7 Reasons Why Cat Obesity Is Dangerous (Vet Answer)

A large percentage of households in North America share their homes with a feline companion. A recent 2022 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention suggests that 61% of owned cats are overweight, with 38% of those being classified as obese. 1 Obesity is defined as being more than 20% over the ideal body weight. This is a growing concern and needs to be addressed due to the undeniable health risk it poses. Below are seven ways cat obesity can be dangerous to your companion.


The 7 Reasons Why Cat Obesity Is Dangerous

1. Increased risk of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a condition defined as high levels of glucose found in the blood and urine. Type II diabetes typically occurs in cats due to inadequate insulin production, the hormone responsible for glucose regulation. Signs of diabetes mellitus include drastic weight loss, an increase in urination/water intake, and changes in appetite.

Cats that have developed diabetes need help in controlling their blood glucose levels through a strict diet, weight loss, and glucose regulation, which is typically achieved through insulin therapy. Treatment of diabetes requires time and dedication from the pet owner, as most cats will receive twice-daily injections of insulin.

Inadequate control of diabetes mellitus can lead to complications including secondary urinary tract infections, diabetic ketoacidosis, and poor quality of life. Cats can experience remission from diabetes with appropriate treatment and weight loss.

a fat cat lying on the ground outdoor
Image Credit: Almi, Pixabay

2. Arthritis

Obesity significantly increases the chances of arthritis and limits mobility. Cats that are considered obese carry, at minimum, 20% over their ideal body weight, putting added strain on their small frame, leading to boney changes. Additionally, fat releases different substances that cause inflammation, which further causes discomfort.

As a patient becomes arthritic, weight loss becomes harder to achieve as patient discomfort increases. Supportive therapies like joint supplements and pain relief are suggested. It is recommended that you speak with your veterinarian to learn more information regarding possible interventions.

3. Increased Anesthetic Risk

Like humans, obesity causes strain on the heart, which can lead to cardiac changes and hypertension. Additionally, obese patients often struggle with respirations due to the inability to fully expand their chest secondary to fat accumulation. These factors are associated with an increased risk of anesthetic complications 1. Obese patients will require respiratory support in the form of preoxygenation and ventilation during anesthesia. Drug dosing and selection must be adjusted in overweight cats and recovery time may be prolonged.

a fat persian cat lying sideways on wooden surface
Image Credit: jklugiewicz, Pixabay

4. Hepatic Lipidosis

After food intake has decreased suddenly for a few days, whether due to diet restrictions or illness, the overweight cat’s body doesn’t know how to properly respond. Instead of using stored fat properly, the liver fails at trying to process fat, and fat enters the cells of the liver in a condition called hepatic lipidosis.

Once this occurs, the liver is not able to function appropriately, and systemic ramifications are noted. Signs of hepatic lipidosis can include anorexia, lethargy, jaundice (accumulation of bilirubin causing skin and mucus membranes to turn yellow), sudden weight loss, vomiting, and death.

5. Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Overweight cats are more likely to develop Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), a broad term used to describe conditions impacting the bladder and urethra. Examples of FLUTD include idiopathic cystitis, urinary tract infections, and bladder stones.

Cats experiencing FLUTD may have difficulty urinating, have blood in their urine, or urinate in inappropriate locations. Obese cats are more prone to the development of FLUTD due to their lifestyle.

Generally, overweight cats are sedentary and confined indoors. Both factors lead to stress and boredom in the cat, significantly increasing the risk of FLUTD development. Fat stimulates the release of inflammatory cells, which also contributes to the development of FLUTD.

fat shorthaired cat lying on the ground
Image Credit Eveline de Bruin, Pixabay

6. Constipation

Constipation may occur in patients dealing with obesity due to changes in mobility. Unfortunately, obese patients often struggle to gain access to the litter box, and the inability to hold a position makes it harder to defecate. As a result, patients may not defecate regularly or completely, leading to a backup of stool.

7. Shorter Lifespan

Obesity leads to a shorter life expectancy due to the above-mentioned health concerns and a perceived decrease in quality of life. Owners do not want to see their beloved companion become sedentary or struggle with day-to-day tasks. As a result, humane euthanasia may be pursued in some severe cases.


How to Determine if Your Cat Is Overweight

Your veterinarian will assign your pet a body condition score during a routine physical exam based on several parameters illustrated in the WSAVA body condition score chart. You can also utilize this chart to try to determine on your own the body condition of your companion. Body condition charts typically use a nine-point scale, with the ideal body condition score falling in the middle, and obesity as being at the higher end of the scale.


Ways to Combat Obesity

The goal for patients suffering from obesity is weight loss. This can be achieved through two main routes: diet and exercise. Your veterinarian is an excellent resource to help guide you on weight loss for your cat. It is recommended to frequently weigh your cat to ensure weight loss is gradual and to use achieved weight loss to adjust treatment plans.


The idea of exercising a cat sounds impossible; however, it can be done! Simple things like placing your cat’s food bowl far away from their preferred lounging location or 1–2 minutes of laser pointer play promote activity. There are toys designed that release a few kibbles at a time when batted around by your cat that can be a fun way to encourage activity while also providing a reward. Rehabilitation programs may also be available through your veterinarian.


Your veterinarian can help guide you on ways to adjust your cat’s diet to achieve weight loss. It is very important that weight loss is gradual. No more than 0.5–2% of body weight should be lost on a weekly basis. As mentioned above, a drastic decrease in caloric intake can result in hepatic lipidosis.

A diet change from a high carbohydrate diet to a high protein diet will likely be recommended. This may be achieved by switching your feline companion from a dry food to a canned diet, as these tend to be lower in carbohydrates. There are also specific veterinary diets available through your veterinarian designed to promote weight loss.


Importance of a Healthy Weight

Obesity poses several health risks to your feline companion. Improving your obese cat’s body condition will drastically improve your cat’s quality of life and life expectancy. Weight loss should be a gradual process and consultation with a veterinarian can help safely achieve this goal.

Featured Image Credit: Dennis van de Water, Shutterstock

The post 7 Reasons Why Cat Obesity Is Dangerous (Vet Answer) appeared first on PangoVet.


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