In order to live a long, healthy life, cats need to fall within a certain weight range that varies on height, age, and body size.
Helping your cat maintain a healthy weight is important, and you should keep track of your pet’s weight as she ages.
Even if you can’t weigh your cat on a scale in between check-ups at the vet, you can assess her body condition to determine if she is at the ideal weight or if she needs to gain or lose a few pounds.
A Cat’s Body Condition Score
Your cat’s body condition score will range from 1 through 9, with 9 indicating the cat is very overweight and 1 indicating the cat is very underweight. The ideal body condition score is in the middle, around 5.
In order to determine your feline friend’s body condition score, you don’t need any special tools. Instead, all you have to do is take a look at your cat’s body at home.
If your cat has an ideal weight, or a body condition score of 5, her body will be well proportioned.
When you gently stroke your cat, you’ll be able to notice her waist behind her ribs. You can also still feel her ribs, but there will be a normal amount of fat covering them. You’ll also notice that there’s a normal, small amount of fat on her abdomen, which is the primordial pouch that every kitty has.
A cat who is underweight will have a body condition score of 1 through 4.
If your cat has a body condition score of 1, she’s severely underweight. Her ribs will easily be visible, especially if she has short fur, and there won’t be any obvious signs of fat on the body. Her tummy will look like it’s sucked in, indicating a very obvious abdominal tuck, and her hips and spine will be pronounced.
Cats with a body condition score of 2 will have backbones and ribs that are easily seen, particularly on shorthaired felines. There also won’t be any obvious amounts of fat, there will be an abdominal tuck that’s pronounced, and there will only be a minimal amount of muscle mass.
Kitties with a score of 3 will have only a minimal amount of fat that covers the tummy and the body. Therefore, your cat’s backbones and waist will be obvious visually. As you stroke your pet, you’ll also easily feel the ribs.
In cats that score 4 on the body condition assessment, the ribs will have a minimal amount of fat covering them, so they can still be felt with your hands. These kitties will also have a noticeable waist, but will only have a slight abdominal tuck. Also, they won’t have a fat pad on the tummy, indicating they need to gain more weight.
If your cat is overweight, she’ll have a body condition score of 6 through 9.
Once again, start by gently stroking your cat’s body and feeling for the ribs without pressing in. In an overweight cat that scores 6 on the body condition assessment, the ribs will be covered with a bit of extra fat, though you should be able to feel them. Her waist will be noticeable, though not obvious, and the same goes for her tummy fat pad. Also, there won’t be any abdominal tuck.
In a cat that scores a 7, you can’t feel the ribs too easily because there’s a moderate amount of fat that’s covering them. The kitty’s waist won’t easily be visible either, and there will be a rounding of her stomach with a moderate fat pad in the tummy area.
If your cat scores an 8, you won’t be able to feel her ribs because they’ll be covered with fat. You’ll also notice that her abdomen is obviously rounded and there’s a prominent fat pad on the belly. There’s also fat on her back as well.
Finally, in a cat that scores a 9, you’ll notice that the lumbar and ribs are hidden beneath heavy layers of fat. There are fat deposits on the limbs and face, and the abdomen is covered in fat and distended as well. You won’t be able to see a discernible waist either.
Feeding your pet a high quality food and ensuring she gets to run around and play to get some exercise will help her maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your vet to find out what your cat’s ideal weight range is. Then make it a point to regularly check her body condition to track her progress.
Lisa Selvaggio is a writer who has volunteered in animal rescue, caring for cats of all ages and learning their many quirks. She is certified in clinical pet nutrition, and enjoys helping pet parents give their fur babies the best care possible. Read more of her work online at LSA Writing Services.