Adult cat lying down on an examination table being checked over by a vet.

What risks are there if my cat is overweight or obese?

In general, obesity can reduce your cat’s quality and life expectancy; it’s harder for it to play and move around, and surgical procedures or check-ups become more difficult.

Diabetes

Obese cats are much more at risk of diabetes – 80% to 90% of obese cats have this condition, which requires daily insulin injections. Often, the diabetes can be reversed once any extra weight is lost, as the accumulated fat which is directly responsible for a failure to regulate glucose is no longer present.

Compromised immune system

Your cat’s immune system can become compromised when they’re obese, making them more prone to infection. This includes urinary infection and ‘stones’ which occur as overweight cats are less active, tend to drink less water and urinate less often than healthy cats.

Liver failure

One serious and potentially fatal risk with obese cats is liver failure. When the cat’s body believes it is undernourished – for example, if a constant food supply stops – fat is moved from stores into the liver to be used as energy. However, a cat’s body is unable to manage that process effectively which leads to the liver functioning poorly, sometimes eventually leading to fatal hepatic insufficiency and liver failure.

Grooming and mental health

With extra weight, cats find it difficult to groom themselves which can lead to skin problems. Similarly, extra weight puts pressure on your cat’s joints and they can suffer from arthritis. Cardiovascular and respiratory systems are also affected, leading to breathlessness and heart problems.

An overweight or obese cat can also end up struggling with their mental health; rather than running away or hiding when they sense danger, overweight cats aren’t able to react quickly and so can’t follow their instincts, which can cause them distress.

With the right diet, exercise and behaviours, you’ll be able to protect your cat from the risks of being overweight or obese. To start, speak to your vet who will be able to advise you on the best course of action. 

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If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, consult a vet for professional advice.

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