Most of us know that cats come in all shapes and sizes, but changes in their weight and appearance could indicate certain conditions like pregnancy, obesity, and illness.
It’s not always easy to figure out what’s causing some of these changes and there are a few factors to consider. While we all try to be responsible cat parents, things can become confusing, especially for a new and inexperienced owner.
Questions will come up as our kittens mature, questions like:
Is my cat pregnant or just fat? A pregnant cat’s belly will appear bloated halfway from the neck to the tail from above, and from the side slightly round and bulging. Their back won’t look particularly fat and their spine might even be visible while an overweight cat will be fat all over, neck and legs included.
If you want to know more about whether your cat is pregnant or just fat, then keep on reading!
How To Tell If A Cat Is Pregnant Or Fat?
If you have a male cat or a spayed cat the answer is simple, your cat has simply gained weight, but with female cats that haven’t been spayed, it’s a bit more complicated. We’ve gathered useful information to put you on the right path, but the best way to determine with 100% certainty if your kitty is pregnant or suffering from obesity is by taking them to the vet.
You’ll need the opinion and advice of an expert because both conditions are quite serious with two very different consequences. It’s also important to remember that your cat’s physical changes might be related to sickness despite your best efforts. According to Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, “even provided with balanced nutrition, vaccines, and a good amount of love and attention, cats can still get sick.”
Of course, there are a few ways of figuring out if your cat is ready to bring her offspring into the world or has simply put on extra weight. The way to do it is to look closely for signs and symptoms that will give you enough information to establish your cat’s situation.
Signs Your Cat Is Pregnant
Cat owners that keep their kitties strictly indoors or if they’ve been spayed are quite unlikely to find that their cat is pregnant. But if your cat has access to the outdoors and they haven’t been spayed then it’s quite possible that you might end up with more than one cat.
The same might happen to those who think that their kitty is still too young to get pregnant, so they let her roam around the yard. It can also happen to indoor cats that managed to slip through an accidentally open door. Whatever the case might be if you find your cat’s body changing then there are a few clues that can tell you if it’s pregnancy-related.
1. A Cat In Heat
For a cat to become pregnant they need to be unspayed and of breeding age. Maybe you’ve noticed your cat’s behavior change, or the change was minor, so you didn’t pay too much attention.
It’s not always easy to spot the early signs of a cat in heat and cat owners might think that their kitty is not ready to be spayed. But according to a review on Breeding and the Reproduction in Cats, published in the Veterinary Manual, “the queen (female cat) can enter her first heat as young as 4 months of age, and she generally has 2 or 3 cycles during the breeding season, typically February to October.”
Most people would consider 4 months old to be a kitten still!
This makes it clear that cats are quite successful at breeding since they are seasonally polyestrous. That means their heat cycles last for a few days and if they don’t manage to become pregnant then the estrus process starts again in one or three weeks.
When the mating season approaches any spayed cat will naturally try to get out of the house. For a cat that has constant access to the outdoors the chances of leaving the house unnoticed and getting pregnant are much higher. Even if your cat stays in the perimeter of your house, there will still be male cats in search of a mate.
Female cats or queens as they’re also called have a very specific way of showing that they’re in heat that might confuse you. According to Veterinary Centers of America, the most notable signs of estrus, are behavioral. This means that your cat will most likely become very affectionate.
So, if you find yourself asking, is my cat pregnant or just fat, try to remember what their behavior was like before the weight gain. Was she searching for more attention than usual, like rubbing excessively against you or other objects around the house? Cats in heat can also become very vocal, and when petted or stroked along the spine they’ll arch their back.
2. Eating Habits
A cat’s nutritional requirements can change throughout her life’s cycle. If your cat is pregnant then their calorie intake will become higher and you might find your cat asking for more portions.
A cat pregnancy can last from 58 to 70 days and according to studies, “a healthy, well-fed queen will experience steady weight gain throughout the pregnancy.” That’s why it’s important to determine whether your cat is actually pregnant because if you decide to change your cat’s calorie intake you might end up with an overfed cat or an underfed cat.
Noticing your cat’s body changing and gaining weight could be a sign of simply overeating, but what if your cat is pregnant? Both obesity and low weight can lead to unsuccessful or difficult pregnancies. That’s why monitoring your cat’s weight during pregnancy is important and a vet is the best place to get all the help you’ll need to have healthy kitten offspring.
3. Physical Changes:
There are a few changes your cat will go through if they’re indeed pregnant and they’re easy enough to spot. The first physical change you might notice is rapid weight gain. Research shows that “the mother’s food consumption will often reach 50% more than her level before pregnancy.” That’s only natural since she’s eating for more than one cat!
Cats that are pregnant also end up having a distinct body shape as their tummy grows and it’s oftentimes referred to as a “burro” shape because it resembles the belly of a donkey. Still, you might not notice much of a change at first, but after a few weeks, it will become very clear.
You can check out this cat-mama, she’s definitely sporting the “burro” shape!
Apart from the swelling of the abdomen, you’ll notice that the weight won’t be distributed to the rest of their body like the legs and neck. It’s mostly their tummy that grows and if you observe your kitty from the side, you’ll see that they look a little swayback.
Finally, you may notice your cat’s nipples become enlarged, but this could also mean that your cat is simply in heat and not yet pregnant. Usually, at around three weeks into the pregnancy, you might see that your cat’s nipples become bright pink and that they poke through the fur, depending of course on the length. This change is also called, “pinking up.”
4. Nesting Behaviors
Another change you might notice if your cat is pregnant which has nothing to do with their appearance is nesting. This means that your cat “may choose a quiet place and start arranging blankets for a birthing area,” explains veterinarian Dr. Rachel Barrack.
Central Texas Veterinary Hospital also states that “most develop an unusually sweet and loving disposition and demand more affection and attention. However, some may become uncharacteristically irritable.” This usually happens during the final week, and your cat might even go missing because some cats prefer complete privacy.
After you’ve taken your kitty and established that they’re pregnant it’s important to keep them inside the house. Try to find a warm room or an area in your place that’s isolated and safe. Place a large box where your cat and her kittens can all move around freely and make sure she has all the necessities she’ll need, like food, water, and a litterbox.
5. Morning Sickness
This is not as common for most cats, but it can happen in the early stages of your cat’s pregnancy and it’s important to notice it. Finding your cat vomiting and staying away from their food might confuse you and make you think that they’re not pregnant.
This could be a short-term behavior, or you might have to take your cat to the vet if it keeps happening.
It’s also possible that your cat has an ectopic pregnancy, which means that a fertilized egg is growing outside the main cavity of the uterus. Symptoms include vomiting anorexia, urinary problems as well as signs as depression and lethargy. To avoid complications it’s important to pay attention and be observant of these changes in your cat!
6. Changes in Behavior
You might of course observe physical changes in your cat that could make you wonder, is my cat pregnant or just fat, but if your cat is pregnant, you might also find indicative changes in their personality as well.
Of course, all cats are different, and some might even stay the same throughout their pregnancy. Veterinarian Krista Williams also states that “the cat’s behavior alters very little, although some cats become more loving and few become aggressive.”
If seeing your cat’s tummy growing isn’t enough of a sign that she’s going through a significant change you might want to also pay attention to her mood and expressiveness. A cat that shows signs of aggression, as well as a cat that’s purring, might also be in pain, caused by some illness or discomfort.
The Importance Of Spaying/Neutering Your Cat
Spaying and neutering a housecat is important for a number of reasons and their health is number one! According to the Humane Society of the United States, neutered/spayed cats have a longer life span and the risk of certain types of cancers is reduced.
Specifically, “intact female cats and dogs have a greater chance of developing pyometra (a potentially fatal uterine infection) and other cancers of the reproductive system. For male cats, there’s a significantly smaller risk of getting testicular cancer and results in lower rates of prostate cancer.”
Other studies show that “female cats are at significantly increased risk of mammary tumors, and sexually intact cats have a sevenfold higher risk than spayed cats.” And while the health of our kitties should be our number one priority, we’re also responsible for not contributing to the overpopulation of stray kittens.
It’s important to remember that the mating season can be quite dangerous for your kitty. Cats tend to be more aggressive and neutering/spaying your kitty should reduce their natural instincts and the urge to fight. This way you can protect your cat from potential wounds and transmitted diseases.
Make sure you visit your vet and get the right information on when is the best time for your feline companion to be spayed/neutered and the steps you’ll need to take. If you’ve got a cat in heat, you can find a list of low-cost spay/neuter clinics across the globe thanks to PetSmart by clicking here.
Signs That Your Cat Is Overweight
For cat parents that lead busy lives or have a free-roaming feline companion, it might come as a shock to suddenly see their fluffball beauty rocking a curvier look. In fact, studies show that in North America, “obesity is the most common preventable disease in cats.”
So, what if you want to look for symptoms of a cat being overweight first rather than pregnant, where would you start?
In some cats, weight gain might be harder to notice and the process might’ve been gradual enough to elude you. Long-haired cats especially the ones with a robust physique like the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cats, for example, could get away with this since the extra fat could be concealed by the extra layers of fur.
To figure out your cat’s condition, you should examine them visually and by touch. Look at your cat from above and look at their waistline which should create a slight dent behind the ribs. If you don’t spot any waist then your cat is quite possibly overweight.
Look at your cat from the side and observe their stomach, if it’s saggy and form a sort of pouch, then this is also another sign. Make sure to also run your hands on either side along your cat’s body. Your cat’s ribs, spine, and hipbones should feel like the back of your knuckles and if you can’t feel them then this means they’re overweight.
According to studies another hint to your cat’s condition is their fur. “If they have greasy patches of hair, matted fur, or flaky skin, they may be overweight and unable to clean that area of their body.” Observing these details will help you understand more about your cat’s physical condition. It should help you compare their current state with how they used to be before the weight gain.
Body Condition Score
McDaniel, VMD, and a lecturer in clinical sciences state that “probably 50% of cats seen at veterinary clinics these days are overweight, if not obese.” She also supports studies suggesting that 5-10% of cats could be considered overweight and 40% obese.
The way veterinary clinics figure out the weight of a pet is by using the Body Condition Score. BCS and Muscle Condition Score help assess the body fat and the muscle mass of your cat. It’s easy enough to find a BCS chart from organizations like the American Animal Hospital Association or other places online, but self-diagnosing shouldn’t be your number one choice when it comes to your kitty’s health.
Being able to consult a chart like that can be of course helpful with your cat’s weight loss journey and it can also be useful knowledge to have if your cat is aging. But you should first consult your vet and ask them to explain how this charting system works so you can keep a better eye on your cat.
If your cat isn’t suffering from any disease, then it could be a simple matter of overeating and the lack of proper exercise. Cats that are usually spending their lives indoors or have little to no access to the outdoors can have fewer opportunities to exercise. That’s why it’s the cat owner’s responsibility to offer extra activities and regulate their cat’s access to food.
The more you begin to neglect your kitty the more problems will arise and weight gain isn’t the only consequence. Cats can be really stressful creatures and recent changes to your cat’s environment can cause anxiety and even depression. In these situations, there are cats that will lose weight and others might end up overeating. For instance, if you’ve brought another cat into your home, one of them might begin to stress eat and end up gaining too much weight.
How To Maintain A Healthy Cat Weight?
After checking your cat and realizing that they might be overweight the next step would be a vet consultation. There your cat will go through the proper examination that will determine what’s causing their weight gain. And of course, you’ll know how much booty your kitty needs to lose.
It’s not easy to measure how much fat a cat has, and body weight is usually used as a guide to determine whether a cat’s weight is above the ideal. For your kitty to be considered overweight and obese they’d have to be 10% and over 20% heavier than the ideal body weight accordingly.
Once you have all the information you need the important part is sticking to the plan of action! It’s crucial that you don’t push your cat, but you also shouldn’t ignore your cat’s weight. Diabetes, osteoarthritis, raspatory issues, and heart disease are some of the diseases/illnesses caused by obesity.
Make gradual changes, with protein-rich cat food, preferably wet food that is high in protein, and should help maintain your cat’s muscle mass as they grow. In the journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Debra L. Zoran, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM, states that “cats are metabolically adapted to preferentially use protein and fat as energy sources”.
Proper nutrition is essential for your kitty’s health and with wet food, she will get important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and it’s also highly digestible. Don’t forget to measure your cat’s food portions and keep a strict schedule. An automatic wet food feeder can help your cat enjoy fresh food in smaller portions throughout the day and it can be perfect for the owners that are working away from home.
If you run a multicat household and one of your cats show signs of obesity or one of them is stealing food, then the Surefeed Microchip Pet Feeder might be perfect for you! This feeder will make sure that all your cats are adequately fed and that no one will be able to steal food from each other ever again, thanks to the chip recognition technology.
Try to avoid treats or substitute them with low-calorie snacks instead. Make sure your cat has a cat tree tall enough to climb and jump on. Buy feathery toys and play with your cat as often as possible to keep them fit and don’t forget to add a loving cuddle in the mix!
Keep a close track of the weight-loss progress to make sure there is one. Dr. McDaniel’s advice is to aim for a “gradual weight loss, perhaps one or two percent loss of body weight per week.” She also suggests that “an owner of a chubby cat purchase a baby scale in order to monitor a cat’s weight at home.”
Visit Your Vet
It might take you only a second to realize that your cat is pregnant or you might mistake the excess weight with overeating, but because pregnancy can be a sensitive condition, it’s important to see your vet.
According to VCA Hospitals, “a veterinary examination three to four weeks after breeding will usually confirm her pregnancy.” Once the condition of your kitty is certain your vet will explain to you the process of pregnancy your cat will go through and the necessary steps you need to take in order for it to be successful.
Another reason you’ll need to go to the veterinary clinic according to John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, Ph.D. is pseudopregnancy or false pregnancy. There’s a chance your kitty might show signs of pregnancy and “this usually begins at the end of estrus and can last for several months.”
Then again when it comes to weight gain the advice of a vet can also help you deal with it properly. A good veterinarian will ask you some important and detailed questions about your cat’s diet, exercise, and general wellbeing. Since cats could show signs of more serious conditions too late, seeing them putting on weight should be enough to visit your local pet clinic.
Your vet should perform a thorough physical examination. Depending on your kitty’s condition they’ll do some blood and laboratory tests. In case your kitty needs treatment, you should listen to your vet and follow their instructions. If you’re not completely sure, you could ask for a second opinion from a different veterinarian.
At the end of the day, even if you’re just wondering, is my cat pregnant or just fat, the best way to get a clear answer is asking the people who know best. They’ll be able to help you further on with your cat’s pregnancy or weight loss journey.
Having a cat comes with a dash of confusion, a pinch of am I doing this right, and of course love! Love oftentimes leads to treats and too many treats are bound to confusion. The kind of confusion that makes you wonder if your cat’s just getting a little chubby…or are they expecting!
To rid yourself of the foggy state of what might be happening take your kitty to the vet!
You could try to observe your cat, look for hints and clues to see if it’s belly fat or kittens, but even if you figure it out you’ll still need to take them to the vet, so just do it!
Have you ever been confused by your cat’s bulging belly? Let us know if your cat turned out to be pregnant or fat?
Why does my cat scratch around his food? We've got the answers and explanations to your cat's pawing behavior around their food and water bowl!
Looking for the best cat tree for multiple cats? We've rated, ranked, and reviewed our 7 favorite cat trees for multiple feline friends!