In 2018, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) classified obesity as a disease, with 59.5% of cats being clinically overweight or obese.
But many cat parents have a hard time evaluating their cat’s weight. One study showed that only 10% of people with an overweight cat knew that their cat was overweight.
And on the other end, your cat might actually be underweight or losing weight without you being aware or knowing what their ideal weight should be. Unexplained weight loss in cats can be a sign of serious health issues or diseases, so it’s crucial to know what your cat should weigh and to monitor their weight gain or loss.
So, what is a healthy weight for a cat?
What Should the Average Cat Weigh?
In veterinary medicine, we often say that the ideal weight for the average healthy cat is 10 pounds.
We follow that statement with the qualifier that healthy cats come in a variety of sizes and weights. More than the weight alone, we must evaluate the body frame size and the lean muscle mass of a cat.
How Is a Cat’s Ideal Weight Determined?
To account for all of the variables (body frame, lean muscle mass, etc.) and make this evaluation less subjective and more standardized, veterinarians developed the “Body Condition Score” chart.
This chart categorizes the body condition of a cat on a 9-point scale—with 9 being morbidly obese and 1 being extremely emaciated. Ideally, your cat should fall into the 4-5 range.
How to Use the Body Condition Score Chart
To use the body condition score chart, you will need to physically and visually evaluate your cat.
A healthy cat has only a very small amount of fat covering their ribs. So when you run your hands over the rib cage, you should be able to feel the ribs without having to search through a layer of fat.
A cat’s fluffy coat can make it difficult to visually evaluate their body, but there are some strategies you can use. Stand above your cat and look down. Your cat’s body should have a slight hourglass shape as the abdomen tucks in a bit behind the rib cage.
When you look at your cat from the side, their body should only very slightly tuck up behind the rib cage and have a very minimal abdominal fat pad.
If you are unsure of where your cat falls on the chart, ask your veterinarian to assess your cat’s weight and provide you with appropriate feedback.
Does the Average Healthy Cat Weight Vary Amongst Breeds?
The difference in body size between breeds of cat can be significant.
Some breeds, like the Abyssinian, are meant to be long and lithe with delicate features. These more petite cats can have a healthy body weight of as little as 7-8 pounds.
Maine Coon cats are bred to have a medium to large body frame with broad chests and strong features, and may have a healthy body weight of over 20 pounds.
The best way to learn if your cat is at a healthy weight is to work with your veterinarian. They can account for the variables (body frame, muscle mass and breed) in order to determine what your cat’s ideal healthy weight is.
And through annual checkups, you can ensure that your cat is maintaining their healthy weight into their adult and senior years.
By: Dr. Elizabeth Bales, DVM
Featured Image: iStock.com/SValeriia