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Is my cat too fat or too skinny? A guide to body condition scoring in cats

Have you ever wondered if your cat is an ideal weight? How do you know if you need to cut out on some of the treats? It is important to keep your cat an ideal weight throughout their life to prevent diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. When vets assess your cat’s weight they are not just looking at the number on the scales but also assessing something called Body Condition Score (BCS). This is because the genetics of every cat are different and the overall condition is more helpful to assess what the ideal body weight for your cat is. Our vet shares their tips and advice here.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet


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What is body condition scoring?

A body condition score chart gives you a silhouette and a list of characteristics to look for. If you have a very fluffy pet, think of how they look in the bath when their hair is all wet. Learning to body condition score your cat will help keep them healthy at all life stages.

The four main things we assess when deciding on overall body condition are:

  • Ability to feel ribs, lower spine and bony prominences

  • Ability to see a ‘waist’ - tucking in of the abdomen after the ribcage when looking at your cat from above

  • Ability to see an ‘abdominal tuck’ - tucking up (upward slant) of the abdomen after the ribcage when looking at your cat from the side

  • Presence of fat deposits


A body condition score is the score given to your cat (out of 9) depending on which of the above features you can see and feel. Make sure to run your hands over your cat to assess the amount of fat you can feel over the ribs and spine as well as look at your cat’s silhouette from above and from the side.

1-3: Under ideal

  • 1 - Ribs very easily seen on short-haired cats. No fat pads present. Severe abdominal tuck. Lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily seen and felt

  • 2 - Ribs easily seen on short-haired cats. Lumbar vertebrae obvious. Pronounced abdominal tuck. No fat pads present

  • 3 - Ribs easily felt with minimal fat covering. Lumbar vertebrae obvious. Obvious waist behind ribs. Minimal abdominal fat pads

4-5: Ideal

  • 4 - Ribs felt with minimal fat covering. Noticeable waist behind ribs. Slight abdominal tuck. Minimal abdominal fat pads
  • 5 - Well-proportioned. Ribs felt with slight fat covering. Waist seen behind ribs, but not pronounced. Abdominal fat pad minimal

6-9: Over ideal

  • 6 - Ribs felt with slight excess fat covering. Waist and abdominal fat pad present but not obvious. Abdominal tuck absent. (A BCS of 6/9 may be acceptable in some cats, especially older cats.)

  • 7 - Ribs not easily felt through moderate fat covering. Waist not easily seen. Slight rounding of the abdomen may be present. Moderate abdominal fat pad

  • 8 - Ribs not felt due to excess fat covering. Waist absent. Obvious rounding of the abdomen with prominent abdominal fat pad. Fat deposits present over lower back area

  • 9 - Ribs not felt under heavy fat cover. Heavy fat deposits over the lumbar area, face and limbs. Distention of abdomen with no waist. Extensive abdominal fat deposits

Further information

Obesity in dogs
Obesity in cats

Get advice from an experienced vet

  • You notice that your pet is overweight or underweight

  • You notice your cat is losing or gaining weight

Have more questions about your cat's weight?

Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our FirstVet vets. They will be able to discuss how best to manage your cat’s weight, exercise and nutrition based on their specific, individual needs.

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