In the UK 40-50% of cats are estimated to be overweight or obese. Cats are overweight if they are between 10-19% heavier than their ideal weight. Once they are over 20% heavier, he or she is said to be obese. There is a method of working out what your cat should weigh called a Body Condition Score. This is essential if you want to keep your cat healthy throughout their life.
Cats that are free to roam are often more active in the summer. They tend to hunt more and sleep less due to longer days and more abundant prey. This tends to mean that cats will naturally slim down in the summer and put a bit on in the winter! If this rings true for your moggy, don’t feel you need to alter their diet or change their lifestyle.
Of course there are some instances where cats are underweight because they do not have enough food. In this country, however, it is more often due to illness or disease.
Body Condition Score (BCS)
In order to assess whether a cat is too thin, overweight or “just right”, the BCS system has been developed. The scale grades the body condition from 1 to 9. 1 is very thin and bony, and 9 is severely obese. 4 to 5 is ideal or “just right”.
Along with each grade on the scale, there is an accompanying description and pictures of the shape of the cat.
First of all, you will need to identify the areas you have to assess:
- Look at and feel the ribs, the spine (back bone), and the pelvis
- Look at the waist of the cat – also referred to as the abdominal tuck
- Assess the amount of muscle present
- Assess the amount of fat present – eg a saggy tummy!
- Look at the cat from above and from the side.
BCS1: Ribs, spine and pelvic bones are easily visible on short-haired cats. Very narrow waist/ severe abdominal tuck. Small amount of general muscle. No fat to feel on rib cage.
BCS2: Ribs are easily visible on short haired cats. Very narrow waist. Loss of muscle mass. No fat to feel on rib cage. Very pronounced abdominal tuck.
BCS3: Ribs visible on short haired breeds. Obvious waist. Very small amount of abdominal fat. Marked abdominal tuck.
BCS4: Ribs not visible but are easily felt. Waist is obvious/ slight abdominal tuck. Minimal amount of abdominal fat.
BCS5: Well-proportioned body. Ribs are not visible but easily felt. Waist obvious/ slight abdominal tuck. Small amount of abdominal fat.
BCS6: Ribs cannot be seen but can be felt - just. Waist is not clearly defined when seen from above. Abdominal tuck only very slight.
BCS7: Ribs are difficult to feel under the fat. Waist barely visible/ no abdominal tuck. Rounding of abdomen with moderate abdominal fat pad.
BCS8: Ribs not able to be felt under fat. Waist not visible. Slight abdominal distension.
BCS9: Ribs not palpable under a thick layer of fat. NO waist. Obvious abdominal distension. Extensive abdominal fat deposits.
The idea is to weigh the individual cat once they are in the “ideal” 4/5 zone. Thereon after, this is the weight that should be maintained, throughout their life.
If you are a cat owner and would like help in assessing the BCS of your cat. Why not pop into your local Healthy Pet Club practice where the team will be happy to advise you.