From the Field , Nutrition

From the Field: Focus on Overweight and Obesity in Cats

From the Field: Focus on Overweight and Obesity in Cats

Kirk Breuninger, VMD, MPH, DACVPM
Banfield Pet Hospital
Vancouver, Washington

From the Field shares insights from Banfield Pet Hospital veterinary team members. Drawing from the nationwide practice’s extensive research, as well as findings from its electronic veterinary medical records database and more than 8 million annual pet visits, this column is intended to explore topics and spark conversations relevant to veterinary practices that ultimately help create a better world for pets.


In the last From the Field column, Banfield Pet Hospital reported on dog-specific findings from our recently released 2017 State of Pet Health Report, which highlights a widespread trend of overweight pets nationwide. When we looked at medical records from the more than 500,000 cats cared for at Banfield hospitals in 2016, we found that felines are faring even worse than their canine counterparts with an increase of over 169% over the past 10 years in overweight cats.

The top five states with the highest prevalence of overweight cats included Minnesota (46%), Nebraska (43%), Iowa (42%), Idaho (40%) and Delaware (39%). The prevalence estimates for each state are listed on How did your state do?

States with the Most Obese Cats

The top five states with the highest prevalence of overweight cats included

  • Minnesota ………. 46%
  • Nebraska ………… 43%
  • Iowa ……………….. 42%
  • Idaho ……………… 40%
  • Delaware ………… 39%

Find out how your state ranks at

Here are some tips and tricks for talking with your clients about their cat’s weight:

  • Prevention is key. Have cat-friendly strategies in place in your hospital. This will help create a less stressful atmosphere for your feline patients and will encourage pet owners to bring their cats in for regular check-ups and nutritional counseling, which can help keep their cats at a healthy weight. There are some great resources on cat friendly practices through the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). Strategies include:
    • Designate separate areas for cats in the waiting and treatment areas
    • Provide a cat-only exam room
    • When possible, complete procedures in the exam room
    • Consider providing a hiding place for the cat by utilizing kennel covers (when medically appropriate)
    • Use calming pheromone sprays or diffusers
    • Brush up on feline and low-stress handling techniques
  • Show, don’t tell. Oftentimes, it is difficult for cat owners to recognize that their pet is overweight. This may be due to the distribution of fat on a cat’s body, the amount of fur present, or misconceptions about ideal weight. A graphic of body condition scoring (FIGURE 1) can be a useful tool as you have these conversations.

FIGURE 1. 2016 overweight prevalence in cats.











  • Give treats in moderation. Advise clients to take note of how many treats they give their cat per day. Treats should not make up more than 10% of a cat’s daily caloric consumption.
  • Encourage exercise. Getting cats to exercise can be a challenge. Determining the right strategy is important—even increasing exercise by 10 minutes every day can have a positive impact on a cat’s overall well-being. Some options include:
    • Using a laser pointer
    • Playing with a feather toy; or
    • Increasing mealtime activity by dividing meals into multiple dishes and placing throughout the house.

View the State of Pet Health

For more client education tools, as well as a host of other resources, visit

Kirk J. Breuninger, VMD, MPH, is a member of the Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK) team, where he performs and disseminates research that contributes to advancing medical quality, patient safety, and medical decision making. He received his veterinary degree from University of Pennsylvania and his Master of Public Health degree from Temple University. He is an inaugural member of the AVMA Early Career Development Committee, was awarded the 2009 George B. Wolff Legislative Leadership Award, and was recognized as the 2015 Pennsylvania Veterinarian of the Year by the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association. Protection Status