Is My Cat Too Fat? Here's What an Average Cat Should Weigh
Just like people, every cat is special and unique. A healthy weight for one male cat might be different from another male, and the same goes for female cats, old cats, young cats, kittens, and especially different cat breeds.
However, because issues that affect weight—like internal disease, parasites, cat owners feeding too little or too much, or lack of exercise—can lead to health problems for your favorite feline, it's important to know some benchmarks: What does an average cat weigh? What about different breeds, like a big Maine coon cat? Most importantly, what's normal and healthy for your cat?
Here, two veterinarians who specialize in feline health "weigh" in.
Average Healthy Weight for a Female Cat
Your female cat's weight will differ based on breed, age, and lifestyle, so it's best to check with someone who really knows your cat and your cat's health issues.
"The best way to know if your cat is in the 'ballpark' range for weight is to have your veterinary professional give an evaluation," says Renee Rucinsky, DVM, Dipl., ABVP at Mid Atlantic Cat Hospital in Queenstown, Md.
Healthy adult male and female cats average roughly 11 pounds. But Rucinsky has seen healthy, full-grown Maine coon cats as heavy as 20 pounds, and Himalayan cats as small as 7 pounds.
Kelly St. Denis, DVM, another board-certified feline veterinarian and current president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, says cats' weight changes the most when they're kittens.
"On their first visits to me at 6 to 8 weeks of age, kittens can weigh from just under 2.2 pounds to 4.5 pounds," says St. Denis. "With each visit, their body weight increases, with adult weights reached at about 9 to 12 months."
Average Healthy Weight for a Male Cat
Male cats may sometimes be a little bigger than female cats, but there isn't a huge difference. The big difference is kittens vs. adult cats, and large breeds vs. small breeds.
One technique that veterinarians use every day to figure out whether a male or female cat is at a healthy weight is body condition scoring. St. Denis uses a body condition scoring system and a muscle condition scoring system publicized by the World Small Animal Veterinarian Association that looks at:
- How well you can see a cat's ribs (and possibly a layer of too much fat)
- Whether a cat has a visible waist behind the ribs and before the legs
- How far down a cat's belly hangs
St. Denis encourages cat owners to become familiar with a body condition scoring system and compare their cat's body month-to-month and year-to-year to watch for changes.
Rucinsky recommends watching body condition scoring as well as logging weight monthly. "If there's a trend up or down over several months, or a quick change over a month, that's a reason to reach out to a veterinarian," she says. Because early growth is so important, St. Denis says that kitten owners should check kittens' weights weekly and learn a little bit about the basics of cat nutrition.
What to Do If Your Cat Is Overweight
More than 50 percent of cats in North America are overweight, says St. Denis, and although chubby cats are cute, obesity and extra weight can increase the risk of diabetes as well as skin or urinary illness, because overweight cats sometimes have trouble grooming themselves properly. Excess weight restricts mobility and may intensify orthopedic conditions like arthritis because it puts additional stress on the joints.
Veterinarians who see that a cat is overweight will develop a plan to help your cat be more active or offer feeding recommendations to adjust your cat's calorie intake. Just like people, cats can experience weight loss or weight gain as they age, so a diet change (a different food or less of it) might especially be in order for an aging cat.
Extreme weight loss plans, however, are out, according to St. Denis. "Cats with excessive, rapid weight loss can develop serious health issues related to underfeeding."
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What to Do If Your Cat Is Underweight
If you notice that your cat is losing weight and it's not part of a gradual weight loss plan to take off extra pounds, see your veterinarian sooner rather than later, says St. Denis.
"Weight loss is a significant marker of disease in cats, even 2 to 3 years in advance of other disease signs becoming evident," she says. "Kidney disease, cancer, and hyperthyroidism are examples of diseases that often cause weight loss early in the disease process."