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why is my cat fat

The essentials

  • Humans contribute to feline obesity — Pet owners show their love through treats and junk food for their pets. Unfortunately, this habit contributes to obese cats.
  • Obesity may lead to health problems — Obesity causes wear and tear on a cat’s joints. Osteoarthritis is one of many serious health issues caused by obesity.
  • Pet obesity is on the rise — An estimated 56 million cats are overweight, a population at risk for shorter lives and a diminished quality of life.

The number of obese pets in the U.S. continues to grow. Nearly 60% of cats are overweight, and 15% qualify as obese. Severe weight gain leads to conditions like diabetes and cancer, but even a few extra pounds might mean a diminished quality of life. If you’re wondering how much is too much and why your cat is fat in the first place, we’ll guide you through the evaluation and next steps.

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Wholesome foods like ZipZyme™ Omega can raise your cat’s basal metabolic rate, burning calories even when they’re at rest. An increased metabolic output helps balance metabolism and curb cravings.

How to tell if your cat is overweight

Your veterinarian can help you determine the ideal body weight to target. Many vets use a body condition scoring system between 1 and 5 (3 is normal) or 1 and 9 (5 is normal). These body condition assessments are part of your cat’s regular checkups, but it’s possible to conduct a quick weight assessment at home using the chart and steps below.


Cat body conditioning chart

Step 1: Examine your cat from above

Does your cat have a definite waist ? If they do, they are probably a healthy weight. The Food and Drug Administration says, “IF they are as fat as a footstool, she is probably overweight.”

Step 2: Feel for their ribs

Feeling for their ribs is a key indicator to determine whether your cat is fat. It’s a good sign if the ribs can be felt without excess fat.

Step 3: Look for a sagging stomach

If your cat’s ribs cannot be felt under a layer of fat, your cat is overweight. You’re looking for a tucked abdomen, and you don’t want to be able to grab a handful of fat.

👉 Want more help determining whether your cat is overweight? The FDA will help walk you through its body conditioning chart in the video below.

Why is my cat fat? 

Cats are creatures of habit that like routine, so they must be motivated to exercise. Your cat may be gaining weight if their schedule lacks playtime and you’re overfeeding them. A recent study on overweight companion animals found that active playing for 10 minutes daily was as effective as calorie restriction in reducing cat obesity. Here are some common reasons your cat may be gaining weight.

  • Physical inactivity. Turn the tide with interactive toys or remote toys for your play sessions.
  • Poor sleep. Cats spend more than half their time sleeping or resting. Plenty of places for your cat to slumber will decrease stress and increase activity when awake. If cats don’t have enough places to sleep, stress may prevent them from sleeping comfortably.
  • Indoor confinement. While the positives of keeping your cat indoors outweigh the potential risks of outdoor life, they can reduce the opportunity for the natural behaviors of hunting, exploring, and climbing. Replicate the wild in the safety of home with toys, cat tunnels, cat trees, and enrichment activities.
  • Overfeeding. Cats need scheduled meals! Cats on a meal plan — versus free feeding — will not eat as much food. They will eat less in one sitting when food is generally less available. Always measure the amount of food based on the feeding recommendations on labels. Remember that neutered cats typically require fewer calories.
  • Age. Senior cats may start to slow down and not burn as many calories. Obesity may also cause rapid breathing, especially in seniors.

The risks of feline obesity

Diabetes is the most common disease in overweight and aging cats. Other diseases are also linked to obesity, and the list is unfortunately long. However, many of these are treatable if found early.

  • Diabetes mellitus. Cats with diabetes do not properly produce or respond to insulin. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes because it contributes to the cells’ resistance to insulin.
  • Urinary disease. Obesity can also be a risk factor for lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), and just like diabetes, getting that extra weight off is a mainstay of treatment.
  • Osteoarthritis. Arthritis is painful for pets and can affect a cat’s entire body. If a cat is overweight, the joints are affected, and arthritis will make it very difficult for your cat to get around easily, use the litter box, and play.
  • Cancer. Obese cats develop an increased risk for many types of cancer.
  • Grooming issues. Overweight cats have trouble grooming themselves, which may cause health issues. These health conditions may include skin irritation and matted fur due to lack of grooming.
  • Poor quality of life. One of the consequences of excess fat is a shorter life span.

5 ways to help your cat lose weight

Your cat will still love you if you follow your vet’s counsel, see the vet regularly for wellness appointments (weigh-ins!), and consider the following tips.

  1. Stop free feeding Try serving 3 or 4 smaller, scheduled meals in puzzle toys throughout the day. The meal plan should follow the quantities per your cat’s age and ideal weight on the food label. Measure out the portions you plan to feed your cat throughout the day.
  2. Work with your vet on a meal plan —  Cats are all about flavor in their food. Your vet can help devise a restricted calorie diet, one that even picky eaters will touch.
  3. Use slow-feeding bowls — In addition to food puzzles, slow feeders are a great solution and alternative to feeding your cat from a traditional bowl. Cats need to eat at a slow pace to realize they’re full.
  4. Play with your cat — This isn’t a time to multitask on your phone, no! Even though most cats are independent creatures, they still need the motivation to play. Put away your phone, commit to playtime, and use interactive toys like laser pointers, feather toys, and fake mice.
  5. Skip the junk food Forget table scraps and only use treats as a reward; for obese cats, this means using pieces of kibble. When training, use small pieces of your cat’s meals and remove that portion from the daily ration.

ZipZyme™ Omega is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, a necessary part of your cat’s nutrition that’s missing from many modern diets, especially those high in processed foods with excess sugar. This natural, safe, and plant-sourced food works to multiply the amount of DHA, the most important omega-3, converting sugars to healthy fats, keeping metabolism balanced and cats happy and healthy.

Bring out the best in your pet.

Protect their vitality with award-winning, vet-approved Omega 3 nutrition.

Buy Now

Frequently asked questions

How can I tell if my cat is obese?  

Your vet can help you determine your cat’s ideal body weight. Most vets use a body condition scoring system of either 1-5 (3 is normal) or 1-9 (5 is normal). Pet owners can use this, too, and your vet can show you the steps.

Why is my cat fat? 

Your cat may be gaining weight with too many meals and not enough playtime. However, other factors might be at play, so you’ll always want to rule out health issues with your vet.

What is the best way to help my cat lose weight? 

Some ways to help your cat lose weight include:

  • Stop free feeding
  • Use slow-feeding bowls
  • Play with your cat
  • Skip the junk food
  • Work with your vet on a meal plan
  • Feed a restricted-calorie diet

Is it OK for my cat to be overweight? 

No! Pet owners show their love through treats and junk food for their pets. Unfortunately, this habit contributes to obese cats — about 56 million of them, according to the American Pet Products Association — leading to health problems.