Current studies estimate that over 50% of cats in the US are overweight or obese. In fact, obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in our pet population.
Unfortunately, the problem often goes unrecognized by their caretakers. So is your cat overweight?
- Can you feel his ribs easily?
- Does he have a waistline when you look from above?
- When you look from the side, does he have an abdominal tuck (as opposed to sagging)?
- Does he have a loose scruff, with a clear distinction between the head and shoulders?
These are the features your veterinarian considers when evaluating your pet’s body condition. If the answer to one or more of these questions is no, then unfortunately your pet needs to lose weight.
Weight Problems Can Cause Other Health Problems
There are multiple health issues to consider when you are caring for an overweight cat. As body fat increases, so does the risk for diabetes, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), lower urinary tract disease, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and arthritis. The immune system can become compromised, and there can be anesthetic and surgical complications. Statistically, there is an overall shortened life expectancy.
Why is Feline Obesity Increasing in Prevalence?
Decreased physical activity is a major factor, especially with more cats living entirely indoors. Neutering plays a role, as there is consequently less roaming and increased food intake. Most often, though, the overweight cat is a result of overfeeding and/or high caloric diets and treats.
Okay, now that you sadly admit that your cat has a weight issue, what can you do about it? Most important: reduce the calories you feed.
The average 10 pound cat has a daily requirement of 180 to 220 calories to maintain its weight. For safe and effective weight loss, reduce the calories by 25%.
Dry cat foods have an average of 400 calories per cup (this information will be listed on the label of your product). Be sure to precisely measure out portions – “taking a rough guess” tends to lead to overfeeding.
It is really important that you feed appropriate amounts when doing a weight loss regimen – too many calories won’t yield any results, whereas too few can lead to serious health consequences.
One of the newer approaches to weight loss in cats is to feed a “Catkins Diet” – a high protein, low carbohydrate food. Since dry foods sold in pet stores tend to have high levels of carbohydrates (leading to overproduction of insulin, increased hunger, and weight gain), the “Catkins” solution is to feed a high quality canned food. For cats that are accustomed to dry food, changing to canned may be challenging. Do the transition gradually, and be patient.
Treats are unfortunately are a major contributor to weight gain, and should never constitute more than 10% of the daily total caloric intake. Considering that 1 slice of lunch meat has 30 calories, 2 ounces of tuna has 80 calories, and 1 ounce of cheese has 120 calories… it adds up!
Another aspect to a successful weight loss plan is exercise. Most indoor cats are not particularly active, so we need to be creative. Luckily they are natural hunters, so use toys and objects that they may chase, i.e. feather toys, flashlights, ping pong balls. Move the food dish to different locations so they need to find their next meal.
Slow But Sure is Best
Keep in mind that weight loss in your cat should be a gradual process. Most will reach their target weight in six to eight months, with healthy loss at about one pound per month.
For additional information, check out these great resources. They will help you determine an appropriate diet, how much to feed your cat, and how to transition from dry to wet food. We are here to help you as well!