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When looking at your cat or lifting them up to show them a little love, you might notice when your cat has gained a few pounds. However, while gaining a few pounds is nothing to worry about for humans, it can impact your cat’s health. Ultimately, your cat is smaller, so putting on just a few more pounds can lead to health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Weight gain or loss can also indicate an underlying health condition, such as hyperthyroidism in cats.
If you’re asking yourself, “how heavy should my cat be?”, this article will discuss how much a cat should weigh, why it’s important, and what you can do if your cat is not at a healthy weight. Let’s get started.
- What Is a Healthy Weight for Cats?
- Why Is a Healthy Weight Important for Cats?
- How Can I Tell if My Cat Is at a Healthy Weight?
- What to Do If Your Cat Is Overweight
- What to Do if Your Cat Is Underweight
- Final Notes
What Is a Healthy Weight for Cats?
So, how much should a cat weigh? Generally, the ideal weight for domestic cats is 8 to 10 pounds.1 However, the right weight for your cat will vary based on their gender and breed. For example, the average cat weight for a domestic Maine Coon is between 10 and 25 pounds due to their larger size.1
Many veterinarians use a nine-point system to determine your cat’s ideal weight.2 The nine-point system scores cats based on their weight, with 4.5 to 5 points being a suitable weight. With this system, a cat below 4.5 is considered underweight. Anything over five points means your cat is overweight, and cats above eight points are severely overweight or obese. Let’s explore this point system further below.
Severely underweight and underweight
Using the nine-point system, an underweight cat will score a number below 4.5, with a severely underweight cat having an even lower score, which may be closer to 1 or 2. Severely underweight cats need immediate medical attention because they’re likely not getting the nutrients they need for healthy bones, joints, and organs.
Severely underweight cats will have visible ribs, and their tails won’t have any fat, so you may even see their tail bones. Additionally, the stomach will look sucked in. These types of cats will also be constantly lethargic and not want to play, hunt, or groom themselves.
On the same side of the scale, you have underweight cats. These cats are also malnourished but will have a little more fat than severely underweight cats. However, you will still likely see their rib bones, and it will be obvious that a cat is underweight when you pet them. Underweight cats may have fat on their tails, but you will still be able to see their bones. Their stomachs will also look sucked in but not as much as severely underweight cats.
Pets with a healthy cat weight will look thin, but they’ll have noticeable fat on their bodies. When you pet a cat with a healthy weight, you’ll still be able to feel their ribs, but the ribs will not be visible. However, a healthy cat’s ribs can be seen when they’re stretching or playing. Additionally, a cat at a healthy weight will have a tail that’s padded with fat and contoured. Cats at their ideal weights often have healthy coats and are energetic enough to play, run, jump, and hunt. They will also have enough energy to groom themselves.
Ensuring a healthy cat weight for your pet can help them live longer, so it’s important to know how often to feed kittens and older cats.
Overweight and obese
Overweight and obese cats are common because many pet parents overfeed their furry friends. Feline obesity means your cat has a higher body weight than what is considered the ideal weight for their breed, which is 20% or more.2
Overweight cats still have ribs that you can feel if you press down on them with slightly more pressure. However, you will also feel the fat on an overweight cat. Additionally, the tail may be thicker because it’s more padded, and the body may not have a hip line when you’re looking at the cat from above.
Next, you have obese cats, which will require immediate medical attention because obesity comes with many health problems that can make your cat sick and give them a poor quality of life. Obese cats typically have health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes, which can shorten their lifespans. Additionally, obese cats may not be able to move around as well as they once did, making it difficult to jump and climb, which puts extreme pressure on their joints and also causes them to develop early arthritis.
Obese cats may also have difficulty breathing because of the additional fat. When looking at an obese cat, you will be able to tell that it is obese because of the fat deposits around their back, face, and limbs. Obese cats do not have a waistline when looking at them from above, and they will appear round overall.
Why Is a Healthy Weight Important for Cats?
A healthy weight is just as important for cats as it is for humans. Being overweight can cause your cat to develop several health conditions3, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Additionally, overweight cats typically have shorter lifespans and less energy, which will impact their quality of life since cats love to jump, climb, and play.
On the other end of the spectrum, cats that are underweight will have less energy, making it difficult for them to groom themselves, jump, and climb. The severe lack of nutrients associated with underweight cats can also be fatal.
How Can I Tell if My Cat Is at a Healthy Weight?
Typically, the best way to determine if your cat is at a healthy weight is by visiting the veterinarian and having them weighed. A vet will be able to easily answer the question “how heavy should my cat be?” once they complete a thorough physical examination.
But, pet parents can also look at their cat’s body and use the “Body Condition Score” chart,2 which you can get from pet food brands, your local vet, and even the internet, to figure out if a cat is at a healthy weight. The “Body Condition Score” chart will have you perform a few assessments, including a rib check, profile check, and overhead check, to determine whether your cat is underweight, overweight, or at their ideal weight.2
If your cat doesn’t want you to feel around their ribs, you can simply do the overhead check and look at your cat from above to determine if they’re at a healthy weight. When you look at your cat from above, determine if they have a waist. If they don’t have a waist and their back is broad and flat, your cat is likely overweight.4
What to Do If Your Cat Is Overweight
If your cat is overweight, it can shorten their lifespan and cause health issues. The most important thing you can do is talk to your vet if you believe your cat is overweight. Ultimately, you should never try to help your cat lose weight without the guidance of a vet because sudden starvation can lead to additional health complications.2
Your vet will help you diagnose underlying conditions that can be affecting your cat’s weight, such as hyperthyroidism, cat diarrhea, and cat constipation. From there, your vet will develop a treatment plan, which may include diet and nutrition guidelines to help your cat lose weight. Additionally, if you have an unspayed female, your vet might perform a pregnancy test for cats to ensure your feline hasn’t gained weight due to pregnancy.
Here are some recommendations your vet may make to help your cat lose weight.
Limiting treats is the best way to cut unnecessary calories from your cat’s diet. While you can and should always reward good behavior, your cat may not need treats for simply being cute.
Use food puzzles
Food puzzles are another great way to help your cat lose weight because they encourage cats to work for their food. Food puzzles can also be mentally stimulating, which can help reduce anxiety in cats.
Prevent your cat from stealing food from other cats
If you have multiple cats in your household, try feeding them separately, so one cat isn’t eating another cat’s food. Additionally, you can give your cat about thirty minutes to eat, then pick up their food bowl until it’s time to eat again.3 This will prevent your cat from finishing their own food and running off to eat another cat’s food.
Meet their daily caloric needs
You should never put your cat on a starvation diet; even obese and overweight cats should eat because not eating can lead to liver disease and other health problems.5 Instead, talk to your vet to ensure you’re not underfeeding your cat. Vets can calculate the correct number of calories your cat should eat to stay healthy while losing weight and determine the average house cat weight for your feline.
Feed them canned food
If your cat eats kibble, you can try switching them to canned food, which is typically filled with more protein and fewer carbs to promote weight loss.2 However, it’s important to still feed your cat enough calories without contributing to more weight gain. Feeding your cat too much of any food can result in zero weight loss while feeding too little can cause health problems.3
Exercise can help your cat burn more calories, but obese cats shouldn’t engage in vigorous exercise routines because it can do more harm than good. Cats are predators who hunt prey by stalking, so they’re not designed to run for long periods.3 Instead of trying to get your cat to run, you can increase exercise without exhausting them by relocating their food bowls to make them move more. Additionally, you can introduce more play into their daily routine. Feathers, balls, and fake mice are fun toys that can help your cat burn calories.
Of course, you don’t want to overdo it, which can cause stress on an overweight cat’s joints. Instead, play an engaging game for up to ten minutes twice a day to help them move more.3
Stop free feeding
Free feeding your cat by letting them graze and snack on food all day contributes to obesity.1 Instead, your cat should have regular feeding times to prevent them from overeating.
Weigh your cat monthly
If you want your cat to lose weight, you’ll need to know if they’re making progress. By weighing your cat monthly, you can determine if the changes you’re making to their lifestyle are successful.3 Your vet may also request that you weigh your cat and report in to ensure their suggestions are effective.
What to Do If Your Cat Is Underweight
While domestic cats are typically overweight instead of underweight, your cat could be underweight for a variety of reasons, including malnutrition or an underlying health condition. Here’s what to do if your cat is underweight.
Consult a vet
Domestic cats are typically fed very well by their owners, so if a cat is underweight, it’s a cause for concern. If you’re feeding your cat three meals a day and they appear to be losing weight instead of gaining weight, they may have a health condition, such as hyperthyroidism in cats. Your vet will be able to diagnose the problem and administer the appropriate treatment so that your cat can start gaining weight.
Feed more meals
Your cat can be underweight because they’re underfed. If you don’t feed your cat at least three times a day, try feeding them more and see if that has an effect. If it doesn’t, don’t keep feeding them as this could be harmful to their health. Instead, consult a vet who can help you determine why your cat isn’t gaining weight and what to do about it.
Warm your cat’s food in the microwave
It’s not uncommon for some pets to be picky eaters. If your cat won’t eat their food and they’re underweight, try putting their food in the microwave to warm it up. This releases the smell of the food and makes it more enticing.
Hand feed your cat
Some cats may not like eating out of their bowls. This can be a sign of whisker fatigue, or they may be telling you they don’t like bowls. Instead, try feeding your cat out of your hand, which can make the experience more enjoyable.
Being at a healthy weight is important for all cats since this can lead to long, comfortable lives. However, many domestic cats are overweight and even obese, which can cause severe health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Being underweight is also cause for concern since it’s not normal for a domestic cat with access to food to weigh too little. If you worry that your cat is at an unhealthy weight, it’s important to speak to a qualified vet.
Dutch provides telemedicine for pets to help your cat lose or gain weight so that they can be at their ideal weight. With Dutch, you’ll receive a treatment plan with recommendations from a licensed vet to help you manage your pet's weight and illnesses caused by an unhealthy weight.
“Ideal Weight Ranges.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, https://petobesityprevention.org/ideal-weight-ranges.
“Obesity.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 22 May 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/obesity.
“Cat Weight Loss.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, https://petobesityprevention.org/weight-loss-cats.
“Is My Dog or Cat a Healthy Weight? Important Questions to Ask the Vet.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/my-dog-or-cat-healthy-weight-important-questions-ask-vet.
“Pet Caloric Needs.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, https://petobesityprevention.org/pet-caloric-needs.