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Ask the Vet: Overweight Cats Risk Serious Disease

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: My cat Fred's fat underbelly swings when he walks. I think it's cute, but his veterinarian says he needs to lose weight. What's wrong with a cat being overweight?

A: Fred has lots of company: The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that 60% of U.S. cats are overweight or obese.

That statistic isn't surprising, since most domestic cats live sedentary indoor lives where eating is the most exciting activity of the day. High-carbohydrate, calorie-dense kibble is freely available in most homes, and cats are allowed to feast whenever they wish.

Contrast that to cats living in the wild, where these solitary hunters eat small rodents and birds -- meals that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. Because only 10% of their 100 to 150 daily hunting attempts are successful, they must actively hunt six to eight hours every day.

While you see Fred's fat belly as cute, being overweight increases his risk of disease, pain and premature death.

Overweight cats are prone to diabetes, osteoarthritis and back pain. Often they can't even reach around to groom themselves. In addition, overweight cats are more likely to develop urinary disorders, breathing difficulties, heart problems and cancer.


When they are 8 to 12 years old, obese cats are 2.8 times more likely to die than cats of healthy weight.

To help Fred lose weight, decrease his calorie intake and help him become more active.

Read labels to choose low-calorie food, or ask Fred's veterinarian to recommend an appropriate diet. Use a measuring cup or kitchen scale to accurately apportion his food.

Cats meow when they want attention, but many people misunderstand and give their cats food instead. When Fred meows, cuddle and play with him until he's had his fill of affection.


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