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.

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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.

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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

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16 Comments on Why You Should Weigh Your Cat Regularly

  1. Thanks for the great info, I’d really like to be able to weigh our cats, looking around on Amazon for a talking baby scale as my wife and I are both visually impaired. Unfortunately haven’t found one yet.

  2. Carmine gets weighed every three months at his regular vet visits (to manage his chronic health issues). I’ve been meaning to get a baby scale for a while now so that I can weigh both my kitties at home regularly. While I can usually tell if they’re losing weight (even a few ounces), I would like to keep an accurate record of their weights. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Is there anything that can be done about muscle loss in older cats? We have a 15 year old who can be playful still but definitely has lost muscle (back legs slide out from under if he tries to get traction to run), and he’s a little wobbly.

    • Muscle loss can be reversed with a high protein diet of protein with a high biological value – that means meat. These older cats need more protein – their nutritional needs may actually be closer to those of a kitten than an adult cats. Almost all of these skinny old cats are also B12 deficient, and supplementation can help improve their appetite. Look for a more detailed post about this topic soon!

      • Thanks, Ingrid! This was going to be my question as well…I too have a 15yo that’s fine, but loosing muscle mass…could I give him kitten food instead of adult food?

  4. “Nearly all chronic diseases that creep up on cats cause insidious weight loss,” says Tasi.
    This is so true…I see it time and time again.Some times this is the only symptom. It alone is reason enough to take your cat in for annual or biannual exams.

  5. I have a 3 year old cat that is quite skinny and doesnt gain weight but, he has always been skinny. We free feed dry and split a can of wet between him and my tortie who looks to be in ideal body condition. I found him as a stray in horrible condition. He was skin and bones and temporarly paralized from shoulders down. First vet told me he had rickettes and that he would be fine with food which seemed right cause he gained mobility and health fast. He still looks too skinny and has slightly atrofied looking legs but vet has never seemed too interested in his condition so I assume he is ok.

  6. Since my baby Maddie was diagnosed with lymphoma about 9 months ago, I have been weighing her once/week with a baby scale to have a record of her weight. Actually, before she was diagnosed, I weighed her every so often and that’s how I realized there was something going on with her as she was slowly losing weight which was not like her.

    Connie V

  7. I was wondering if obesity was also linked to breeds. I have a tubby tabby. Riley is 17.5 lbs and has a stocky build much like a pug. All of my other cats are an ideal weight except for him. ???? The funny thing is he’s the most active out of the bunch.

    • I would think that there’s probably a genetic component to obesity, Robyn, although tabby is not a breed. The tabby pattern shows up in a variety of breeds.

    • If he is a Main Coon that id perfectly normal. Like Ingrid said tabby isn’t a breed. Main coons are supposed to be around 16 pounds and they’re fur is brown and black tabby

  8. My human’s boyfriend has a digital scale, and my human weighs us by putting a cardboard box on it and weighing the box, and then putting one of us in the box. Then she subtracts the ounces of the box. It works pretty well, and she avoids having to weigh herself!

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