Cat owners want to pamper their cat. The only problem is, sometimes you try to accomplish this by overfeeding your cat. The result is what some cat owners refer to as the ‘Garfield Complex,’ or fat cat. Cats are notoriously lackadaisical creatures so they can have a tendency to become overweight. Here is how you can care for an obese cat and some steps to help improve their health.

What Is an Obese Cat?

A cat is considered obese if their actual weight is above the normal range. Most small cats weigh between 7 to 13 pounds, and large cats can be as hefty as 24 lbs.

Your veterinarian knows what your cat’s weight should be to consider them healthy. Consult them if you feel your cat may be packing on a few extra pounds. Here are some ways you can check a cat yourself to get a generalized idea if you have an obese pet.

How to Check Your Cat’s Weight

a gray weight scale

Considering the wide range in the actual weight of a healthy cat, there are other ways you can check to see if ‘Fluffy’ might be leaning towards tipping the scales of cat obesity.

Method 1

Stand over the top of your cat, looking straight down at its midsection. Focus on the region between the rib cage and hips. This part of the body should be slightly smaller than the upper shoulder region and the bottom portion.

If your cat has no waist, or their waist is bigger than their shoulders, there is a chance they are overweight.

Method 2

A second test to indicate whether your cat might be obese is to look at them from the side while they are standing up. Take a side angle to see if there is a slight upward slope from the rib cage to where the back legs start.

Be aware that older cats may have a natural hanging pouch, so this technique is not as useful with cats over ten years of age. However, if your cat is still relatively young and has a distinctive pouch for a belly, they are quite possibly too heavy for their frame.

Method 3

Touching your cat’s midsection around their rib cage is another excellent way to determine if your cat may be obese. Gently feel around their ribs. If you cannot easily feel the rib definition, or you have to push down hard to feel them, this is an indication you may own an obese cat.

Method 4

The base of your cat’s tail is another place you can inspect. You should be able to experience a slightly bony texture to the spot where you the tail meets the body. There is a very thin protective layer of fatty tissue in this area, but if it feels squishy, then this is another sign of an overweight cat.

Other Effective Methods

  • Other parts of a cat’s body that should be slightly bony are the top of their back or spine. You should be able to press down between their should blades very gently and feel your cat’s backbone and the pointy portion of their shoulder-blade.
  • You should be able to feel the outline shape of the hip bones, plus it should not take a lot of pressure to feel the hardness of the bone in their lower legs, just above the paw region.

Be mindful, that if you feel extremely pointy bones in the shoulders, or back, this could mean your cat is underweight. However, if you are unable to feel any of these bones because of the thickness of fatty tissue, then you own an obese cat.

Caring for an Obese Cat

There are two sensible ways to help improve the life of your obese cat. One is by altering their diet to help them gradually return to a healthy weight, and the second is to engage them with activities that reverse a sedentary lifestyle.

#1. Adjusting Its Diet

a person feeding a stray cat

Reducing the weight of an obese cat is usually best by combining these two strategies, but since cats are notoriously inactive, diet is the one treatment that can have the most success. Before you put your cat on any restrictive type of diet, consult with your veterinarian first. The vet will also give you a determination of when and how much activity might help reduce your cat’s weight problem.

Half the cats studied that are overweight are so due to overfeeding. Follow the diet prescriptions recommended by your veterinarian first, and then adhere to the serving recommendations from the cat food provider.

If you have already been following food portion recommendations, start by reducing those portions by a small percentage. Begin with about 10% less food, gradually building up to where you only feed your cat about three-quarters of a recommended full serving.

If you have a foot scale, weigh your cat once a week to check for noticeable changes. Plan to schedule another appointment with your veterinarian in about a month, or per their recommendation. How long, and how intense the diet restrictions required for your cat will be, depends on how overweight they are.

#2. Increasing Its Activity

a small kitten playing

Getting your cat active can be a huge challenge, especially if your furry friend suffers from the Garfield Complex. The cartoon cat was notorious for his love of gorging on pasta but was even more infamous for his very lackadaisical lifestyle.

Increasing your cat’s activity can be a great help in reducing their weight. Cats are small creatures, but their metabolism is quickly improved with only a few minutes of activity. But, how do you get your lazy cat to move off the back of the couch?

Cats are not known for being delighted with the idea of taking walks, but you can try. The best way to boost the activity level of a cat is with a little scheduled play. Your cat won’t even realize they’re exercising to improve their health.

Bottom Line

Caring for an obese cat may not seem like an important problem, but since many of the health problems obese cats experience due to excess weight, you should be aware of your cat’s weight. If they are overweight, find out if there is a health issue causing the problem first.

Then, after consulting with your veterinarian, slowly adjust their diet and increase their daily activity level. You can help your cat defeat the Garfield Complex and become healthy again.

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