Fat cats aren’t just Wall Street bankers. In fact, they might be living right in your home, and they’re one of the biggest problems veterinarians see — in more than one way!
Obesity is a growing problem in cats. It’s estimated that ten to 30 percent of the cats seen by vets are overweight. There’s a good chance their life span will be shortened because they’re more prone to arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and fatty liver syndrome.
If your cat has put on a few pounds, well, you can probably empathize. You can also help them lose weight the old-fashioned way: diet and exercise. Of course, you must ask your veterinarian before putting your cat on a new exercise or feeding routine!
Here are some tips to get your cat in shape and keep them that way.
Cats & Exercise: Time To Get Moving
Getting your cat moving is especially important. You might not be able to take them jogging — although, you can teach them to walk on a treadmill — but there are plenty of creative ways to add exercise to your cat’s life.
Bonus: they’ll be less bored and less inclined to shred your sofa just because they don’t have anything else to do.
Cats have short attention spans, so putting them on an exercise program shouldn’t take a lot of time. Keep sessions short. Two to five minutes a few times a day is plenty.
And remember that cats are nocturnal. They’ll be more interested in playing once the sun goes down.
Most important, introduce exercise gently and gradually. Obese cats can injure their joints if you try to get them to do too much too quickly. Hold off on the jumping and stair running until your cat has lost some weight.
Use Those Hunting Instincts
Cats are predators, so key in on their ability and desire to stalk and chase. Look for toys and treats that will encourage them to chase or bat at objects.
Think electronic mice, balls that light up when they move, laser pointers and catnip-filled toys that make a crinkling sound when pounced on. If your tastes are simpler, toss a Ping Pong ball in the bathtub to simulate a feline hockey rink.
Aim the laser down the hall, up and down the stairs, onto the furniture or up the wall for a little vertical action. Beyond the basic red dot, some laser pointers can produce different images, including butterflies, mice and stars. Be careful not to shine it in your cat’s eyes.
Wand- and fishing pole-type toys are favorites, too. Some fishing-pole toys mimic the real thing, with a fly reel that has a catnip-stuffed mouse attached at the end. Cast it down the hall, reel it in, and watch your cat go wild chasing it.
Cats are climbers. Put up a floor-to-ceiling cat tree that gives your cat a view of the outdoors, or install window box bird feeders that encourage the cat to jump onto the windowsill.
If your cat yawns at toys, appeal to their self-interest: food and its whereabouts.
Feeding Your Overweight Cat
Instead of leaving food down in one area, put small amounts throughout the house.
Choose areas where the cat will have to do a little work to get to it: on a windowsill, on the top ledge of the cat tree, upstairs, downstairs, on a bathroom sink. The possibilities are endless.
Lay a trail for your cat to follow, and change it around every once in a while so they don’t get bored.
You can also place treats inside one of the various food puzzles made for cats. Kitty will have to push it around to get it to release their meal.
How will you know if your cat is back in good shape? Cats are athletes and their body condition should show it. The ideal cat is lean and muscular with an obvious waistline. Of course, you should follow up with your vet, and they can let you know how your feline is doing.
Have you ever helped an overweight cat get in shape? What tips do you have for keeping felines fit? Let us know in the comments below!