Using a cat body condition score

Cat lying down being stroked by owner

Understanding your cat's ideal weight and body condition is essential. Knowing what an ideal cat body condition score looks like will make it easier to spot any irregularities in their weight. This can help you discuss the next steps with your veterinarian to get them back to a healthy weight. 

If your cat is at a healthy weight they will be less likely to have weight-related health issues in the future.

Illustration of a cat in a house

You may not have previously thought about assessing your cat's body condition and weight at home, however, maintaining an ideal weight may help increase their lifespan.

If you regularly monitor your cat's body condition and weight it will be easier to identify when you should seek advice from a veterinarian if there is a noticeable change.

Alongside weighing your cat, using a body condition score is one of the easiest methods to understand whether or not they are at a healthy weight. Normally used by veterinarians, it is a technique that can also be easily used by pet owners at home. Remember, it's important to discuss your cat's body condition with your veterinarian.

How to use a body condition score

A cat body condition score involves looking at their body from above and the side to assess whether they are an ideal weight. As you need to feel their body and look at their shape, you will be able to assess whether they are at a healthy weight more accurately than when only looking at the number on the scale. 

Cat body condition scores use a 9-point system to assess weight. The score starts at 1, indicating your cat is severely underweight and goes up to a 9 at the other end of the scale, which points to severe obesity. 

An ideal body weight according to the score is marked as a 4 or 5. This means you can easily feel their ribs, identify a visible waist from above and can see their abdomen tuck up behind their rib cage when looking at your cat from the side. 

Measuring your cat's body condition score

Follow our easy-to-use cat body condition score below to understand whether your cat is underweight, overweight or at an ideal weight. 

Step 1 - Look

Using our body condition score below, check which body shape best matches your cat. When assessing a body condition score, look at your cat from above and from the side. Compare their body shape against those highlighted under each score, from 1 to 9, to see which best matches your cat's physical appearance.

Illustration of pet owner carrying out a cat body condition score

Step 2 - Feel

Using your fingers, gently apply small amounts of pressure around your cat's ribs. If you can clearly feel their ribs without pressure this could indicate they are underweight. However, if you are struggling to feel their ribs without applying a significant amount of pressure this could be a sign of excess weight gain.

Illustration of pet owner carrying out a cat body condition score

Step 3 - Weigh

Check your cat's weight on an appropriate scale. Once you have assessed their body shape and body condition score, knowing their weight will provide a well-rounded view of your cat's body condition. Your veterinarian will be able to address your cat's nutritional needs based on their current and ideal body condition.

Illustration of pet owner carrying out a cat body condition score

 

Cat body condition score 1 - 9

A cat body condition scale ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 indicating a cat is severely underweight, to 9 meaning severely obese. A cat is considered to have an ideal body condition if they score between 4 and 5. Assessing your cat's body condition score is easy to do and can be done while petting your cat.

Check your cat's weight on an appropriate scale. Once you have assessed their body shape and body condition score, knowing their weight will provide a well-rounded view of your cat's body condition. Your veterinarian will be able to address your cat's nutritional needs based on their current and ideal body condition. 

Underweight cat - body condition score 1 - 3

Illustration of a cat body condition score 1

Score 1: Severely underweight 

What to look for

  • Clearly visible ribs, spine and pelvic bones, particularly on shorthaired cats
  • Extremely narrow waist
  • No visible fat on their rib cage
  • When viewed from the side, their abdomen appears severely tucked up behind their rib cage
Illustration of a cat body condition score 2

Score 2: Underweight

What to look for

  • Ribs are easily visible on shorthaired cats
  • Narrow waist
  • No visible fat on their rib cage
  • When viewed from the side, their abdomen appears prominently tucked up behind their rib cage

Illustration of a cat body condition score 3

Score 3: Too thin

What to look for

  • Ribs visible on shorthaired cats
  • Obvious waist
  • A very small amount of abdominal fat
  • When viewed from the side, their abdomen appears tucked up behind their rib cage
 

Why is my cat underweight?

There are a number of different reasons which can cause your cat to lose weight, such as a metabolic disease, dental health issues or loss of appetite. Often it can be difficult to encourage your cat to eat more food, so speak to your veterinarian as they'll be able to provide tailored advice. Read our article below for tips on how to encourage your cat to eat more during mealtimes.

 

Help your cat gain weight

 

Ideal cat weight - body condition score 4 - 5

Illustration of a cat body condition score 4

Score 4: Ideal

What to look for

 

  • Ribs are not visible but can be easily felt
  • Obvious waist
  • A minimal amount of abdominal fat
  • Slight abdominal tuck when viewed from the side
Illustration of a cat body condition score 5

Score 5: Ideal

What to look for

 

  • Well proportioned body when viewed from above and from the side
  • Ribs not visible but can be easily felt
  • Obvious waist
  • A small amount of abdominal fat
  • Slight abdominal tuck when viewed from the side

My cat is a healthy weight

It's great news if your cat is currently a healthy weight, as this is key to helping them live a long and happy life. There are a number of things you can actively manage during your cat's life to help keep their weight stable, such as regular exercise and creating good feeding habits. Click below to learn more about maintaining your cat's healthy weight.

 

Maintain a healthy weight

Overweight cat - body condition score 6 - 9

Illustration of a cat body condition score 6

Score 6: Above ideal

What to look for

  • Ribs are not visible but can be felt
  • Waist not clearly defined when seen from above
  • Very slight abdominal tuck when viewed from the side

Cat body condition score 7

Score 7: Overweight

What to look for

 

  • Ribs are difficult to feel under the fat
  • Waist barely visible
  • When viewed from the side, their abdomen does not appear tucked up behind their rib cage
  • Rounding of the abdomen
Illustration of a cat body condition score 8

Score 8: Obese

What to look for

  • Ribs cannot be felt under the fat
  • No visible waist
  • Slight swelling of the abdomen

Illustration of a cat body condition score 9

Score 9: Severely obese

What to look for

  • Ribs cannot be felt and are under a thick layer of fat
  • No visible waist
  • Obvious swelling of the abdomen
  • Extensive abdominal fat

Is my cat overweight?

 If you think your cat is showing signs of excessive weight gain, it is essential to speak to your veterinarian as soon as possible as other health conditions can accompany obesity. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your cat to advise potential management options and a suitable weight loss program tailored to their dietary and individual needs. Learn how diet and other changes can help your cat lead a long and healthy life.

Weight management for cats

Still unsure about an ideal cat weight?

Once you have assessed your cat's body condition score, speak to your veterinarian for advice on the next steps. If you're unsure how to interpret your cat's body condition, your veterinarian will also be able to help with this.

Your veterinarian can then suggest appropriate weight management options, which may include encouraging regular physical exercise or changing to a weight management diet. Ask your veterinarian if a Satiety Support Weight Management diet is suitable for your cat.

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