

  • Initial assessment: The veterinarian must individually assess the degree of overweight in the animal, its health status and risk factors that have acted on the pet.
  • Weight loss phase: It is the first phase of treatment and it can last for many months. At this stage it is essential to change the life habits of the cat, establishing a diet for obese cats and a more active lifestyle. In some cases the vet may decide to also prescribe a drug treatment.
  • Consolidation phase: This phase must be maintained throughout the life of the cat since its purpose is to keep the pet at a healthy weight. Generally at this stage diet is changed, but not the amount of physical activity. To implement this phase properly, veterinary supervision is essential.

Many owners feel more satisfied and calm when their cat starts to lose a lot of weight very quickly. However, blood tests subsequently carried out indicate that this is not always healthy.

Owner involvement is essential but we should always take into account the indications given by the veterinarian.

Obesity in Cats - Treatment of obesity in cats

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Obesity in Cats, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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