It’s easy to let your cat become obese. They’re simply too adorable when they beg for food with those big eyes. However, obesity can drastically affect your cat’s lifespan. While healthy cats have been known to live into their 20s, obese cats can have their life expectancy significantly reduced to 5–10 years.
Understanding obesity, what causes it, and the risks involved will help you understand why it’s such a big problem. In this guide, we help you determine whether your cat is at risk of obesity and how to safely prevent it and manage your cat’s weight.
Click below to jump ahead:
- How Long Do Healthy Cats Live?
- How Long Do Obese Cats Live?
- What Causes Obesity in Cats?
- What Are the Risks of Obesity in Cats?
- How to Tell If Your Cat Is Obese
- How to Prevent Obesity in Cats
How Long Do Healthy Cats Live?
Before you can fully understand how obesity affects your cat’s life expectancy, you need to know how long healthy cats can live. This can vary depending on the breed and health of the cat.
Another factor to consider is whether the cat is allowed outdoors and whether they’ve been spayed or neutered. Intact cats are prone to reproductive diseases and cancers that can lessen their life expectancy, and outdoor cats are more at risk of encountering predators or getting hit by cars.
On average, a healthy cat will live between 12 and 14 years. Some cats have been known to live much longer and can reach their 20s.
How Long Do Obese Cats Live?
While other factors can interfere with a cat’s lifespan, obesity is one of the most common. It affects almost 60% of cats in the U.S.A. and plays a huge part in a cat’s life expectancy. Excess weight, even a moderate amount, has a large impact on a cat’s health and longevity. Studies have shown that there is a 2.8 fold increase in mortality in obese cats between the ages of 8-12 years, when compared to lean cats.
A large, lifetime study of Labradors found that a moderately overweight group of dogs lived approximately 2 years less than the leaner dogs. Similar results are expected in cats and on average obese cats may have their life expectancy reduced to 5–10 years.
What Causes Obesity in Cats?
It’s easy to assume that obesity is only caused by overfeeding your cat. While diet and the amount of food that your cat eats are two of the biggest causes of obesity, there are other causes to consider.
How old your cat is can play a part in how much weight they put on. Usually, middle-aged cats are the most at risk of gaining too much weight. The cats that are most at risk are often between 8 and 12 years old. All cats are susceptible to obesity, but younger cats, particularly kittens, are usually active enough to burn off the calories that they eat.
There are a few ways that your cat’s diet can affect their weight. Obesity is most often caused by overeating. This can be due to excessive treats, indulgent or ad lib feeding practices, or something more accidental, like inaccurately measuring out their food for meals. Sometimes, it can be a mix of all three.
Indoor cats often have less to do than outdoor cats and are more likely to be overweight as a result. If their diet isn’t adjusted to match their activity levels, your cat’s tendency to spend all day napping in their favorite window can quickly lead to obesity. Always give your cat something to do, such as playing with toys or encouraging them to work for their food by using puzzle toys.
4. Underlying Health Conditions
Inactivity isn’t just caused by your cat’s environment; it can also be a result of an underlying health condition. A problem like arthritis is a common cause of obesity. If your cat is in pain whenever they move, they’ll be less inclined to want to get up and move around.
It’s not just joint issues that you need to consider, though. Food sensitivities and allergies, for example, can make it difficult to find a suitable weight management diet for your cat.
What Are the Risks of Obesity in Cats?
An overweight cat is often seen as adorable or cute. Unfortunately, obesity is an incredibly serious problem and can affect your cat’s lifespan and lead to severe health issues, as well as negatively impacting their quality of life.
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Obese
Obesity isn’t the same for all cats. Their breed, size, and age can all affect how much they weigh. Large breeds, for example, might weigh more than small cats, but this doesn’t mean they’re overweight. A cat’s ideal weight changes depending on the individual.
Sometimes you can tell if your cat is obese by looking at them from above. If you can’t see a waistline or they look rectangular, they might be overweight.
To properly figure out if your cat is obese, you first need to determine their ideal weight. This is what your cat should maintain and serves as a reference point for determining whether your cat is overweight. Cats that are more than 20% over their ideal body weight are considered obese.
A veterinarian will be able to help you determine your cat’s body condition score and whether your cat is the right weight, slightly overweight, or obese. They’ll also be able to help you manage your cat’s weight properly by recommending the right diet and exercise regime.
How to Prevent Obesity in Cats
Obesity in cats is preventable. It might not be an easy task, but with the right tactics, you can help your cat maintain a healthy weight. This will reduce your cat’s chances of becoming obese and keep them healthy.
Obese cats aren’t beyond hope, though, and you can help your cat lose weight. Just ask your veterinarian for advice, and always follow the recommended diet plan to ensure that your cat stays healthy while they lose weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can make a big difference to your cat’s quality of life.
Never resort to cutting down on your cat’s food altogether. You still need to ensure that your cat gets a balanced, nutritional diet. Instead, reduce the number of treats and snacks between meals, and don’t give them human foods! When it comes to their main diet, you need to adjust the portion sizes based on your veterinarian’s advice, the type of food, and how often you feed your cat. Weight loss should be slow and steady.
Obesity is a serious problem that affects about 60% of cats in the U.S.A. It’s defined as a cat weighing more than 20% of their ideal weight (based on age, activity, and breed) and can significantly reduce their life expectancy and quality of life, reducing your time with your cat.
Taking steps to prevent obesity and manage your cat’s weight will require patience and perseverance. The healthier weight your cat is, though, the less likely they will develop serious health issues , and the happier they’ll be.
Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock