Obesity is becoming an increasingly common problem for our cats. Currently, in the United States, veterinarians estimate that about 60 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 cats are overweight.
How To Tell If Your Cat Is Overweight
Cats that are not overweight have an ideal body condition. These cats’ ribs can be felt without a pad of fat between the skin and ribcage, and they have a waist when viewed from above.
If you cannot feel your cat’s ribs or see your cat’s waist, your cat is likely overweight or obese. If in doubt, your veterinarian can help you determine whether your cat is at the proper weight.
Causes Of Cat Obesity 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. It comes down to overfeeding and a lack of exercise. Sometimes cats have hormone conditions that contribute to obesity. Your veterinarian can test for these conditions and advise you on dietary changes to maintain health and an appropriate weight.
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.
How Can You Help Your Cat Lose Weight?
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 food 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.
How do you make sure your cat stays at a healthy weight? What tips do you have for other cat parents? Let us know in the comments below!