Are Flabby Tabbies Amusing? There’s Nothing Humorous about Feline Obesity

Flabby obese catWhile many folks think that fat cats are amusing and cute, there is nothing humorous about feline obesity. In fact, quite to the contrary; fat kitties are at a much higher increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, liver problems, arthritis, cancer and a host of other disabling conditions.

Obese cats may often have extreme difficulty in self-grooming, Compared to cats of normal weight, chunky kitties are at a much higher risk of having troublesome non-allergic skin disorders, such as feline acne, and flakey dry skin. Dry skin is generally itchy resulting in skin sores from excessive scratching.

Overweight cats are often in pain or uncomfortable. As a result of their discomfort this frequently leads to a lack of interest in playful behavior; becoming a couch potato spending most of their time dozing on the living room couch, or similar areas. Chunky kitties are not having much fun. Many of them become depressed and bored since they find themselves trapped in their oversize bodies.

The most common reason for kitties to become overweight obviously is the same way that humans gain weight; their daily consumption of calories exceeds the amount than can be burned off by either normal metabolic processes, or general activity and exercise. And if you have ever tried to play with a chubby kitty, I am sure that your cat lost interest in the game way before you did. It simply requires more energy than the kitty can spare, since just moving around the house may tire them out.

How to tell if your cat is overweight:

It can be difficult for long-haired kitty guardians to recognize that their cat is in fact, overweight. Those mounds of fur can hide a wealth of crucial information about the truth of a cat’s body condition. Naturally, it’s much easier to judge whether a short haired cat is carrying unnecessary extra pounds.

According to Dr. Louise Murray, the Director of Medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City, to ascertain if your cat is overweight or on the other paw, in optimum physical shape, one way to tell is if you are able to feel her ribs, hip bones and spine; although you should not see them. If you can’t feel them, this is generally one of the signs that your cat may be overweight.

Another method to judge if your cat is overweight is to observe the kitty by looking down at her from above and see if there is a circular shape or bulge at the waistline. While it’s perfectly fine if the cat has a little bit of loose skin, (it’s just a part of the anatomy of a feline); however, if the cat’s midsection is rounded, that is a rather compelling sign that she is more likely overweight.

Tips and tricks for managing feline weight control:

To keep your cat at optimum weight or to help your overweight cat to shed those extra pounds is to feed them grainless canned food or a safe and appropriate raw food diet (and see raw food diet on PoC).

While it’s convenient for cat owners to feed dry food only, it is not appropriate for a feline’s nutritional needs. Since cats are obligate carnivores they need meat- not carbs. Feeding your cat a “Catkins” diet (high in protein and low in carbohydrates), promotes both good health and weight control. This should be a high quality cat food containing all the correct proportions of fats, proteins and other essential nutrients. Learning to read canned cat food labels is essential to avoid products that are high in carbs and low in protein.

However, prior to launching an exercise or diet program for your cat, consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assess whether your cat is sufficiently healthy to begin an exercise program.

With patience, care and determination a flabby tabby can be returned to a normal weight and also help to maintain a healthier lifestyle; which can add many years onto her life.

What kind of physical condition is your cat in presently? Tell us in a comment.


Photo credit: Flicker user

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Are Flabby Tabbies Amusing? There’s Nothing Humorous about Feline Obesity — 28 Comments

  1. I have 11 kitties — all adopted or rescued. . . 2 of my boys, and 2 of my girls are borderline fat, but I follow my vet’s instructions on a feeding plan — and it seems to be working good for them. . .He (my vet) has been pleased with all of them so far in their yearly check-ups. .. <3

  2. I think decreased exercise as they age has a lot to do with it, as does spaying/neutering. Indoor cats also have less space to run and tend to get bored and sleep more.

    To be fair, some cats are thicker than others. My 2 current overlords fall into the thicker category. They are already on a raw diet and I don’t give them that much, so I don’t care if they don’t win any modeling awards.

      • Martha, if you can’t upload a picture it is probably because it is too large a file meaning more than 2,000,000 bytes. Just below the comment box will see a link to how to reduce the file size. Sorry about this but 2,000,000 bytes is a very large picture.

    • Did you find that the raw diet helped with losing weight and in other ways? Also, do you make your own raw diet or buy it in? I’m interested in raw diets for cats 😉

      • These 2 cats have always been fed a raw diet so they were never fat to begin with. Interestingly it helps with the litter box quite a bit….they poop smaller and it does not smell….it is quite fascinating how that works out but you have to be a real cat person to appreciate it!

        I make my own raw food although but I take a very easy approach. I’m lucky to have a butcher shop nearby so I buy the meat already ground with the organs and bones. So the butcher does the hard work.

        I use Alnutrin in the food; this is a powdered supplement containing the essential vitamins and minerals. This is a “better safe than sorry” thing for me because in theory the meat contains all the nutrition since the meat is made up of the whole animal. For example heart is the principal source of taurine, thyroid for iodine, bone for calcium, etc. I also buy fish oil for omega 3’s (because fish oil cannot be made into a powder form). I think if you use only some animal parts it becomes critical to supplement the food, but I take the safest approach and supplement anyway.

        So anyway here is what I do. I mix the powdered supplement and fish oil into water, and combine this water mixture with the meat in a large bowl. Then I apportion it into small containers and freeze. It takes me at most an hour to make 7.5 pounds of food, including cleanup. To say I “make” it is taking a lot of credit that I don’t deserve because you see how little I actually have to do.

        It comes out being much cheaper than buying commercially made raw food and I know I am getting the best available meat. A word of caution about using grocery meats….they are fine for cooking but since grocery meat sits unfrozen in the grocery store it has begun to grow bacteria, so it should be avoided for raw feeding. That’s not to say that a cat will absolutely get sick from eating it but it is like lung cancer – everyone who smokes does not get it but that doesn’t meat the risk isn’t there.

        A lot of raw feeders prefer to feed the animal parts without grinding and that is supposed to have the added benefit of maintaining healthy teeth from having to chew bone. In this case no supplementation is done to the food. However, the important thing then becomes tracking what you are feeding so that you know you are feeding balanced nutrition.

        I’ve been raw feeding for over a year and I had my cats bloodwork done at the one year mark and their values were perfect, so I am very comfortable with what I’m doing. They eat the whole thing in under 5 minutes so there are no complaints 🙂

    • I think decreased exercise as they age has a lot to do with it,

      Agree but I believe it goes further than that. At most ages many cats are not active enough because there are no facilities (outside…!) in which to be active.

      I always felt that there needs to be a shift in the average cat owner’s attitude to letting a cat do what he does naturally – be outside roaming and hunting etc.. The trouble is there is nowhere safe to for a cat to do it and cat haters don’t like cats roaming and hunting etc..I agree that often it is not safe to let a cat out for all kinds of reasons.

      We are stuck with indoor cats sleeping. Crazy. It is bound to lead to an obesity epidemic.

  3. Spaying or neutering a cat or a dog is the prime reason for it gaining weight. Excess over-feeding is the next cause. A survey done on cats will definitely support my claim on the reasons for cats gaining excessive weight.Just because a cat is a “Indoors Cat” doesn’t mean it gains weight as cats burn out their calories as fast as they eat .I am sure that the World’s heaviest cat that last held the “Guinness book of world records” was either spayed or neutered.In my fish market there was a cat loved by everyone called “Radhe(Rajesh)” as he resembled “Kingkong” compared to other feral cats in the market. He was larger and more fat,a result of neutering and post medical treatment. I have written an article on him on “P.O.C”. Sadly, he has disappeared from the fish maket a few2 months ago and his disappearance is also a mystery akin to his freak “King Kong” size.I have attached a photo of “Radhe(Rajesh)”.

      • Rudolph! Thanks for you comment.

        In the USA at least, this is one of the main reasons that folks decide NOT to spay or neuter their cats. This said, with proper diet and exercise neutered and spayed cats do NOT have to get fat. We have two Oriental Shorthair kitties that are in top shape as far as their weight is concerned. We carefully watch their caloric intake, go very light on treats,and exercise them at least 4-5x a week.

        It’s very frustrating for us who advocate the very important surgery, not only for population control, but to keep them happier and healthier. If all female kitties were spayed before their first estrus, breast and reproductive organ cancer is a thing of the past.

        Obesity is the number one reason for so many serious medical conditions- and I wish folks would get it, that there is nothing comical about a fat cat; it’s just sad.

  4. No it’s not amusing to see overweight cats and I hate seeing photos of them with their owners proudly holding them up in undignified positions.
    I think lack of exercise contributes, because what has a bored cat to do but eat and sleep?
    Walter put a bit of weight on the winter before last as he didn’t get out as much, so we devised chasey games to play with him, he’s very fit for almost 13 years old, as is Jozef too.
    I think hit the happy medium with cats, not pathetically skinny, not obese is fine.

    • think lack of exercise contributes, because what has a bored cat to do but eat and sleep?

      I have a feeling that boredom is a hidden (big) problem for the domestic cat. If we ask a cat how he felt it would help and I have a feeling he’s say he was bored too much.

      There is not enough focus, in general, on allowing a cat to do what he does so well naturally – roaming and territory checks and hunting etc.. It is a failure of domestication.

      • Yes it’s a shame so many cats are deprived of some natural life, some people say cats don’t want to go out, but as with everything else they have no choice but to accept their fate, so they make the best of what they have.

  5. Having overweight cats is a problem. We have a multi cat home and we have only one cat that is overweight. Most of his problem stems from lack of food in his former life. The owner just didn’t have the money for proper food and the cat was fed the cheapest food available and often had to share the dog’s cheap food. Proper care was not something he was used to either. He has many spots on his body where he received tick bites, especially in his ears. Now that he is with us he is starting to show signs of weight problems. He is, however, the only obese cat in the house. We have amped up the play time with him and he is leash walked to get him active. At the age of 14 yrs or older he is just not very energetic.

    Obese cats are not cute or funny. So many problems can arise from being “plump.” My biggest concern is that if you feel that a cat needs to go outside, it be done on a leash or build an enclosure. We have an enclosure that the cats love. They race through the house, out into the enclosure and back. Lots of exercise and fresh air without the dangers awaiting them.
    Thanks for a great article. Always enjoy the read.

  6. Well, I find cats much more attractive than humans, and I’ve never met, seen, thought about, or imagined a cat I didn’t love and find extremely lovely/handsome/fine. But cats in their natural state are very slender, muscular and agile. They have to be. While I also think the shape of a round cat is cute, I know that this is not “normal” for a cat, nor is it healthy. And obese cats? My impulse is to post information to their caregiver(s) about diet and wellness. Obese cats rank only slightly above obese humans on the “cuteness” scale, (and that’s not saying a lot!)

  7. I am by no means a cat expert, however, I do know that being obese is not good for cats, dogs, or even horses for that matter. Although we no longer have our cat, we were very picky about what he ate. He did not get a lot of exercise mainly because he was strictly an indoor cat. He lived to be sixteen-years old and even though he is now gone, I will never have any regrets about his health care.

  8. Jo – a very thoughtful and comprehensive essay! I won’t thank you for writing it, as my interest in cat diets is purely vicarious, right now, as I have no plans for any more cats in this household. (Sidney Vicious, the next-door, neglected and starved cat is the sole exception, and he gets nothing but Friskies and Fancy Feast when he comes begging twice daily).

    But you’re certainly right regarding the drawbacks of feeding your cats convenience pellets. Many people do this, it seems, and those of their cats I’ve seen look like ‘corn-dogs’ in later life. (You are what you eat.) Feeding a cat cornmeal pellets is as unnatural as stuffing corn into bovines: they didn’t evolve to thrive on these fillers. And now many vets are saying that even zero-carb pellets can cause urinary problems, etc. Bottom line, there’s nothing in nature resembling these things except for the droppings of ungulates (whatever they’re called). It’s understandable animal lovers and sanctuaries/pounds cannot afford canned or fresh meats — but all too any cat and dog ‘owners’ feed their animals commercial kibbles because it’s cheap, quick, and easy.

    I would, though, respectfully disagree with one portion of your great essay – and the opinion isn’t yours: it’s that advanced by Dr. Louise Murray. Based upon my own experience, the ability to feel your cat’s spine is the beginning of the end: the first, infallible symptom of approaching death. Over the years, I’ve noticed this in every one of my cats who aged and died. Once you feel that spinal protrusion, there isn’t a single remedy the vet can come up with to save your cat. I’m also uneasy with being able to feel a cat’s ribs and hips. These skeletal structures in my cats were never that close to the skin until the cats were either succumbing to some sort of wasting disease or had reached old age. Yet none of my cats were obese.

    Also have to tell you: that photo reminded me of my sweet Ethel, who enjoyed sitting up when she had her little pillow behind her for back support.

    p.s. Was very impressed by S. Florida Dawg’s recipe for raw cat food. Comprehensive to the nth, and also simple enough for anyone to follow. The raw food recipes of many online vets are so daunting in their complexity, you have to wonder how many cat parents would think of putting themselves to the trouble.

  9. Hi Sylvia Ann,

    I found a chart showing the body sizes and shapes of both underweight, normal and overweight kitties. It goes without saying that certain breeds have their own specific body appearances- i.e. the Siamese, Oriental, Rex, etc are slim and trim appearing cats if their weight is optimum, and some of the long hair breeds may appear on the surface to be “chunky”, but feeling the body under all that fur is the best way to determine whether the cat is overweight- etc. but I thought this chart might be helpful.

    My lilac point Oriental, Dr. Hush Puppy has always been on the lean side but at 8.5 lbs his weight is just about where it should be.He is a neuter, and never has had a tendency to chubiness, but his brother, Sir Hubble Pinkerton- a white Oriental is a tad overweight, hovering between 10.8 to 11 pounds. I still can feel his spine but it is not as prominant as his brother’s.

    • Jo, the reason why your comments were held for moderation by the software was because your email address is spelled slightly differently (capital “T” at the beginning). This runs automatically. I don’t get involved.

  10. P.S. I think the operative word is if you can SEE the spine, ribs, etc the cat is too thin. Feeling them is ok, but certainly not seeing them.

  11. ‘What a revolting development!’ (Riley)

    Hi, Jo –Tried to transmit a reply to you five minutes ago, and got the same old ‘Cannot Display Page’ blather, so will type this in C-drive and see if it will paste in and transmit. Not that I have any overweening hopes for this brand-new computer.

    Thank you for the chart and great comments!

    I realize that different breeds of cats have different bodily configurations. Your Sir Hubble P. and Hush Puppy are gorgeously svelte, as that breed should be. I’ve also seen other hybrid cats (if that’s the right word) without an ounce of cellulite.

    But while none of my moggies throughout the years were anywhere to being obese, they all displayed ‘protrusions’ only when they were sinking into a decline because of old age, or – if they were younger – from some disease (in days of yore, they were outdoor cats who came in the house only when they wanted, the reason being that I lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t overrun with hundreds of half-starved cats and other wildlife).

    Ethel, however, my little girl, was borderline ‘Rubenesque.’ She was skeletal when she first came knocking on my door eight years ago and – from the day I adopted her – loved to be indoors or to loll on the screened-in sun porch. She didn’t miss the outdoors at all. She was also sedentary, and very well fed. But in the final two months of her life, I felt her spine and hips where there were none before, and diagnosed the little knobs as harbingers of death. — But today is a day I want to be happy and not in tears, so won’t dwell on my kids. —

    I of course see your point, though; a slender cat can be in perfect health. Which doesn’t mean I’m sure Sidney Vicious is healthy, however: he isn’t my cat, nor do I want any more cats. It isn’t because I dislike cats – it’s just that I can’t keep feeding other people’s strays for $60.00 a month each, not to mention their vet bills as they age and grow frail. Have been doing this for 30 years, and have reached the end. While he is still young, judging from the whiteness of his teeth, I also suspect he’s infected with FeLV or some other ailment, as his ‘owner’ lets him roam at will. But his thinness isn’t a sign of a blue-ribbon cat: it’s a symptom – I think – of his poor condition. His muscles are flat, hard and stringy, and his hips and spine and every other bone in his body are painfully prominent, even though I feed him twice daily.

    Again, this may be my personal bias. In a nutshell, what you have at this end is someone who’d take home every whippet and greyhound on the planet and feed them four times a day, if I could. Neither can I bear to see dogs with slashed, splinted ears and docked tails, and admire any vet who refuses to perform these mutilations.

    Anyhow, thanks so much for the super chart and helpful comments! Your essay was a fascinating, informative read.

    • Sylvia Ann, I SO agree with you about people that want to “tailor” make an animal to fit into an artificial standard set for show purposes. Docking tails and clipping ears is, also in my opinion an act of cruelty. Although I am not super religious, it seems to me that if God wanted these animals to have ears and tails that meet the “standard” He would have created them that way.

      Simply speaking dogs need their tails and ears!

      Seems to me that the mutations that occur in kitties such as the Manx and Japanese Bobtail happen for a reason. Of course the Manx cat carries a lethal gene that can cause spina bifita in the breed if two “rumpies” are bred, so that mutation is rather tricky. Yet the Manx cats flourish.

      I can tell how much you love animals, and I totally admire all the work you have done to help them. Would that more people would have that compassion and desire to take care of these animals and give them the great homes they all deserve.

      Thank you for your very kind words about the article as well.

      Bonks to you!

  12. Well i agree that as Cats get older they start putting on extra weight, this was certainly the case for Cassy. She always had what the vet called baby fat. I guess, you’ve always got to be careful what you give them. I think thats ,why its important to have regular appointments especially when they get older. Thats what I’ve found anyway. With them all being Outside/inside cats they get both worlds. Its important i believe to have special play time with them especially the older ones.

  13. Jo – It’s unlikely you’ll read this, as it’s been shuffled into the Catacombs, but thank you for your lovely comments. Actually, I haven’t done a fraction of what most PoC-ites have done for their own and legions of stray cats.

    I was interested in your comment about the Manx – you’re clearly knowledgeable in feline genetics, which I am not. It’s hard to know how not having a tail could be a boon, but Louisa, whom I mentioned to you a few days ago, was a Manx, as was her years-ago predecessor – also named Louisa. While they had a hard time balancing on a fence, both had unforgettable personalities.

    Am glad you feel the same about ‘docking’ and ‘splinting.’ I have no admiration for people who do this to their animals, and still remember a dentist who married my Liz Taylor look-alike girlfriend from grammar school days. I lived in S.F. at the time, and they in Fresno, and one day they invited me down there to visit. While I was sitting in their kitchen the next morning,I heard these faint, heartrending squeaks. David had gone out to the garage and was splitting the ears, with a dental scalpel, of these newborn Doberman pups Heidi had given birth to a few days before. With my typical tact,I packed my overnight bag and left.

    Neither can I stand what I’ve caught sight of behind the scenes at dog and cat shows: the ‘owners’ brushing white powder into their animals’ coats, the back-combing and blow-drying the poor victims. As for the frou-frou trims…guess they’re okay if you’re into frilly artificiality, none of which the animal enjoys. (It’s all reminiscent of Jon Benet Ramsey.)

    Most of all, though, I’m appalled by the breeding of dogs whose deformations amuse their ‘owners.’ When a Sharpei needs a blapheroplasty (sp)to see where he’s going…well…there are no polite words for these breeders. Equally hurtful is to see and hear boxers, bulldogs and Pekinese wheezing for breath through their compressed air passages.

    And as for those doll-faced (translation: FLAT-faced)Persian cats with their oozing tear ducts…yes. They’re irresistibly cute. If you want cute, you can’t beat the photo of the kitten on the Israel Bans Declawing website. But at what price? Sorry. Not under this roof.

    ps. Though it’s of zero consequence,I never go by ‘Sylvia Ann’ – I added the ‘Ann’ because R. and B’s next-door neighbor (whom they sorely miss) was also named S., so I tacked on my middle name three-four years ago to make the neighbor happy.

    Take care!

  14. Hi there, Kylie!

    You sound like someone who cares about her kids. It’s wonderful of you to take them him for an annual checkup, even when they show no signs of illness. Would that I had neighbors as caring as you! You also take time to play with your cats, even when they’re old and stodgy. I can also tell, from all your nice posts, how much you still miss your fur-children who’ve passed away over the years. To this I can relate. While no one knows another person’s inner landscape – is there anything more annoying than people who tell you ‘I know exactly how you feel!’? No, I don’t know any such thing, but can probably guess what you’ve gone through to lose your cats, as I’ve been there too. Anyhow, this would be a nice place to live if the neighbors had a fraction of the solicitude you have for your kids. Give them a pet for me!

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