Skip to main content

Is your cat getting a little too heavy? There’s an easy way to check

Keeping your cat at a healthy weight is an excellent way to reduce his chances of developing related health issues. Cats who are overweight are particularly at risk of health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and urinary issues. If your cat is underweight and can’t easily gain weight, then issues like diabetes, dental problems, and even kidney disease could be causing the problem. Carefully monitoring your cat’s weight can help you keep your cat healthy and at his ideal weight. If you’re wondering, “How heavy should my cat be?” then it may be time to get out the scale, weigh your cat, and have a conversation with your vet.

Why weight management is important for cats

Your cat’s weight closely relates to his health, and monitoring his weight is one way to check his condition. Your vet will take your cat’s weight during each appointment, but he might also recommend that you weigh your cat at home, especially if your cat is growing, is overweight, needs to gain weight, or is recovering from an illness.

Monitoring your cat’s weight can help you identify if he might be experiencing health issues or need dietary adjustments. When you know if your cat has gained or lost a little weight, you can make those changes early on, before the weight becomes a larger problem. Changes in your cat’s weight might also indicate appetite changes and potential health issues, so you can get your cat to the vet right away before those issues have time to get worse.

Overweight grey cat lying on its back next to a cup of coffee
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is a healthy weight for a cat?

There’s no one healthy weight for a cat since that ideal weight will vary depending on your cat’s breed, size, and even age. You’ll need to consider what’s right for your individual cat.

You can rely on some signs that your cat is too thin to help guide you. When you run your hands along your cat’s ribs, just behind his front legs, you should be able to feel the ribs easily, but they shouldn’t feel sharply bony. If you have to struggle to find the ribs a little, then your cat is probably overweight. If the ribs are prominent and it feels like there’s almost no flesh on top of them, your cat is probably too skinny.

Your vet can also use a body condition score system to evaluate your cat’s weight and give you some guidance about any changes you might need to make.

How heavy is too heavy for a cat?

If your cat is overweight, you might have trouble feeling his ribs behind his front legs. When looking down at your cat from above, an overweight cat might lack definition and a tapering body shape. You might even notice that his stomach extends well out from his body, which can indicate that your cat needs to lose some weight. Again, your vet can help you identify whether your cat is overweight and how much weight he needs to lose.

Cat walking on a stone driveway
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to manage your cat’s weight

If your cat needs to lose or gain weight, you’ll need to make some diet changes, and you might have to change his lifestyle, too. Cats who need to gain weight may benefit from a higher-calorie food or possibly from a change to a new food brand or flavor that they like more. Adding food toppers can also encourage picky eaters to finish their meals.

Cats who need to lose weight may have to be fed less, or they might need to be changed over to a lower-calorie food. Eliminating treats from the diet can help, and encouraging exercise by playing with your cat several times a day is also a good option.

Monitoring your cat’s weight can be tricky, especially since there’s no one formula or key target weight to work toward. It’s important to involve your vet, who can provide you with advice that’s specific to your cat. Your vet may also want to run some tests to determine whether there may be physical factors contributing to your cat’s weight issues. Often, though, with time and careful lifestyle and diet changes, you can help your cat get to and maintain a healthy weight. In doing so, you’ll be helping to keep your fur baby healthy and even reduce his chances of developing serious health issues.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Is your cat hissing and growling a lot? These 5 tips will work wonders on your feline friend
Follow these tips if your cat is constantly hissing and growling
Tiger cat outdoors hissing

Understanding pet behavior can be a challenge, and if you see your cat hissing and growling, knowing what to do can help you deal with it and calm them down. Growling and hissing are natural behaviors for your cat. They're communicating to you that something is wrong. It's up to you to determine what's going on so you can take the right steps to address the issue and help your cat feel better. In turn, the behaviors should stop, and both you and your kitty should feel happier. If your cat is hissing and growling, put these tips to use to help fix the problem.

Try to identify the cause of the cat's hissing and growling
It's uncommon to see a cat hissing and growling for no reason. Usually, they are prompted by some sort of issue or change in a cat's environment. If you can identify this issue, then you can take steps to make your cat feel safe and stop the hissing and growling.

Read more
The kind of nutty behavior to expect if you don’t neuter your cat
Will neutering your cat prevent destructive behavior? Here's what you need to know
Tiger cat meowing while walking across a patio

If you've adopted a male cat from a shelter or rescue, chances are your cat is already neutered. But if you've gotten your cat from a private breeder or seller, then you might be struggling with the decision to neuter your cat. When making that decision, it's important to think carefully about the pros and cons of that procedure. Neutering can have a strong effect on your male cat's behavior, so make sure you know what to expect from un-neutered male cat behavior when deciding on the best option for you and your cat.

What happens if I don't neuter my cat?
According to VCA Hospitals, un-neutered cats might contribute to the cat population control issue. Millions of cats are euthanized each year because there aren't enough homes for them, and an un-neutered male cat who comes into contact with an unspayed female can contribute to this ongoing issue.
Un-neutered male cat behavior can include several undesirable habits. Many un-neutered cats spray urine as a way of marking their territory, and they might do this within and outside of your home. An un-neutered cat is also more likely to be aggressive toward another un-neutered male. This is caused by competition between males who are trying to protect their territory, and these fights can result in serious injuries.
Cats that have not been fixed are also more likely to roam and travel great distances, particularly during mating season. This sexual interest may drive your cat to leave home and can increase the chances of his getting lost or injured while traveling.

Read more
Why you should feel honored if your cat sleeps at your feet
If you've ever wondered, 'Why do cats sleep at your feet?'— this article is for you
Calico cat lying on a white comforter

Have you noticed that when you go to bed, your cat automatically heads to the foot of the bed and curls up by your feet? It's no mistake, and it's not your cat giving you the cold shoulder, either. This is a deliberate decision on your cat's part, and there are many reasons why they might choose to sleep there instead of curling up on your stomach or by your shoulder. In fact, if your cat sleeps by your feet, you should take it as a compliment and feel flattered.

So, why do cats sleep at your feet? Factors like your cat's affection for you, making your cat feel safe, and even the body heat you generate probably played into your cat's decision to sleep at the foot of the bed.

Read more