Help Your Fat Cat Become a Fit Cat
Article by Dennis Thompson Jr. | Found on Everyday Health
Our furry feline friends are experiencing obesity at alarming rates, often because owners fail to properly manage their cats’ diets and make sure they get exercise. In fact, about 58 percent of pet cats in the United States are overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. And one in every three pet cats is obese.
Overweight cats may seem like cuddly lap-warmers, but their excess fat makes them more likely to develop a host of serious health problems, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. These include:
- Liver disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Skin conditions
And it is much more dangerous to operate on an overweight cat — these pet cats are more likely to die during surgery. They are less tolerant of high temperatures and are less resistant to contracting an infectious disease. Obese cats are twice as likely as thinner cats to die in middle age, between the ages of 6 and 12.
Trying to determine what causes pet cats to become overweight, researchers identified the two leading risk factors for feline obesity: eating too much and not being active enough. Their findings were published in October 2015 in Preventive Veterinary Medicine.
- Overeating. Pet cats allowed to eat at will or given too much rich cat food are more likely to become obese.
- Inactivity. Pet cats kept indoors in small apartments or homes are more likely to be overweight than cats kept in large homes or those allowed to roam outdoors.
Here are some signs that your cat is overweight or obese, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners:
- Ribs and spine that are hard to feel because of excess fat.
- There’s no visible waist between the rib cage and hips when you’re looking at the cat from above.
- The abdomen sags down when viewed from the side rather than being “tucked” up into the waist.
- Fat deposits are noticeable on the chest, hips, back, and base of the tail.
Your vet may rate your cat using a body condition score between 1 and 9, in which the ideal weight is a 5. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention lists these ideal weight ranges for certain types of cats:
- Domestic cat: 8 to 10 pounds
- Siamese: 5 to 10 pounds
- Persian: 7 to 12 pounds
- Maine Coon: 10 to 25 pounds
The Healthy Cat’s Diet
The building blocks of a healthy cat’s diet include some truths that run counter to established beliefs. To feed your cat right, you should:
- Provide wet cat food rather than dry. Pet cats are natural carnivores and need to eat high-protein foods. Dry cat foods tend to be very high in carbohydrates, while wet cat foods are protein-rich and contain more water. Never feed your cat a strictly vegetarian diet.
- Feed your cat twice daily, controlling the portions. The two feedings should be about eight to 12 hours apart. Talk with your vet about the proper amount of food for your cat. Cats with certain health concerns, such as diabetes or tooth loss, might require different feeding approaches.
- Create a plan if you have multiple cats. Having more than one cat can make feeding challenging, especially if you have one cat that eats the other’s food or doesn’t like to show up at the same time for scheduled meal times. Talk with your vet about ways to feed all your cats the right way.
- Skip the milk. Contrary to popular belief, milk can be bad for cats, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Many cats are lactose-intolerant, which means that they lack an enzyme necessary to break down the lactose in milk and can vomit or experience diarrhea from drinking milk. And if they have a balanced diet, they do not need anything from milk. Instead, provide plenty of fresh water, cleaning and filling their water bowl daily.
Help Your Overweight Cat Slim Down
Here are some more steps you can take to help your cat either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight:
- Play with them often to increase their activity level. Laser pointers or Cat Dancers are toys you can use to really rev your pet cat’s engine.
- Challenge them to find their meals and treats. Feed them far from where you usually hang out so they get exercise as they seek their bowl. Similarly, if you want to give treats, provide small tidbits — but hide them as a challenge to your cat.
- Give them their own toys. Offer plenty of active toys that cats can play with by themselves.
- Limit treats. Don’t feed your cat too many table scraps or other food treats. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine recommends limiting treats to less than 15 percent of a cat’s daily intake.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that weight loss can take approximately eight months if you follow these dietary guidelines and keep your pet cat active — but advises that you check in with your vet to make sure you’re both on track.
Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital (OVSH) has been serving the Portland and Beaverton area community since 1979. Drs. Steven F. Skinner (Neurology, Neurosurgery) and Robert T. Franklin (Internal medicine.) We welcome referrals from veterinarians all over the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to help your pet regain health and live a long and happy life.
Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital
9339 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy,
Beaverton, OR 97005.