Obesity is becoming an increasingly common problem for our cats. Currently, in the United States, veterinarians estimate that over 50 percent of the feline patients seen are either overweight or obese. Even more alarming is the fact that many cat owners fail to recognize that their cat is overweight.
Body condition and weight in cats
Cats that are not overweight have an ideal body condition. These cats have ribs that can be felt without a pad of fat between the skin and ribcage and have a waist when viewed from above.
If you cannot feel your cat’s ribs and cannot see your cat’s waist, chances are good that your cat is either overweight or obese. If in doubt, your veterinarian can help you determine whether your cat has a good body condition and is at the proper weight.
Obesity causes and health risks
Too many calories and not enough exercise are the most common causes of obesity for your cat although other factors such as genetics may play a role as well.
Being overweight or obese puts your cat at risk for serious diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, liver disease, skin disease, lower urinary tract disease and more. Overweight cats are also more likely to experience surgical or anesthetic complications and heat exposure.
What can I do for my overweight cat?
Before you begin any weight reduction program, have your veterinarian perform a physical examination for your cat. Once your veterinarian has determined that your cat is fit enough to start a weight reduction program, there are several things you can do to help.
Slowly decrease your cat’s caloric intake over time. Rapid weight loss is as unhealthy for your cat as it is for you. Cut your cat’s calorie intake by no more than 10 percent at a time.
Consider switching your cat to a diet that is less energy dense by choosing a diet that is lower in fat, higher in fiber and/or higher in moisture content. Feed your cat controlled, measured meals daily rather allowing him to forage and eat as much he likes.
Make your cat work for his food.
- Use food puzzles to increase your cat’s activity and mental stimulation.
- Scatter your cat’s food in different places throughout your home rather than feeding in one location.
- Provide barriers your cat must overcome to reach his food by placing his food in an elevated location or behind a fence or baby gate.
Add toys and other forms of environmental enrichment such as scratching posts and perches to encourage your cat to exercise more. Set aside time during your day to provide interactive play with your cat using toys your cat can chase or stalk. Discover what type of toys your cat prefers and take advantage. Some cats prefer toys with feathers; others prefer mouse-like toys. Some cats will chase laser pointers also.
A combination of decreased calories and increased exercise will help your cat lose the pounds and regain his perfect body condition.