Dealing with obesity in cats
Our pets are like our children. We love to spoil and pamper them to give them the best life possible.
Treats, toys, soft beds strewn across the house (despite knowing that they’ll settle in a discarded cardboard box meant for recycling) and scratching posts are common sights in a cat loving household. Often, as cats can be quite stand offish, we like to coax them with treats in return for a fuss on the head – they’re certainly fickle!
So it’s no wonder that we tend to go a bit overboard with the TLC (treat loving care!) when it comes to our feline friends. They deserve the best! Especially after a busy day exploring. Unfortunately, it’s easy to go from giving them one treat a day to five, or filling their bowls with delicious tuna to top up their crunchy food.
Slowly, you might notice your cat gaining weight, – especially if they’re a house cat – and once you’re in a cycle of giving, giving, giving, it can be hard to break it. If it reaches the point where your cat is obese, it will be time to intervene in order to ensure their longterm health and happiness.
The most important step you can take is recognising that your cat is obese and acknowledge that changes need to be made.
So, what is obesity?
Obesity is an excess of body fat, and this applies to humans and animals. Usually, a cat will have both extra body weight and excess body fat, however it’s easier to determine whether a cat is obese by measuring body weight overall. An overweight cat is 10 – 19% above their ideal body weight, which will vary between cats. An obese cat however, will weight 20% or more over their ideal body weight.
What are the risk factors in cats?
An obese cat is at risk of developing a range of diseases during its lifetime, plus it’s likely that its lifespan will be shortened. They’re also at greater risk of developing different types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Other complications also include skin problems, difficulty fighting infectious diseases and urinary bladder stones.
How do I know if my cat is obese?
Some of the physical signs you can look for include being unable to feel your cat’s ribs under their fat layer. This is a simple way to check at home, and can also be used in between weigh-ins to keep track of weight loss progress.
The best way to figure this out is with assistance from your vet – if you have regular checkups it’s likely that your cat is being weighed and monitored for any weight challenges. Your vet will give you an idea of the ideal weight your cat should be at and how this can be achieved, if it’s higher than it should be.
How can I help my cat lose weight?
If your cat is obese, it’s important to make changes recommended by your vet. This might include safely reducing your cat’s weight with adjustments to your cat’s diet.
There are lots of scientifically formulated foods that are available and can help your cat lose weight for the long term. Drastically reducing their current food intake isn’t a safe solution, so instead look for an alternative that has fewer calories but the right nutritional values.
Be sure to be consistent with your cat’s new diet. Your vet will not only be able to advise on the right food, but on portion sizes too. Stick to this and resist the temptation to treat your cat! It can be difficult, especially as our pets know exactly how to get what they want, so ask your vet if there are any suitable alternatives to your cat’s favourite snacks.
Regularly weigh your cat, whether it be at home or with your vet, to keep them on track and everyone accountable for their progress. Once your cat is at their ideal body weight, it’s still just as important to monitor their weight as a relapse back into obesity would be harmful. Yo yo dieting is never the answer! So seek advice from your vet on the correct food and portions to keep your cat on the right track.
Once your cat is at their ideal body weight, it’s still just as important to monitor their weight as a relapse back into obesity would be harmful. Yo yo dieting is never the answer! So seek advice from your vet on the correct food and portions to keep your cat on the right track.
Neil’s top tips:
- Work with your vet to ensure that your cat has a weight loss goal and time scale to achieve it. It should be realistic and safe, and you should do your best to help your cat hit their target.
- Encourage your cat to move! Buy new toys that make your cat want to get up and run about, or play with them for a period of time each day when they’re most active to get them jumping, running and climbing.
- It can be difficult to tell if your cat is losing weight, just as it can be when we humans start a healthier lifestyle. Regular weighing and measuring your cat can be an effective way of monitoring their progress. It doesn’t have to be tricky – just weigh yourself or a box on your home scales, then weigh yourself or the box with the addition of your cat, simple!