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The “F” BMI — No, it Means F-eline

Contributor: “Dr. J”
Dr. J offers his irreverent, slightly irrelevant, but possibly useful opinions on health and fitness. A Florida surgeon and fitness freak with a black belt in karate, he runs 50 miles a week and flies a Cherokee Arrow 200.

I think it’s pretty apparent to most of us that not only are more of us getting obese, but so are our pets! It is estimated that up to 45 percent of our dogs and 57 percent of our cats that are living in our homes are overweight or obese, defined as 30 percent above their ideal weight.

The FBMI to the Rescue

How can you tell if your cat is overweight? The standard way of telling whether your cat is a healthy weight is to feel around the ribcage while your cat is standing. You should not be able to see the ribs, but you should be able to feel them. If you can not feel your cat’s ribs easily, your cat is overly fat, not to be confused with being big boned, thick or sturdy.

We have an impressive veterinary medicine center at our university. It is only slightly smaller than the human medical center. The expansion of veterinary medicine has outpaced almost any other field that I can think of, to the point of a pet insurance industry that may necessitate pet health care as part of our next presidential election platform.

It is not surprising now that veterinarians have devised a formula to calculate if your cat is fat: The Feline Body Mass Index (FBMI).

How to Determine Your Cat’s FBMI

While your cat is in a standing position, with the legs perpendicular to the ground and the head upright:

  1. Measure the circumference of your cat’s rib cage. (The level of the 9th rib is ideal.)
  2. Now measure the length of the lower back leg from the knee to the ankle and write down both numbers, because with what is coming, you probably won’t remember them.

Calculating the FBMI

  1. Divide the rib cage measurement by 0.7062 and subtract the length of the leg.
  2. Divide that answer by 0.9156.
  3. Subtract the leg length from that number, and that is your cat’s BMI.

What were they thinking? Perhaps some veterinary statistician had a little too much time on their hands!

For someone who was not, shall we say, impressive in math, I would also suggest taking an aspirin, probably before attempting to do this calculation, but certainly after I did!

For comparisons’ sake, the BMI calculation for humans is weight in kg / (height in m x height in m) = BMI.

Helping Your Cat Achieve a Healthy Feline Body Mass Index

Veterinarians currently feel that a cat with a body mass index of 42 or higher needs to lose weight, i.e. a fat cat! Most vets still use the Body Conditioning Scores to determine if a cat is overweight, because, have you ever tried to take those measurements on a feral cat? These scores are somewhat like a combination of the ectomorph/mesomorph/endomorph concept for cats and dogs with a little apple or pear shape thrown in.

Interestingly enough, some of the same concerns about human BMI values are being voiced by the “I can have a fat but fit cat, right?” crowd.

After all, FBMI also does not take into account the different body types of various breeds. To say nothing of all that mouse lifting our cats may have done to bulk up.

If you find that your cat really is overweight, they say “it’s not difficult to put together a plan of action to help.” I would not be foolish enough to say that myself, but here are the “simple and easy” recommendations:

Quality of food. Cheaper pet food and too many treats are linked to higher body fat percentage. This means that the first step towards a leaner cat should be a high-quality food, typically one that can be purchased at a pet supply store rather than the supermarket, and go easy on the treats.

Feeding schedule. Free feeding cats are also likely to have problems with their body composition. Instead, three smaller, regular meals a day are likely to have a better effect on your cat’s health.

Increased activity level. More activity and exercise will help your cat get back into a healthier condition. Some have even suggested introducing catnip to your pet’s diet. Most cats increase their activity after ingesting catnip. They may roll around incessantly or run laps around your home, and you can chase them.

By changing the quality of your cat’s food and increasing their exercise levels, your cat should reach and maintain an optimal weight and achieve a healthy Feline Body Mass Index, if you are ever able to calculate it. The obese cat lifestyle can be stopped easily if you take the time to make these changes.

Interesting how the answers are the same for every species isn’t it? Too bad our pets can’t initiate these simple and easy recommendations for us if we happen to need them!

Speaking of answers, I didn’t know how to answer her the other day when she asked me, “Do I look FAT in this fur?”

Do I look fat in this fur?

What do you think I should tell her?

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14 Responses to “The “F” BMI — No, it Means F-eline”

  1. What a beautiful kitty!! :)
    Cats who eat high-quality cat food without cheap filler ingredients are much less likely to be overweight. Their food is nutritionally dense, so they’re not forced to eat as much. It’s the same thing for us humans!

  2. Bob Wieder says:

    And as all cat owners know, nothing boosts kitty’s activity level like the sound of the vacuum cleaner.
    Meanwhile, dog owners fret, “Does this collar make my mutt look big?”

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  3. OMG, that last line – too funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Dr. J, just over the weekend I was discussing with a family member that when hubby & I go out, we see more & more of these overweight dogs. In southern CA, people bring them everywhere & not only dress them up BUT they also have carriages they push them in OR bags they carry them in that look like actual purses!

    Anyway, I was also saying that usually the pet owner is overweight. They feed their pet the way they feed themselves.. too much. Really sad!

  4. Fitness Surffer says:

    My cat ate the Thanksgiving Turkey that was thawing in the garage, and was fat from there on out. Ha ha, but we really should take better care of our pets, and not leave tempting turkeys in a garage. Similar to humans. If it’s sitting on the counter, it will be eaten.

  5. No, she does NOT look fat in that fur! She looks super duper cute! Who knew there was such a thing as FBMI. So funny, because I was just out shooting another pet video today just before I saw this. :)

  6. Emergefit says:

    Not much of a cat guy, but as a dog lover and owner this resonates with me. One my clients is a veterinarian. He tells me stories of animals getting larger and larger as the years go by. The owners he says, when counseled on helping the animal lose weight, don’t give him much attention.

    He often jokes that for all the willingness people have in giving their pets treats and extra food, he’s surprised more people don’t give their pets alcohol and recreational drugs. At least I think he’s joking…

  7. Dr. J says:

    So true, Eleanor!

    Mine heads for the door when the vacuum starts Bob, with me right behind her :-)

    Pushing a dog in a carriage, Jody??? That’s just not right!

    Sorry about that Surfer! My cat has never eaten my food, what’s up with that?

    She appreciated your saying that, Sahar!

    Soon we will have weight rehab centers for people hat are pet friendly, Roy :-)

  8. Patrick says:

    We have 4 cats, all but one are fat fat fat. I sent this link to my wife, we’ll see if she wants to spend some time this weekend figuring out their BMIs. Lazer pens are great for exercising cats & entertaining yourself :-)

  9. Our cat is the right weight due to his “extreme hunter status,” but our DOG? He is overweight. Which is interesting to me, because we are extremely careful with the amount of dog food he gets and don’t feed him from the table. BUT, with all these kids, he gets way too many unintentional snacks. We have been working on getting him more exercise and it is working!

  10. Dr. J says:

    One fit cat is all I can handle, Patrick!

    I certainly understand the unfortunate hunter nature of the house cat, Diane. She will often leave me unwanted “presents” on the doorstep!

  11. Okay, this is very interesting. As we owners get fat so do the rest of the household. I hate this obesity epidemic. It really pisses me off. It’s ruining our lives AND those of our pets.

  12. Dr. J says:

    I understand how you feel, Bobbie!

  13. I think our cat is good weight. But the dachsund! He is prone to sneaking in the pet door to gobble up any remainder of the shih-tu’s food. He can get a little chubby if I don’t keep an eye on him pinching the kibble.

    take care, Dr. J.!

  14. Dr. J says:

    Jannie the Funster!

    Yeah, dachshund’s are adorable but we don’t want them dragging on the floor :-)

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