Healthy weight isn't only measured on a scale
Weighing your cat is not the only way to check if they're overweight. You can find out if your cat's a healthy weight and shape, by asking your Vet about Body Condition Scoring.
What is body condition scoring?
Vets use Body Condition Scoring to make it easier to check whether your cat is overweight, underweight or at ideal weight and shape. However, weighing a cat isn't always enough to determine if they are a healthy shape, so the score assesses how they look and feel.
The body condition score uses a 9-point system that goes from severely underweight at 1 to obese at 9. The three key factors assessed for the score are your cat’s ribs, waist and abdomen. A cat with a score of 4 or 5, is at ideal weight and shape. This means they’re well proportioned with ribs you can easily feel, a waist you can see from above and an abdomen that tucks up behind their rib cage when seen from the side.
Your vet can help you work out your cat’s body condition score. It’s also important to take your cat for regular visits so they can help you continually monitor your cats shape as they age.
What are the signs my cat is overweight?
Cats are considered to be overweight when they’re 10% to 20% over their ideal weight, but it’s easy to overlook this – especially if the weight creeps on over time. The best way to keep track is by taking a regular 3-step look-feel-weigh approach.
First, look at your cat’s behaviour. Are they somewhat lethargic and get tired quickly? How visible is their waist and the tuck of their abdomen behind the ribs? Next, check their ribs. Using light pressure, how easily can you feel them? How much pressure do you have to use to feel them? Thirdly, weigh your cat and make a note so you can compare it next time you weigh them. Your vet can give you an indication of your cat's ideal weight based on their current weight and using their body condition score.
This kind of monitoring is vital as an overweight cat is at greater risk of a number of serious and life-changing conditions, including a shortened life expectancy, diabetes, osteoarthritis and urinary tract disease. Keeping your cat in ideal weight and shape is key to helping support their overall health and wellbeing.
How to help your overweight cat lose weight
Fortunately, it’s possible to help your cat lose weight. Helping your cat return to their ideal weight will help to improve their quality of life, and cats at ideal weight have also been shown to live longer than those who are overweight or obese.
Cats become overweight when they eat more calories than they use, so the first thing to address is their food. Ask your vet about diets formulated to support weight loss in overweight cats, as simply reducing their daily food ration, reduces the likelihood of them getting all the nutrients they need. Stick to the portion size on the pack and give them a space to eat alone. Cats are solitary hunters and shared feeding spaces could lead to stress-induced issues such as overeating.
Regular physical activity is also essential for keeping your cat in healthy shape and for their overall wellbeing. The amount of exercise they need will vary depending upon their age; younger cats require more exercise, whereas an older cat may require less. Cats prefer short, frequent bursts of play, so rather than providing one long play session, consider changing this to shorter, more frequent sessions (two-three minutes sessions). You will know when your cat has had enough because they will stop or walk away. Give them plenty of toys and things to climb, particularly if they’re kept mainly indoors, and play games with them regularly each day.