Obesity in Cats: Knowing The Signs & Causes

Obesity in Cats: Knowing The Signs & Causes

Jun 29, 2023Admin Petterati

Is your feline friend sporting a few extra pounds? Just like humans, cats can also face the challenge of obesity, which can have serious implications for their health and well-being. Understanding the signs and causes of obesity in cats is essential for responsible pet ownership. Now, explore the common signs that indicate a cat may be overweight and delve into the underlying causes, providing valuable insights to help you recognize and address this weighty concern. 

Signs of Obesity in Cats: 

  1. Expanding Waistline: Observe your cat from above and the side. If you notice a lack of a defined waistline and an overall round shape, it could indicate excess body weight. Obesity often manifests as an expanding waistline and a bulging abdomen. 
  2. Difficulty Feeling Ribs: Gently run your hands along your cat's ribcage. In a healthy-weight cat, you should be able to feel the ribs without applying too much pressure. If the ribs are hard to locate due to a layer of fat, it could be a sign of obesity. 
  3. Decreased Mobility and Stamina: Obese cats tend to have reduced mobility and may be less inclined to engage in play or exercise. They may tire easily, become less active, and show reluctance to jump or climb.
  4. Laboured Breathing and Panting: Obesity can put additional strain on a cat's respiratory system. If you notice your cat panting or experiencing difficulty breathing after minimal exertion, it may be a result of excess weight. 
  5. Skin and Coat Issues: Cats struggling with obesity may have difficulty grooming themselves effectively. Their fur may appear unkempt, and they may develop mats or skin issues due to limited flexibility and mobility. 

Causes of Obesity in Cats: 

1. Overfeeding and Inappropriate Diet: 

Feeding your cat more calories than they require, whether it's through excessive portions or calorie-dense treats, can lead to weight gain. Cats that have unrestricted access to food are more prone to overeating. 

A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2018) highlighted the correlation between obesity and overfeeding. It is found that cats with unrestricted access to food were more likely to become overweight or obese compared to cats with controlled portion sizes.  

Does human foods cause obesity in cats? 

Yes, human foods can contribute to obesity in cats. Human foods often contain high levels of fat, carbohydrates, and sugars, which are not suitable for a cat's dietary needs. Feeding cats excessive amounts of these foods can contribute to weight gain and obesity. 

  • Lack of Essential Nutrients: Cats have specific nutritional requirements that differ from humans. Human foods may not provide the essential nutrients that cats need to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being. 
  • Toxicity: Certain human foods can be toxic to cats. Examples include chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and artificial sweeteners (such as xylitol). Ingesting these substances can have severe health consequences and even be fatal for cats. 
  • Portion Control Difficulties: Human foods often come in larger portions than what is appropriate for cats. Feeding them these larger portions can result in overheating, leading to weight gain and obesity. 
  • Lack of Dietary Guidance: Feeding cats a well-balanced and appropriate diet requires knowledge of their specific nutritional needs. Without proper guidance, offering human foods may result in an unbalanced diet and potential health issues.

2. Lack of Physical Activity: 

Cats are natural hunters and have an innate need for physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. However, indoor cats, in particular, may have limited opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. The lack of physical activity can contribute to weight gain.

3. Neutering and Hormonal Changes:

Spayed or neutered cats often experience metabolic changes that can lead to weight gain. Neutered cats may have a decreased metabolic rate and increased appetite, making them more susceptible to obesity.  

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2017) examined the relationship between neutering and obesity in cats. It found that spayed female cats had a higher risk of obesity than intact females or neutered males. The study emphasized the importance of monitoring caloric intake and adjusting feeding habits post-neutering.  

4. Genetic Predisposition: 

Certain cat breeds have a higher genetic susceptibility to obesity. These breeds may have a slower metabolic rate or an increased tendency to overeat, making weight management more challenging. 

Recognizing the signs and understanding the causes of obesity in cats is crucial for early detection and prevention. By observing changes in weight, body condition, and behaviour, as well as addressing underlying factors such as overfeeding and lack of physical activity, we can help our feline companions maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being. 


  • Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. (2020). Cat Obesity Risks & Causes. Retrieved from https://petobesityprevention.org/cat-obesity-risks-causes/ 
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (n.d.). Obesity in Cats: Overview. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-diseases/obesity 
  • German, A.J. (2006). Obesity in Companion Animals. In: Handbook of Behavior, Food, and Nutrition. CRC Press.Courcier, E.A., et al. (2010).  
  • Prevalence and Risk Factors for Feline Obesity in a First Opinion Practice in Glasgow, Scotland. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 12(10), 746-753. 
    Teng, K.T., et al. (2020).  
  • Obesity-Related Metabolic Dysfunction in Cats: A Review. Veterinary Sciences, 7(3), 109. 

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