Your cat’s weight can be a good indicator of her health – but only if you keep track of it. Gradual weight loss or gain can be difficult to recognize in cats. Consider that the average cat weighs 10 pounds. Weight loss of only 6% of a cat’s body weight is considered a clinical sign – that’s less than ten ounces. Depending on the size of your cat, visible changes to her weight may be too subtle to notice without actually weighing her.
Dr. Andrea Tasi, a homeopathic vet and owner of Just Cats Naturally, considers weight the 4th vital sign. “Temperature, pulse, and respiration are awfully valuable for assessing any patient in an acute situation,” she says,”but for really tracking the chronic health status of a cat over time, there is nothing more valuable than weight.”
Obesity affects 53% of America’s cats
This staggering statistic, sadly, mirrors the equally disturbing increase in human obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one third of adults in the United States are obese. The serious health problems in cats which result from obesity are the same as in humans: diabetes, arthritis and joint problems, heart and respiratory problems, gastro-intestinal and digestive problems, a compromised immune syste, and increased risk during anesthesia and surgery.
Weight loss as an indicator of disease
“Nearly all chronic diseases that creep up on cats cause insidious weight loss,” says Tasi. If you are weighing your cat regularly, you will pick up on this trend long before your cat may show you any other symptoms. A cat who is losing weight with no change in her diet or exercise levels requires veterinary attention.
Body condition and muscle condition score
You’ve probably seen body condition charts like the one pictured above at your vet’s office. These charts work well to determine whether your young or middle-aged adult cat is at an ideal weight.
In older cats, muscle condition is a better indicator. “You will find fat cats with low muscle condition score,” says Dr. Elisabeth Colleran, a feline veterinarian and owner of two cat hospitals. “You will start feeling bones in cats that are still overweight if they’re starting to lose muscle mass.”
How to weigh your cat
While you can weigh your cat by weighing yourself on a human scale, then weighing yourself while holding your cat, and subtracting the difference, your results will not be accurate enough.
Your best bet is to purchase an inexpensive digital scale designed for babies. These scales measure pounds and ounces accurately.
Dr. Tasi weighs all of her own cats on the first of every month, and keeps a record of this vital information: “weighing your cat regularly will let you actually notice the little losses or gains that you might otherwise not pay attention to.”
Do you weigh your cats on a regular basis?
Photo by John Hrltz, Flickr Creative Commons