Free-feeding can often lead to obesity in cats.
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If you're thinking Fluffy might be feeling a little too fluffy, it might be time for a diet. Feline obesity is becoming increasingly common. There are ways to find out if Fluffy is overweight and steps you can take to make sure she drops weight in a healthy manner.

Feline BMI

Body mass index (BMI) is a popular way to learn if someone is overweight. Traditionally, people relied on just looking at their pets to determine if they needed to lose a little weight. The feline body mass index (FBMI) is a simple way to assess Fluffy's body fat content. To learn her BMI, measure the circumference of her rib cage and then measure the length of her lower back leg, from the knee to her ankle. Divide the rib cage number by 0.7062. Subtract the length of the leg. Divide the result by 0.9156. Subtract the total by leg length.

According to VetInfo, a cat with a BMI of 42 or higher needs to lose weight.

Other "Gut Checks"

If you want to skip the math and do your own hands-on assessment, you can use a body condition chart (see Resources) as a guide. The assessment includes: a rib check, which involves running both hands, palms down, across Fluffy's rib cage; a profile check, where you look at her from the side; and an overhead check, where you look at her from above. If you make an objective comparison with the body condition chart, you'll get an idea of Fluffy's general shape.

Some vets use a 9 point scoring system to determine where a cat is in its ideal weight range. If Fluffy is given a score of 4.5 to 5 points, she's at her ideal weight. If she's at the low end, she's underweight. A 6.5 or 7 is considered overweight and 8 and above is obese.

Bigger Isn't Better

Although you may like Fluffy with a little extra fluff to her, it's very unhealthy for her to carry excess weight. Obesity can curb her natural desire for physical activity and add to several serious disorders. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine states that conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, diabetes and poor cardiovascular health can all be aggravated by carrying excess weight.

Getting Fluffy in Shape

Like people, getting a cat's weight issues under control boil down to two things: diet and exercise. Your vet can help you determine Fluffy's ideal weight and caloric intake. It's important to not put Fluffy on a crash diet -- losing too much weight too quickly can cause complications, such as fatty liver disease. The vet will probably recommend that you don't free-feed her (leaving her dry food to snack on through the day). Free-feeding is considered a major culprit in the increase in overweight cats. Instead, you will probably need to feed Fluffy regular, measured meals to ensure a gradual, safe weight loss.

Exercise is important too. Of course, Fluffy is probably not going to make a great jogging partner, but you can have some playtime with her to get her moving. As well, if she has a favorite cushion she likes to sleep in, try moving it up, so she can climb and jump to it.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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