Dear Ms. Kitty,
My cat, Harry, is a neutered, 10-year old Maine Coon mix. I’ve had him since he was a kitten and he has always loved to eat! He is a very large cat. But now that he’s getting older, I’m afraid that he may be eating too much and he’s gained a good deal of weight in the last six months or so.
What is the proper weight for a cat?
Worried on the Westside
Thanks for asking. It can be difficult to know what the healthy weight is for a larger breed cat or for any cat really. The older they get, the more important it is to keep any extra bulk off of your cat. As little as two pounds above your cat’s ideal weight can put him at risk for developing some serious medical conditions.
The average domestic cat should weigh between eight to ten pounds. If your cat is 18 pounds, you can calculate its ideal weight to be approximately 10 to 12 pounds (your veterinarian can help with this). A basic formula for weight loss in cats can be found at the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. A larger breed cat is going to be able to tolerate a bit more weight to his frame.
We love to give our cats what they want and most of the time that means supplementing their regular dry kibble with canned food. Please be aware that your general brands of cat foods are going to contain high amounts of processed ingredients, which make them similar to junk food for a kitty. (You can read more about what goes into pet food at our Cat Food Ingredients page.)
If you must introduce a diet or lower-calorie kibble or wet food to your cat’s feeding routine it will need to be done gradually over a week or so to give them time to adjust. Start by adding around one quarter of the diet food to their regular food and then increase the proportion of diet food slowly over the next seven to 10 days. Try to reduce the intake of wet food to two or three small treats per day of a teaspoon each. If your cat turns its nose up at dry kibble only – try adding a few drops of fish oil on top. You might also want to try a specially-designed food bowl that will encourage kitty to reach in and pull out several pieces of kibble at a time or try feeding 3 or 4 smaller meals during the day.
Daily exercise is going to be important as well. Cats typically enjoy the sedentary life, but interactive playtime can be fun for them and for you, too! Find a toy with a feather or small mouse attached that will encourage them to jump up off the ground – some will even do flips. Cats also like to play the laser tag chase game. Try to engage them in play for 10 to 15 minutes a couple of times per day. (You can find more ideas on our Play with Your Cat! page.) Again start out slowly and they will look forward to exercise time. With the combination of a new diet and exercise routine your cat should be able to lose around a pound in one month.
It would also be a good idea to schedule Harry for a healthy cat check up – with a complete blood workup – just in case the recent weight gain is indicating an actual health issue like diabetes or heart disease. Helping your cat to lose some weight and be healthier as a result, can add not only years to your pet’s life; it can also make those extra years more enjoyable.
— Ms. Kitty