How Much Should A Cat Weigh?
By Amanda Jondle, DVM July 03, 2019
Keeping a cat at their ideal weight is sometimes easier said than done. It is often not as straight-forward as simply putting some food out for your cat to chow down on whenever they please. Many different factors can contribute to a cat’s weight management, weight gain, or weight loss. More often than not, cats tend to be overweight. Cat obesity is becoming more and more prevalent, just as it is in dogs and people. A recent study published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that nearly 60 percent of cats are classified as overweight or obese. That is a significant number! As cat parents, it is important to know how to keep our cat fit and trim to help them live a long and healthy life with us.
How Much Should A Cat Weigh?
In general, a healthy adult domestic cat will weigh 8 to 10 pounds. However, there are many factors that should be considered when determining the appropriate weight for a cat.
These factors are:
Cats of different ages can have varying weights. Typically, a young growing kitten will be lankier and leaner, while a spayed or neutered middle age cat tends to be on the heavier side. As cats get older, they often lose muscle mass and fat, making them weigh less.
- Reproduction Status
A cat’s reproduction status also contributes to their weight. If a cat is intact (not spayed or neutered), their hormones will tend to keep their metabolism high, which will make maintaining a healthy weight easier. Moreover, intact cats tend to be more active, which also helps. On the other hand, spayed and neutered cats tend to be less active and have less sex hormones, so they tend to be overweight.
The diet your cat is fed plays a huge role in your cat’s weight as well. Just like in people, diets higher in calories tend to contribute to weight gain, while diets lower in calories tend to help cats lose weight. There is also a broad range of nutrition standards and ingredients that vary from diet to diet.
- Activity Level
The amount of exercise your cat gets is another factor that is important in managing weight. A more active cat will burn more calories and be able to maintain their weight or lose weight. A less active cat will burn fewer calories and will tend to gain weight.
- Health Status
The health of your cat will also play a significant role. There are many underlying health conditions that cats are prone to that can cause weight loss or weight gain.
Since some cat breeds are naturally larger than others, the breed of the cat will also affect their weight. For example, a healthy Siamese cat will weigh less than a healthy Maine Coon cat.
Given the fact that there are so many factors that affect weight management, there is no one ideal weight for any given cat. Your cat has their own individual ideal weight and the best way to determine that number is to see your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will weigh your cat and perform a complete physical exam to determine what health condition your cat is in. They will most likely use the Feline Body Condition Score to score your cat’s body condition on a universal scale. If your cat is underweight or overweight, they will likely recommend blood tests or other diagnostic tests to uncover any underlying conditions. Your veterinarian will be able to calculate your cat’s daily maintenance caloric requirements. Additionally, your vet will be able to calculate how much weight your cat should gain or lose and how to adjust the maintenance calories to achieve those goals. Your veterinarian will be able to suggest and help you find the appropriate diet to best suit your cat’s needs.
What Is The Feline Body Condition Score?
The Feline Body Condition Score, or BCS, is a universal standardized scoring system suggested by The Global Pet Obesity Initiative. This system is what most veterinarians will use to score a cat’s (or dog’s) body condition score. This is a simple, accurate, effective, and consistent system that uses a 1-9 scale to score a cat’s body. The scale starts at 1 being emaciated, 2-3 being under ideal, 4-5 being the ideal body condition scores, 6-7 being overweight, and 8-9 being obese. Veterinarians and pet owners alike can use this scale to score the cats under their care and monitor their weight regularly. You can see a chart from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) below.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Is At The Appropriate Weight?
- A body condition score of 4-5 means your cat is at their ideal weight.
- You should be able to easily feel and count your cat’s ribs when you pet them along the side or gently rub your fingers along their sides. There should be a minimal amount of fat over the ribs.
- You should be able to see an hourglass shape when looking down on your cat from above them. This includes a slight indentation near their midsection which makes for an appropriate looking waist.
- When you look at your cat from the side, you should see a nice tummy tuck, or slight upward slope of the tummy as it goes towards the hips. You should not notice a fat pad on the back part of the abdomen.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Overweight?
While a chubby kitty might look cute, overweight kitties are more prone to diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, respiratory disease, liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and others. Signs that your cat is overweight can vary, and your cat may have one, some, or all of these signs:
- Your cat’s body condition score is between 6-9.
- You are not able to easily feel or count your cat’s ribs when you pet them along their sides. There is an excess amount of fat covering the rib bones.
- You notice they are a blimp or round shape when you observe them from above.
- They have a fat pad on their belly that moves when they walk or that even touches or drags on the ground when you look at them from the side.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Underweight?
Just as an overweight or obese cat is unhealthy, so is a cat that is too thin. Diseases such as hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, gastrointestinal diseases, and others can contribute to inappropriate weight loss in your cat. Signs that your cat is underweight include:
- Your cat’s body condition score is between 1-3.
- Your cat’s ribs are easily seen or counted without needing to palpate or touch them.
- There is no fat palpable over the ribs or midsection.
- The spine is pronounced and easily seen.
What Should I Do If My Cat Is Overweight Or Underweight?
Once you have your cat’s body condition score, you can work with a veterinarian to develop a plan to get your cat to their ideal weight. Excluding any health concerns (which should be addressed on their own), this plan will include variables such as nutrition, including what type of food to feed, how many calories to feed, how much to feed, and how often to feed. The plan will also take into account your cat’s exercise length and frequency and what activities they should or should not participate in. A general recommendation for cats is to play for three intense 5 minute intervals per day. You should discuss how much weight your cat should gain or lose and in what kind of time period. In general, cats can safely lose about 0.5-2 percent of their body weight in one month. You will want to make sure they don’t lose or gain too much weight too quickly as this could lead to other health concerns.
Spending some time learning about your cat’s diet and weight is a very important decision that can make the difference between life and death for your cat. Moreover, your cat’s quality and length of life depends on you becoming knowledgeable about this subject. So take time to ask questions and talk to your veterinarian to develop the best plan to help your kitty maintain their ideal weight.