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Health risks of overweight and obese cats

From cardiovascular problems to endocrine disease, there are many serious and life-altering health risks for overweight and obese cats.
Adult Scottish Straight sitting on an examination table being checked over by a vet.

Obesity in cats is an increasing issue, just as it is in the human population. It can have serious, lifelong impacts on a cat, affecting their health, quality of life and bodily functions.

Are some cats predisposed to obesity?

There are certain factors which may make your cat more likely to struggle with weight gain and obesity:

  • If they are a domestic shorthair, medium hair, or longhair type cat, rather than a purebred
  • If they are middle-aged when their activity begins to decline
  • If they are fed very frequently and more than the recommended portion
  • If they are nervous, anxious or have suffered from mental or emotional strain
  • If they're male

If your cat has been spayed or neutered, it's also more likely to gain weight. Spaying or neutering reduces your cat's energy requirement, but their appetite can increase.

Why does being overweight or obese affect my cat?

When your cat is overweight or obese, its body begins to store the food it consumes as fat, rather than using it up, because the energy it's expending is less than the energy it's taking inThe extra weight puts pressure on your cat's internal system and joints, leading to a series of health risks.

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 of life and life expectancy; it's harder for it to play and move around, and surgical procedures or check-ups become more difficult.

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

Your cat's immune system can become compromised when they're obese. They may also be more prone to urinary stones. These stones can form in cats that tend to drink less water and urinate less often.

One serious and potentially fatal risk with obese cats is hepatic lipidosis. 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. This can occur when an overweight or obese cat stops eating. 

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 wellbeing; 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 habits, 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.

Maine Coon adult standing in black and white on a white background

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


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