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Vet warns that fat cat craze poses serious risk to feline health

Fat cat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Yes, a fat cat may be cute, and funny, but is it healthy for the animals involved? The latest social media craze for fat cats may be taking things too far. While a plump kitty isn’t always a cause for concern, there are some pet owners who are purposely feeding their cats to make them fat.

The Facebook Group This Cat Is Chonky has over 20,000 members, all of whom are there to share pictures of their own fat pets, or look at other people’s fat cats. While this may seem completely innocent and light-hearted, a seriously overweight cat may be more in danger than endearing. 

What is a safe weight for cats?

Of course, all cats are different, and while pet owners may think they know what’s best for their moggy, it seems that many just can’t say no to their fluffy friends when it comes to treats. There is this idea that cats should be cuddly and in order for them to be cuddly they need to be a bit chubby, but this is actually not the case for most cats.

Our in-house veterinarian Catherine Barnette has written many articles on cat health and weight. On the fat cat craze she said: "I've noticed that a lot of owners have a skewed perception of what constitutes a 'healthy' body weight in cats. Owners of cats at a healthy weight often worry that their cat is 'too skinny,' while owners of overweight cats often don't see anything unusual about their cat's body condition." 

It certainly seems clear from the amount of hype around having the fattest cat that owners are not entirely aware of the serious consequences of an overweight cat. Obesity in cats can lead to several other health problems and long-term conditions and while finding the right diet for your cat might not seem like such a big issue, it is in fact one of the most important things you should do as a pet owner.

Catherine also said: "One of the biggest mistakes that I see among cat owners is offering their cats free-choice access to dry cat food. Very few cats will regulate their food intake appropriately in that scenario. Most cats will become overweight if provided unlimited access to food."

Some of the fattest cats in the world...

Fat cats are frequently reported across the globe, and there’s even a competition to take the title of the World’s Fattest Cat. In previous years, US kitties Spongebob, the ginger tom weighing 33lbs and Garfield the 38lb cat have been just a couple of kitties who have taken the crown for the world’s fattest cat.

Garfield was being looked after at North Shore Animal League of America in Long Island after his owner passed away, where staff were working with him on his diet to help him safely lose weight before finding him a new fur-ever home.

Promoting healthy weight loss in cats

While the fat cat craze has been a hit on social media over the years, there are also many blogs and social media pages that are dedicated to helping some of the fattest cats in the world to live a healthier lifestyle.

There are many pet owners who may have a fat moggy through no fault of their own. Many cats who are adopted are overweight, due to neglect from their previous owners, and lack of education in how best to feed them.

One Instagram page, @iambronsoncat, shares the story of Bronson, an overweight cat who had a serious treat addiction. Bronson was adopted in 2018 at a whopping great big weight of 15 kilograms (33lbs), and his owner is sharing his weight loss journey. This Instagram page promotes healthy lifestyles for cats, and Bronson is just one of many moggies who need to shed the pounds in order to be able to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

As of the 26th December 2020, Bronson weighed 8.2 kilograms (18.1lbs) which is a huge weight loss of almost seven kilograms in two years! Today, Bronson still has a long way to go on his weight loss journey, having only lost two out of five pounds in December (but no one loses weight in December anyway right?).

And it doesn’t just stop with Bronson either. There are cats all over the world that have gone viral for their extreme obesity, and sadly, many of these kitties end up in an animal shelter or on the streets.

Cats need a very specific diet that has just the right amount of protein and carbs to keep them strong and healthy throughout their life, and the type of food they eat should be decided based on their nutritional needs as well as what they enjoy. Part of the reason there are so many fat cats out there is because many owners enjoy feeding their moggy human snacks and treats too. In the Facebook group we previously referenced, you will find fat cats pictured with blocks of cheese and other human foods which actually can be quite detrimental to cats' health.

While we all love to give our pets treats, it’s important to be aware of the facts before feeding them anything that’s not specifically made for cats. So what human food can cats eat? There are a few things that are okay to give your moggy once in a while, but there are also many foods that can be dangerous for your cat to eat, check out our article on five human foods that are poisonous to cats. However, you can also find many treats designed for cats that will be tasty for them and provide them with a range of health benefits. For inspiration, check out our list of the healthiest cat treats revealed.

So the next time you think about how cute and cuddly your four-legged friend is, just remember to reach for the healthy snacks…

Sarah Butcher

Sarah is a freelance writer and marketer, covering a variety of topics from lifestyle and fitness to sustainability and travel. When she’s not writing, she can be found relaxing with a cuppa and a cute doggo snoozing on her lap!