The Cat Health Check Guide
Regularly checking your pet’s body condition can not only identify early warning signs such as cat weight issues or sore spots, but lets you spend more quality hands-on time with your pet.
Our simple step-by-step guide allows you to do these checks at home to find out your pet’s body condition score.
What is a body condition score?
A body condition score is a number assigned to a cat’s body type ranging from 1-9, with 1 being very underweight and 9 being very overweight. Ideally, your cat will have a body score around 5, indicating the most healthy cat weight.
You can use our body conditioning tool to do these checks at home. Follow our step-by-step guide to complete this simple check-up. Let’s get started!
Before the assessment
Before you begin, give your cat lots of love and affection to help them to relax. Once your cat is comfortable, you can start to assess your cat’s health and their body condition. Include lots of gentle strokes along the way, and your pet may not even notice that they’re having a check-up!
Now that you’re familiar with each of the target areas, compare them to each stage of the scoring system:
Underweight Cat (1-4)
- Ribs will visible on shorthaired cats, and they will not have any obvious fat. Their tummies will appear to be sucked in (called an ‘abdominal tuck’), and their spine and hip bones will be very pronounced.
- Ribs and backbones are easily visible on shorthaired cats. There will be minimal muscle mass with no obvious fat, with a pronounced abdominal tuck.
- Ribs can be easily felt and the backbones and waist behind ribs will be visually obvious. The cat will have a minimal fat covering across their body and on their tummy.
- Ribs can be felt with a minimal fat covering and they have a noticeable waist behind their ribs. They will have a slight abdominal tuck but will be missing a ‘fat pad’ on their tummy.
Ideal Cat Weight(5)
- A well-proportioned body – you should be able to see a waist behind the ribs; ribs can still be felt but with a slight fat covering. There will be a small paunch of fat on the abdomen. This level is a healthy weight for a cat.
Overweight Cat (6-9)
- Ribs can be felt but are covered with a slight excess fat covering. Their waist and tummy fat pad are noticeable but not obvious – there is no abdominal tuck.
- Ribs can’t be easily felt underneath a moderate fat covering. Their waist can’t be easily seen and there is an obvious rounding of the stomach with a moderate abdominal fat pad.
- Ribs can’t be felt, and are covered with excess fat. Their waist is absent, and they have an obviously rounded abdomen with prominent fat pad on their tummy, and also fat on their back area.
- Ribs and lumbar area are hidden under a heavy covering of fat, and heavy fat deposits are also present on the face and limbs. The abdomen is distended and covered in fat, and there’s no discernible waist.
And now you’ve checked your cat’s body condition – it’s as easy as that! Hopefully your cat is in good shape, but if you have any concerns about your cat’s body condition, consult your vet or contact our PetCare Team.
Including these simple steps into your usual grooming and care routine should help to ensure a happy, healthy cat with an ideal cat weight and an ideal body score throughout all stages of their life.
Body condition score: cat assessment guide
You can start by just looking at your pet. A visual once-over can help you to make sure that your pet is a healthy weight for cats. Try these checks:
- Profile check: look at your standing cat from a side-on angle, when level with them. This will help you to get a good view of their tummy, limbs, and posture.
- Overhead check: look down at your standing cat from overhead. This will give you a good view of their waist and lumbar area (back).
Take into account the breed of your cat when you’re doing these checks. Some are naturally leaner than others, such as Siamese breeds. Cats don’t tend to carry excess weight on their faces, either, so don’t worry if their features appear too slender – or chubby! – these differences are what makes your pet unique.
Once you’ve assessed your cat visually, it’s time to take a hands-on approach. There are three key areas of your cat to check:
Run your hands gently along your cat’s ribcage, as a firm stroke. You should just be able to feel their ribcage without pressing too firmly – if you notice that their bones are jutting out, or you have to apply pressure to feel their ribs, then your cat’s weight may be too low or too high.
Your cat’s ribcage shouldn’t show through their fluffy coat, but sometimes you might be able to see an outline, depending on the length of their fur.
Glide your hands gently from your cat’s ribs down towards their waist. This is a sensitive area, so be careful! Feel gently along their waistline and out to their hips – you should notice an almost hourglass shape as you move along this area. An overweight cat might not have this shape.
Getting hands on is essential when checking your cat’s waist as it’s often hidden behind their fur, so you may not be able to judge it properly just by looking.
Once you have checked your cat’s waist, you can take a look at their tummy. The stomach can be a no-go area for some cats, so approach it gently and with caution – if you pet shows signs that they doesn’t want you to touch their stomach, don’t force it.
If you are able to feel your cat’s tummy, you should notice a nice straight line to their hips. Cats often also have a little soft paunch on their stomach – this is completely normal, but make sure that it doesn’t turn into anything more than that! You should be able to tell if your cat is overweight if their paunch hangs down and starts to sway from side to side when they walk.