Cats love lying in sunbeams or on a soft cushion, but a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for their health. Obesity can lead to a number of conditions that can reduce their quality of life and may even cost them their life.
One example was Meow, a cat who weighed in at 18kg. He was only 2 years old when he died of complications from his obesity. While there are few statistical studies on the number of overweight cats, it has been suggested that the numbers are similar to those in dogs, with up to 40% of feline companions being overweight. They don’t all end up like Meow, but obesity does take its toll on the health of any cat who is heavier than they should be.
What causes cat obesity?
It is extremely rare for your cat to have a medical reason for his or her obesity; their physical condition is usually due to eating too much and exercising too little. As his owner, you can easily control his food intake, but increasing his exercise is a little more challenging.
Domestic cats aren’t naturally active. After all, they don’t have to hunt for their food; it’s brought to them on a platter. They can, and often do, spend their time lazing around in comfort which uses up very few calories.
At what weight is your cat obese?
Rather than judging your cat’s shape by a number, the best way to assess your cat’s body condition is to use your hands and feel him all over. Afterall, there are many different cat breeds and sizes so it is impossible to give an exact figure for all of our feline friends. When feeling your cat with your hands, there should only be a thin layer of fat over his ribs, and you should be able to feel the bones easily. If you can’t feel them at all, then your cat is carrying too many kilos!
You can also use your eyes to check whether or not your cat is overweight, but only if your cat has a short coat. You should be able to see the waistline just after his or her ribs, whether you are looking at him from the side or from above.
Some particularly overweight cats have a large sagging fat pad on their tummy towards their hind legs. This is quite easy to see.
How do you help your cat lose weight?
When it comes to putting your cat on a diet, it needs to be done carefully. Although you may be pleased to see your feline friend trim down quickly, cats that lose weight too fast can develop a condition called hepatic lipidosis. This condition occurs when the liver is infiltrated with fat, and it doesn’t function properly. Affected cats are off their food, they usually vomit and may become jaundiced.
Change to a prescription diet
To avoid this, you need to carefully control your cat’s weight loss journey and this is often easiest by using a prescription diet that is low calorie.
Measure all food servings – no more free pouring!
Make sure you measure what you put in the bowl at mealtimes because it’s very easy to be too generous with food portions.
Encourage exercise through environmental enrichment
While you can’t put a leash on your cat and take him for a walk, you can still increase his exercise. Environmental enrichment is also important in getting him moving. Put food bowls up higher so he has to climb up to eat, encourage him to chase feathers on a string, ping pong balls or even a laser pointer.
Feed dry food in a food dispensing toy. Your cat will need to roll the toy to make it toss out a piece of kibble, and this will help him to use up calories.
Your cat may complain at first but they’ll thank you later
It’s not easy putting your cat on a diet. They can be quite demanding when they want more food, and a typically sedentary cat may not be too enthusiastic about any increase in exercise. However, it’s important that you persist because in the long term, they’ll thank you for it once they’re healthier than ever and enjoying their new found energy to run around and play.