Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian
As with people, the average weight for cats can vary depending on their skeletal size and gender. On average, a healthy cat usually weighs between 7 and 14 pounds. In some cases, cats can weigh a little more than this or a little less, so it can be useful to schedule an online vet appointment through Hello Ralphie to determine if your cat is within a healthy weight range. During a Hello Ralphie virtual vet appointment, you and the vet can come up with a healthy nutrition and weight-management plan for your specific cat.
What Should a Healthy Cat Look Like?
A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can help you determine if your cat is overweight, underweight, or a healthy weight by assigning him or her a body condition score. A body condition score is a scaled number that veterinarians assign to animals to quickly assess their health.
This number will give you and the vet an idea of your cat’s general health. Rather than simply noting the weight in pounds or kilograms, a body condition score is what helps determine if your cat is an appropriate weight category for its breed, age, and gender.
There are 2 scales used to assess body condition scores in cats. The first scale ranges from 1-5 and the other scale ranges from 1-9. In either case, the lower the body condition score, the more underweight your cat is, and the higher the score, the more overweight or obese your cat is. An ideal body condition score is typically a 3 on the 1 to 5 scale or a 4 or 5 on the 1 to 9 scale.
How is a Body Condition Score Determined?
The ratio of body fat to lean muscle determines the body condition score. You should be able to feel each rib on a cat who is a healthy weight without needing to apply much pressure. When looking at your cat from above, its rib cage should also be wider than its waist.
If your cat’s rib cage is the same diameter as its waist or if the waist is wider, then this may be a sign that you have an overweight cat. An online vet consultation will allow a Hello Ralphie veterinarian to examine your pet’s weight and assign a body condition score to help them determine if the cat is an appropriate size. They can also discuss your cat’s body weight and develop a plan to address any weight-related issues.
The vet uses weight information to come up with an individualized nutrition plan for your kitty. Whether that plan is to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain their current healthy body weight, it will be specific to your cat!
My Cat’s Belly Hangs Down, is This Normal?
Some cats have excess fat deposits near their abdomen, which can look like a droopy belly. These fat deposits are known as primordial pouch and can be natural in some cats. Some cats that were previously overweight will have a pouch even after they have reached a healthy weight. If your pet has a primordial pouch, it does not necessarily mean that they are overweight.
What Should I Do if My Cat is Overweight?
If one of our Hello Ralphie veterinarians has determined that your cat is overweight, they will provide advice on a customized weight loss plan that will help your cat get to its optimal size.
Weight loss should be slow and gradual. Take your time getting your cat to a healthy weight. Cats are very susceptible to illness if they experience a sudden shortage of calories, so we do not recommend that you suddenly cut your cat’s food back if used to eating a certain diet
Depending on how overweight your cat is, your virtual veterinarian might recommend a prescription weight loss diet. Veterinary nutritionists formulate these diets to help cats lose weight safely. Some of these diets are higher in fiber, so your cat will feel satisfied with less food. Others are lower in calories and fats, which can help your cat lose weight. A Hello Ralphie virtual veterinarian will make food recommendations and a custom feeding plan based on your cat’s individual needs.
This plan may involve weighing the food with a scale, decreasing feeding amounts slowly over time, and weighing your cat at home at regular intervals to monitor weight loss progress.
What Happens if My Cat Stays Overweight?
Obesity in cats is a serious health concern. As with people, excess weight can put more pressure and stress on joints and bones and make cats more susceptible to early-onset arthritis. Fat or adipose is also an inflammatory tissue, so having excess fat around the organs can cause inflammation and serious issues resulting in chronic illness.
Cats that are overweight are also more prone to metabolic diseases like diabetes mellitus and inflammatory diseases like asthma. If you suspect that your cats are overweight, they could be at risk of developing these conditions in the future. Schedule an online vet consultation and speak with a Hello Ralphie vet to determine if your cat is at risk of any of the above conditions by examining their current weight and body condition score.
Why Is My Cat Losing Weight?
Cats can also lose weight for many reasons. Underweight cats usually look frail. You can see their ribs and spine without having to touch them. Weight loss in cats can be due to malnutrition, parasitic infection, viral infection, or inflammatory diseases like intestinal bowel disease. In older cats, metabolic diseases like hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease can cause rapid weight loss. Certain cancers can also be a cause.
If you suspect that your cat is underweight, book a vet appointment today. A Hello Ralphie online veterinarian will be able to provide advice on what to do next. You can get more information about weight loss in cats from our Why Is My Cat Losing Weight guide.
What if My Cat Will Not Eat?
Some cats can be picky eaters, which will impact their weight. It is important for cat parents to make sure their cat is not eating due to another illness or nausea. Talk to a vet online at Hello Ralphie to help you determine the cause of your cat’s picky eating behavior. For more information on cats who will not eat, check out our Tips for Pets Who Won’t Eat!