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How to Tell if Your Cat Is Overweight: 4 Vet-Reviewed Signs to Look For

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Image Credit: Remark_Anna, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Rachel Giordano

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Do you suspect that your cat is on the chunky side? If so, are you wondering how to tell or what signs to look for? If you’re in this boat, you’ve come to the perfect place to find out.

Obesity is a common problem with domesticated cats and the number of obese felines is continually on the rise. As of 2018, 60% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Obesity leads to a whole slew of health problems that you want to avoid for your kitty, and it’s wise to know how to tell if your cat is gaining weight so that you can address the issue.

In this article, we’ll look at signs to tell if your cat is overweight and what you can do about it if that’s the case.

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How Can I Tell if My Cat Is Overweight?

First of all, your cat’s breed and age play a role in your cat’s weight. Some cats are built differently. For example, some are long, lean, and muscular, while others are naturally big-boned, like the Birman cat or Ragamuffin.

Knowing the ideal weight for your particular cat breed is the first step in determining if your cat is overweight. To know for sure, your veterinarian can inform you of the ideal weight range, which is generally between 7–12 pounds, depending on the breed and sex.

The 4 Signs to Look For

Let’s move on to signs to look for to determine if your cat is overweight.

1. Rib Cage

fat calico cat sleeping in the window perch
Image Credit: Lisa A. Ernst, Shutterstock

According to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, feel along your cat’s rib cage. The rib cage area should feel no more padded than the back of your hand. If you can’t feel the rib cage or have to press firmly to feel it at all, you may have an overweight cat.

If you can’t feel the rib cage, you probably have more than just an overweight cat. In that case, your cat is more than likely obese. A cat is considered obese if its weight is 20% over the ideal body weight.

2. Inspect the Waistline

A cat’s waistline is directly above the hips. A good way to check the waistline is to look directly down from above while your cat is standing. What you’re looking for is a slight indent in that area. This method is a little harder if you have a long-haired cat, so keep that in mind. In that case, feeling the rib cage area might work better. Nonetheless, if you can’t see any indention or if your cat’s sides are bulging, your cat may be overweight.

3. Trouble Jumping

fat cat outdoor
Image Credit: Piqsels

Most cats are pretty acrobatic and love to jump on things, especially cat trees, and some love the feeling of being higher up than anyone else in the room.

A cat’s body is designed for jumping, leaping, and running.  That said, if your cat is having trouble jumping and it takes several attempts to jump on their favorite piece of furniture, it may be because your cat is carrying around excess weight. If your cat gives up jumping altogether, your cat is more than likely overweight or obese.

4. Use an Overweight Cat Chart

American shorthair cat lying on the couch
Image Credit: Clement Morin, Shutterstock

Using an overweight chart or a Body Condition System (BCS) chart can help you determine if your cat is overweight. These types of charts can come in handy to tell if your cat is either overweight or underweight by using visualization, along with written content to help you even further.

Sometimes, you can tell if your cat is overweight just by looking at them. If you see protrusion on the sides, your cat is probably not at its ideal weight.

What Health Problems Are Associated With an Overweight Cat?

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Image Credit: Pixabay

Many health issues can arise in overweight cats, such as diabetes, arthritis, liver disease, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal problems, urinary issues, skin issues, and even cancer. Your cat can even acquire lameness and depression from being overweight.

If your cat can no longer jump up on its favorite piece of furniture or gets tired from playing for only a short period, depression can certainly settle in. As you can see, your cat being overweight can cause both physical and mental issues.

How Can I Help My Cat Lose Weight?

Before you try a weight loss program for your kitty, it’s best to have the situation validated by your vet if you’re not 100% certain. If your cat wasn’t overweight to begin with, that could pose other medical problems.

Once you know your cat needs to lose a pound or two, you can try certain methods, such as increasing the amount of exercise your cat gets, modifying your cat’s diet (usually under a vet’s recommendation), or choosing a healthy-weight food.

When looking for cat food, choose a complete and balanced cat food with reduced fat and calories and all the nutrients cats require. If ever in doubt, consult with your veterinarian for recommendations.

You can make exercise fun for your kitty by providing puzzles and games, especially ones with a treat inside that they will have to work for to get out, which burns calories. Cat trees and scratching posts are excellent in providing some form of exercise, too.

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Keeping your cat at an ideal weight is vital for both physical and mental health. It’s important to monitor your cat’s appearance and take it for yearly exams so that you can keep medical issues at bay and prevent your cat from becoming overweight in the first place. In doing so, your cat will have a healthy and long life.

It may be challenging at first, especially if your cat gives you the evil eye when you cut back on food or treats, but stay vigilant! After all, your cat’s health depends on it.

Featured Image Credit: Remark_Anna, Shutterstock

About the Author

Rachel Giordano
Rachel Giordano
Rachel Giordano is a Pensacola, Florida-based musician and writer. She lives with her partner and their two dogs, Sophie, a Boston Terrier, and Aero, a Border Collie/Sheltie mix. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and loves writing about all types of cat breeds. When she’s not writing about cats, she loves to write suspense/thriller novels. A musician by night and writer by day, she enjoys sharing her knowledge of the needs and requirements of our furry friends.

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