This article is part of a series on how to spot signs of a healthy cat. You can learn more about the key signs here.
Assessing your cat’s body condition is an important step in evaluating their overall nutritional well-being. Particularly in cases where your cat appears to be obese or thin, it is important to evaluate their total health before consulting a vet for a proper nutritional management program. Look for the following signs that your cat is overweight, underweight or just the right size.
- Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones are easily visible
- Thick neck and narrow waist
- Obvious abdominal tuck
- No fat in flank folds; folds are often absent
- Backbone and ribs can be easily seen or felt
- Minimal fat covering
- Minimal waist when viewed from above
- Slightly tucked abdomen
- Ribs are easily felt, but not visible
- A slight waist can be seen behind the ribs when viewed from above
- Abdomen is tucked up and flank folds are present
- Slight increase in fat over ribs, but still easily felt
- Abdomen is slightly rounded and flanks are concave
- Flank folds hang down with moderate amount of fat — you might notice a jiggle when your cat is walking
- Ribs and backbone aren’t easily felt under a heavy fat covering
- Abdomen is rounded; waist is barely visible or absent
- Prominent flank folds sway from side to side when your cat is walking
What to Feed Your Cat Depending on Their Weight
If Your Cat Is Underweight
Consult your vet; they may recommend a specialized diet higher in protein and fat to help your underweight cat reach an optimal weight, and will also have advice on whether to free feed your cat or feed multiple servings per day to encourage weight gain. (If you opt to feed multiple servings, IAMS™ PERFECT PORTIONS™ are an ideal way to feed your cat throughout the day.)
If Your Cat Is a Healthy Weight
If your cat is currently at an optimal weight, then you likely won’t need to change how much and how often you are feeding them. Make sure you are providing your cat with nutrition tailored to their age and activity level by using our Cat Food Selector and giving your cat plenty of opportunities for exercise.
Tip: Making sure your cat is properly hydrated is essential to their overall health. In addition to providing fresh, clean water at all times, try feeding IAMS™ PERFECT PORTIONS™ Cuts in Gravy wet food to provide additional moisture in their diet.
If Your Cat Is Overweight or Obese
Try feeding IAMS™ Indoor Weight and Hairball Care dry food, formulated with real chicken as the first ingredient and L-carnitine to support a healthy metabolism. IAMS™ research has shown that overweight cats fed with L-carnitine exhibit increased motivation to play — which in turn can help support a healthy weight!
Cat Body Condition Chart
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Introducing a new cat into your home and life is a rewarding and fulfilling decision, one that requires some thought before you head to the shelter. So what should you consider before adopting a cat? Follow our tips to prepare for the best.
- What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
- Choosing the Right Cat for You
- Where to Adopt a Cat
- The Cat Adoption Process
What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
First, let’s explore some of the commitments you’ll need to make to ensure your new cat is content (and that you are, too!).
Cat-proofing Your Home
Make sure your home is cat-safe by eliminating or hiding away anything that could harm or poison your newbie. This includes:
- Household cleaners and chemicals
- Toxic plants, including aloe vera, azalea, rhododendron, lilies, chrysanthemum, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettias and tulips
- Toxic foods, including chocolate, coffee and tea, dairy, raw meat, grapes and raisins, carrots, onions, garlic and alcohol
Cat Supplies You’ll Need
You’ll need a cat bed or hideout, toys, scratching mats, a cat tree or climbing tower, food and water bowls, litter and boxes, and, of course, well-balanced, nutritious cat food. IAMS™ provides a wide range of tailored, nutritional cat food to promote the health of your new cat.
Cost of Cat Care
Plan to budget for an annual exam (older cats or those with special conditions may need more frequent visits), medication and parasite preventives. It’s smart to save for emergency care, too.
Cat Exercise and Playtime
Providing daily play and exercise opportunities can keep your cat physically and psychologically healthy, and help strengthen your bond. Toys, feather wands and cat trees should be part of your regular rotation! And believe it or not, many cats can be trained to walk on a leash.
Not all cats are solitary or antisocial; however, they can become this way if they aren’t introduced properly to new experiences. Strange sounds, smells and even appliances in your home might make a new cat anxious, as can other family members and pets (more on this later). So be sure to help your new cat get accustomed to unfamiliar people, places and things, and reward and praise them when doing so.
Litter and Litterboxes
Make sure you have the necessary box, scoop and other supplies to keep things tidy. If you have a multiple-cat household, provide one box per cat, plus one additional box, to help quell territorial issues.
A Lifetime Commitment
Keep in mind that cats often live into their teens and maybe even a second decade if you’re lucky. Know that you’re adopting a true family member for the extent of their lifetime.
Choosing the Right Cat for You
A cat match made in heaven starts by asking some questions about yourself.
What Is Your Lifestyle Like?
If you are not home regularly or gone for extended amounts of time, a cat’s independent nature can be a great fit. If your life includes other people or pets, make sure their behaviors, personalities and lifestyles suit having a cat family member — both for their sake and the cat’s. Allergies can be a dealbreaker, so take note of anyone in your home with cat allergies and their or your willingness to take allergy medication, vacuum constantly and groom the cat regularly to alleviate symptoms.
Your home should also have the space for play and exercise and shouldn’t harbor anything dangerous to your cat.
What Cat Personality Suits You?
Cats offer a variety of distinctive personality types, ranging from puppy-like cuddliness to feigned disinterest. Some cats are constantly on the go, exploring and poking into this and that, while others are certified nap ninjas. Vocally, they can be chatty catties or more taciturn souls. In short, you have a wide spectrum of personality types to choose from — which is what makes cats such fascinating and easy-to-love pets.
Do You Want to Adopt a Kitten or an Adult Cat?
Kittens will need a lot of attention, direction and a fair amount of patience. Their size, energy and inquisitive nature means you’ll need to supervise them closely.
Adult cats often will settle more quickly into a routine once introduced to their new home. An older or senior adult cat may be even more comfortable interacting with children and furniture. And providing a real home for a cat in their golden years is a rewarding and noble gesture you can feel good about.
Fur Better or Fur Worse
All cats shed. This will affect anyone with allergies and could also cause health issues for your cat, like hairballs or matting. Long-haired cats need to be brushed more regularly, and not all cats love this, so you may have to train yours to sit through this daily ritual.
Where to Adopt a Cat
There are several reasons adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue organization is preferable to buying. More effort goes into matchmaking when you adopt, because shelters and rescues generally have more information about their cats. Plus, adopting your cat from a shelter or a rescue actually helps two cats: the one you adopt and the homeless cat who takes your cat’s place.
In contrast, buying can be much more expensive than adopting, and the practice encourages cat mills and increases the number of pets who need homes.
Adopting a Cat from a Shelter
At shelters you can often visit with more than one cat and breed. The screening process can be easier (many shelters allow you to take a cat home that day), and adoption fees can be lower than at a rescue. However, the vet services might not cover all that your cat needs.
Adopting a Cat from a Rescue
Rescues have some advantages over shelters. They often know more about candidate cats because they may be placed in foster homes and even trained for a home. So you could adopt a cat that is already litterbox trained, socialized with other pets and with kids, trained to keep off furniture, etc.
Depending on the rescue’s screening process, you might have to make an appointment to see one cat at a time. While the screening might take longer, it’s designed to match you to the right cat. Adoption fees might be a little higher with a rescue, but they often cover more vet care, too.
The Cat Adoption Process
While rescues and shelters have similar adoption processes, they do vary depending on the organization. But you can count on these basic steps:
Make sure to have a valid ID to verify age (most organizations require adopters be adults) and address. You might also need references, so it’s a good idea to email or call ahead of time and ask about the application and overall adoption process.
Some of the cat adoption questions you might be asked include:
- Do you own or rent?
- Have you had a cat before?
- Do you currently have pets? Are they spayed or neutered? How are they with other animals?
- Do you have children at home? Are they good with pets?
- Does everyone residing in your home approve of adopting a cat?
- Where will your cat be kept during the day and in the evening?
- What are your care plans for when you have to leave home for an extended period of time, such as for a work trip or vacation?
They might also ask questions about your health, occupation and personal life to help match the right cat to the right parent.
2. Home Inspection
A home and family meet-and-greet might be required to see how everyone, including other pets, gets along with your prospective new cat. And the organization will want to ensure your residence will be a comfortable and safe home.
3. Adoption Fees
As we mentioned, cat adoption costs can vary, with rescues often being higher than shelters. Fortunately, the adoption fee will take care of basic veterinary services you will need anyway, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.
Adopting a new cat isn’t just rewarding — it can be life-changing. Taking stock of the commitments of cat ownership, and taking the time to find your perfect feline match, will help set you both up for years of joy.
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