Obesity in cats: risk factors

Obesity in cats: risk factors

Following on from my two blog posts on obesity in dogs, this post will be specific to obesity in cats.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 59% of cats are obese. This post will discuss the risk factors for obesity in cats and any associated conditions will be discussed in my next post.

Risk Factors


Neutering has been classed as an important risk factor for obesity for some time now. Although, the reason behind this has been disputed. One reason could be due to an increased food intake following neutering, the other reason could be that neutering leads to reduced exercise. Both reasons result in weight gain. Neutering also decreases the rate at which calories are burned, which results in an increase in fat.


Underestimation of body weight by owner

In one study, it was found that owners are not good at perceiving the weight of their cats – what do I mean by this? Owners considered normal cats to be underweight. This can result in owners feeding their cats more so they are more likely to put on weight. Figure 1 shows a diagram of what cats look like when they are at certain weights and owners should make sure their cats are in the middle – the picture corresponding to ideal. If you are unsure of your cats weight you should always speak to your vet.


Figure 1 Diagram showing different weights of cats. Taken from: https://www.valleyfarmvet.co.za/vf_fat_fighters.htm



Cats under the age of 1 are less likely to be obese. However, between the ages of 2-9 years old (adult) cats are more likely to become obese. Activity decreases as cats age and this contributes to the increase in weight.



Food prescribed by vets has been considered a risk factor for obesity. This food is premium food and contains more calories, so overfeeding will result in excess weight being put on. Furthermore, guidelines on how much food should be fed to your cat can often be ignored, owners should weigh out their cat’s food before feeding them so they know they are providing the right amount.

If food is available to cats at all times, they are more likely to be obese compared to those cats that were fed meals. Cats fed treats more than twice a week are also fatter than those fed treats less than twice a week.

This website gives more information on how food intake affects your cat – http://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/evr_ct_obesity_in_cats_and_what_to_do_about_an_overweight_cat



Restricting a cat to apartment living is associated with obesity due to decreased opportunity for exercise and increased feeding due to loneliness or boredom. Cats that spend less time outside are more likely to be obese so it is important that cats have access to the outdoors so they can get sufficient exercise.

Cats living in households with over 2 cats were less likely to be obese. This may be due to food being shared out or due to increased exercise resulting from playing with other cats in the household. However, another study found that cats in households with over four cats were more likely to become obese, potentially down to inadequate separation at meal times.


Some studies have suggested that mixed breed cats are more likely to be obese although during my search of the literature I couldn’t find any reasons why this may be.


Preventing your cat from becoming obese is imperative as weight management to rectify obesity is much more difficult. Being aware of the risk factors for obesity in cats will help owners to prevent their cats becoming obese.


See you next time…




Colliard, L., Paragon, B.M., Lemuet, B., Bénet, J.J., Blanchard, G. 2009. Prevalence and risk factors of obesity in an urban population of healthy cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 11, 135-140.

Laflamme, D.P. 2006. Understanding and Managing Obesity in Dogs and Cats. Vet Clin Small Anim, 36, 1283-1295.

Robertson, I.D. 1999. The influence of diet and other factors on owner perceived obesity in privately owned cats from metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Preventative Veterinary Medicine, 40, 75-85.

Russell, K., Sabin, R., Holt, S., Bradley, R., Harper, E.J. 2000. Influence of feeding regiment on body condition in the cat. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 41, 12-17.

Scarlett, J.M., Donoghue, S., Saidla, J., Wills, J. 1994. Overweight cats: prevalence and risk factors. Int. J. Obesity, 18, S22-S28.


Disclaimer: This blog is intended for interest and education only. I am not a vet and if you have any concerns about your pet you must always consult a veterinary surgeon.


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