Obesity and overweight are two of the most common conditions that affect domestic cats. In fact, around 60% or 56.6 million cats in the US are considered obese or overweight, says the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).
It’s a growing problem, and more vets have to cater to cats that carry extra pounds. Figures show that the cases of feline obesity increased from 30.9% in 2016 to 33.5% in 2017.
Apart from leaving your pet more vulnerable to certain diseases, the excess fat hampers your cat’s movements and compromises his or her quality of life.
How Obesity and Overweight Affects Your Cat
If your cat is obese or overweight, he or she is more prone to certain health conditions. The excess pounds open the doors to:
- Osteoarthritis – This condition is characterized by erosion of the cartilage, a smooth tissue that covers the joints. When the cartilage wears off, the ends of the bones rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation.
- Hip Dysplasia – This disease is usually inherited, but it can develop among obese cats, too. In hip dysplasia, the head of the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the socket of the hip bone. This causes the cat to lose the function of his or her hips.
- Diabetes Mellitus – This is a condition where the cat doesn’t produce or respond to insulinproperly. As a result, the tissues don’t absorb glucose from the blood. Obese cats are three times likelier to develop type 2 diabetes than cats with a normal weight.
- Cardiovascular diseases – Excess weight causes the cat’s heart and vascular system to work harder. These organs are at risk for overwork and several diseases.
An obese cat is also likelier to have a compromised immune system, breathing issues, and difficult births.
What Caused the Excess Pounds?
As with people, feline obesity and overweight stem from a positive energy balance, where cats consume more calories than they burn.
One of the factors that fuel this is free feeding, where the owner leaves a bowl of food available for the entire day. The problem is, cats are hunters, not grazers. Their instinct is to hunt food, eat a small amount, and then engage in a long fasting period. They aren’t like cows that graze all day and need a constant supply of food in their digestive tracts. Consequently, free feeding cats take in more calories than they need. Giving cats table scraps and unhealthy treats also lead to excessive weight gain.
Certain characteristics also play a part in the development of obesity.
- Genetics – The International Cat Care says moggy cats are more likely to gain excess weight than their purebred counterparts.
- Neutering – It’s easier for neutered cats to gain weight compared to intact cats. Neutering decreases a cat’s metabolic rate by 20%, which means their bodies burn fewer calories within a certain period. Additionally, intact cats tend to roam, while neutering decreases the desire to move about, reducing physical activity.
- Age – Cats between two and ten years old don’t require much energy and are more prone to gain weight, according to the International Cat Care. Those younger or older than this group are less likely to be overweight.
Assessing Obesity in Your Cat
Checking the ribs is a common way of evaluating a cat’s weight. This assessment involves three steps:
- Rib Check – Run both your hands, with your palms facing down, across your cat’s ribcage. You should be able to feel the ribs.
- Profile Check – Look at your cat from the side. The abdomen should be prominent, and you should see a tummy tuck.
- Overhead Check – Take a look at your cat from above. The waistline should be defined.
If you feel a thick layer of fat covering the ribs, and it’s hard to see the waistline, then bring your cat to the vet. He or she will confirm if your cat is overweight or obese and prescribe a weight loss program to get rid of the excess pounds.
Treatment for Feline Obesity
There are a number of ways you can help trim your cat’s weight.
- Establish a Consistent Eating Schedule
As mentioned earlier, free feeding isn’t a good option for overweight or obese cats. Instead, feed your cat small food portions two to four times a day. Hold mealtimes on the same hour every day.
Also, avoid giving your cat too many treats. Many pet parents use snacks to keep noisy cats quiet. This is counterproductive. Don’t use treats as a method to keep a cat quiet because it reinforces his or her begging behavior. What’s more, treats are well-flavored, so cats often find them irresistible.
If you think your cat really deserves a treat, give him or her little pieces of cooked chicken or fish. Don’t give them treats made from grains.
If you live in a multiple-cat household, feed the obese cats and cats with normal weight separately. Put the obese cats in one room and the rest in another, then remove the uneaten food until the next feeding.
- Feed Them the Right Type of Food
The Cornell Feline Health Center says canned food is a viable option for cats with obesity. Canned food typically contains more proteins and fewer carbohydrates than dry kibble. Italso has a high water content, which increases your cat’s water intake.
Dave’s Pet Food has a selection of canned food that’s ideal for cats with obesity. Our 95% Premium Meat Canned Cat Food, for instance, promotes weight loss because it:
- Contains no grains, corn, cereals, gluten, or wheat
- Contains 95% meat, so it’s similar to the Atkins Diet for humans
- Is packed with essential vitamins and minerals
Give your cat one to two weeks to adjust to the new diet. During the first fewdays, mix a quarter of the new food with three quarters of the old one. Gradually increase the portion of the new food until your cat has fully adjusted to the new diet.
If your cat refuses to eat the prescribed diet, contact your vet right away.
- Control Food Portions
Ask your vet about the right amount of food to lose weight healthily. Too little food can put your cat at risk for hepatic lipidosis. This occurs when the cat’s body compensates for undernourishment by moving fat from its fat reserves to its liver, which will convert the adipose tissues to lipoproteins for energy.
Cats, however, can’t convert large amounts of fat, so the liver can’t use all the fat that’s delivered to it. As a result, fat accumulates in the organ and inhibits its functions.
Additionally, use a scale to monitor your cat’s weight loss. If the cat isn’t losing as much weight as anticipated, or if he or she is shedding off pounds too quickly, contact your vet immediately.
- Get Your Cat Moving
Indoor cats don’t get as much exercise as their outdoor counterparts. So, install things that encourage your cats to move, like towers and multi-level cat trees. Use a laser, feather toys, ping pong balls, or anything that your cat would chase. Play with him or her for around ten minutes, twice a day.
Move your cat’s food bowl away from his or her favorite areas. This forces your cat to move to get to the food bowl. Give your cat a harness and take a nice walk around the neighborhood together. You can also put him or her in an enclosed porch or patio, where your cat can roam freely.
Excess weight compromises your cat’s quality of life. Shedding off the extra pounds will make everyday activities more comfortable and enjoyable for your cat. A healthy weight will give him or her many, happy years.
If your cat needs to lose weight, inquire about our premium cat food today.