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Published: Sep 20, 2012

Part of what makes cats such interesting creatures is their variety. Cats come in many shapes, colors, and sizes - not to mention each has a unique personality. Because of their diversity, it may be hard to gauge when your cat has crossed the line from a healthy weight toward obesity. If you're unsure, either because your cat is naturally large or because she has a heavy coat, here are some tips to help you decide if she is suffering from feline obesity.

The rib check

The best way to tell if your cat is obese is to take her to one of your local vet clinics for a checkup. Your veterinarian will be able to tell whether your cat is at a healthy weight. If you're not sure whether it's time for a trip to the vet, then you can do a quick check at home. The next time you're petting your cat, feel for her ribcage. You shouldn't be able to see her ribs when you look at her, but you also shouldn't have to work too hard to feel them. If you find you have to press relatively hard to feel her ribs, she may be suffering from obesity.

How did my cat get this way?

Obesity in cats can be caused by a number of factors. Some felines may be genetically predisposed to weight problems while others lack exercise or a healthy diet. Indoor cats are especially prone to obesity, because they have fewer opportunities to exercise throughout the day. If you're unsure why your cat has become overweight or obese, pay a visit to your vet and see if he or she can help you diagnose the problem.

Helping your feline get fit

Weight reduction in cats can be a challenge, but with a little guidance from your vet and some extra effort, you can help your feline slim down. Remember that gradual weight loss is always preferable, as cats who lose weight too quickly will be more likely to gain it back.

A visit to the vet will help you get your cat's diet under control. Once you understand how often you should be feeding her and what type of food she should be eating, you can focus on exercise, which is usually essential to promote weight loss.

Helping your cat lose extra pounds can be a fun experience for both you and your feline, as it often involves playing. If your cat is an indoor cat, purchase a few toys that will entertain her and get her moving. Cats are natural hunters, so your feline will likely be attracted to toys tied to strings that you can bounce up and down, or small toys that can move quickly across the floor.

If you're out of the house often, you can still encourage your cat to exercise while you're away. Consider purchasing a few "cat aerobic centers," which are climbing toys. You can hide portions of your cat's food in these places to encourage her to climb and exercise.