Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

Are You Overfeeding Your Cat?

Image: University of Tennessee / Hill's

Battling the Bulge

Obesity is a growing problem in our feline population. In fact, over 50% of cats seen by veterinarians are judged to be either overweight or obese. However, with the proper diet, feeding schedule and exercise regime, this does not have to be so for your cat. Here are a few ways to begin.

Choose the Best Cat Food

Many factors need to be taken into account when choosing the proper food for your cat. It is important that the diet you choose be balanced and complete. It is also best to choose a food that is designed for your cat’s life stage. For instance, kittens do better when fed a “kitten food” formulated for growth. Older cats may have slower metabolism and may do better on a senior food, which contains fewer calories but still supplies the right level of nutrients. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian for a recommendation.

Measure the Meals

Feeding your cat free choice can be problematic, especially if your cat has a tendency to overeat. Cats fed two to three smaller, measured meals daily tend to maintain their weight better than those fed free choice. Refer to the guidelines provided on the food level and measure your cat’s food accurately. One cup is 8 ounces and refers to a level cup of food (as opposed to a heaping cup.)

Adjust According to Your Cat's Needs

Remember that the guidelines provided on a pet food label are guidelines only and may need to be adjusted based on your individual cat’s body condition and activity level. Learn to evaluate your cat’s body condition. Doing so will allow you to determine whether your cat is overweight, underweight or at an ideal body weight, which in turn will help you determine the proper amount of food to be given daily.

Evaluate Your Cat's Body Condition

If at an ideal body weight, you should be able to feel the ribs but not see them. There should be a slight waist evident when you look at your cat from above, if at an ideal weight. There should be flank folds present that do not jiggle or sway when your cat walks.


In an obese cat, the ribs and backbone will be difficult to feel. If there is a fold hanging down under your cat on either side that jiggles or sways when he walks, your cat is likely overweight. There may be little or no waist visible when viewed from above.


In an underweight cat, the ribs and pelvic bones will be visible. The flank folds may be absent or at least free of fat. The neck will be thin and the waist will be more prominent than normal. This may be a cat that is suffering from a chronic illness or a cat that is malnourished.

Consider Other Factors

Other factors to consider include your cat’s exercise and energy level. If your cat is a “couch potato”, she will need fewer calories than an active, adventurous cat. Cats that have been spayed or neutered will have altered metabolisms as well and their diet may need to be modified after surgery to avoid excess weight gain.

Consult Your Veterinarian

If in doubt, your veterinarian is the best source of information about your cat’s diet. Your veterinarian is familiar with your individual cat and can help you determine not only which type of food is most appropriate but also at what quantity. If your cat needs to be on a weight control program, your veterinarian can help you manage your cat’s weight loss while making certain that your cat is still receiving all necessary nutrients. A starvation diet is never appropriate for a cat, even if weight loss is necessary.

1 of 9

Comments  7

Leave Comment
  • Fat Cats
    02/28/2013 11:06am

    50% of cats are obese because so many of the owners keep their cats inside so they don't get proper exercise and then they leave a bowl of kibble cat food out all day so the poor cat sits there bored and eats too much--nothing else to do! Cat food companies add flavor enhancers to pet food to make the pets be attracted to it. The TV ads show a cat running up to the bowl of the advertised product and ignoring the brand X--this because the flavor enhancers attract the cat but also make the kitty keep eating too much. So then you get a bunch of fat cats--I call them canon balls and see them everyday. Our cat is trim and muscular and still plays like a kitten everyday (at 7 years) but he is out much of the day being a cat and he gets three table spoons of meat for dinner--that's it. Sure he might get hit by a car someday but at least he gets to live a real cat's life--not locked up in an apartment so the owner can feel better--how does the cat feel being cooped up all the time? We bring our cat in every night at dusk to eat.

  • 07/19/2014 03:04pm

    Would this be how you react to your child if he got hit by a car??? What kind of a guardian are you???

  • 01/13/2015 05:49pm

    Awww, i loved the descriptor there. . .. "like a friggen movie" hehehhe i have two inside cats one an old lady and the opther a wee kitten girl and neither of them shows the slightest inclination to go out , this makes me happy because the eponymous Mr Mow was asleep under a car and got squished. that made me very very sad so i rescued/emergency homed two other cats with the intention of having them as house cats and they seem very very happy with life. they do eat a lovely raw diet of chicken skin and bone and animal fat and knuckles all ground up plus top quality dry and wet foods. ooh and each week they get a raw egg broken onto their food shell and all.
    :-) they seem to love life and are really happy and playful and healthy.

  • 07/21/2014 10:10pm

    You guys may not agree with him, but he has a point. My cats (both 3), whom I love more than life itself, were kept indoors their entire lives until about 8 months ago. FIrst off, since being young cats, they incessantly tried to get out, and I strictly refused to allow them to go out. EVER. I'd open my front door a crack and put my foot in first, keeping my cats at bay until I could slip in. Anyways, I noticed that they were becoming obese despite lots of playtime, a healthy diet and regular veterinary care. I know the dangers outside, they terrify me, but I also know sitting in the house completely unstimulated, eating and sleeping ALL the time is no way to live. My mom built them a cat window (which they love), but one day they escaped from it. Neither left my yard and if you guys could have seen them that first instance outside. They chased a butterfly through the grass, tackled and flolicked together, chewed grass, rolled in dirt. I kid you not, it was like straight out of a friggen movie, and it was that instant I realized I owed them quality of life, not necessarily quantity. Don't get me wrong, come winter they won't be going out, I live on an island in Canada's extreme north. Once the lake freezes over, foxes, wolves and coyotes are everywhere, not to mention the cold. But in the summer, I let them be cats. I pay the price for it. Many a night when one doesn't come home when called I walk around my neighbourhood calling them, or come home early from a party to make sure my cats are in. Not to mention the increase in grooming and washing. If something were to ever happen it would kill me, but I know if they had the choice, they'd would have rather know what grass felt like, had the thrill of a hunt, climbed a few trees and peed in a few sand boxes.

  • letting your cats out.
    05/30/2013 03:35am

    You talk about cats inside getting to be fat cats. Well,atleast they are still alive to eat! Why let your cat roam when their is so manyh dangers out there?There are people killing cats for sacrafices and everything else! Plus, they steal your animals or your poor cat ends up getting killed! So,Here's a great big hug to all cat and dog owners that keep their animals inside. THANK YOU! Lori Cunningham South.

  • 07/19/2014 03:07pm

    You go girl!!
    Give him hell! Problem is some people will just never "get it".

  • Seems Like a No-Brainer
    04/23/2015 10:15pm

    After having a beloved fur baby go out one night and never return, I resolved to never allow that to happen again. Our boy goes out every day that the weather is good...and I go with him. Even when we are traveling in our RV he gets outside time...either in the patio screen room that installs on our awning or walking with me. He does well with a harness and leash. Our Jazzy girl who lived with us for 18 years was a good traveler too and she had a stroller that she rode around in to get fresh air when on the road. When home, she also went out in the yard...accompanied by either "Mom" or "Dad" or both. The trick is supervision. It's good for us too. If I did not go out with him I'd probably not get enough fresh air myself. Blessings and may you all have many loving years with your furbabies.