How to Help an Obese Cat
Sadly, it is a fact that cat obesity is sharply increasing in the U.S. and in all affluent nations. The number of obese and overweight house cats is expected to surpass 60% of all U.S. house cats this year. So, the question we have to ask our readers is, is your cat obese? If your answer is yes, then Fluffy has probably morphed into a fat cat, but fear not. There are relatively painless but important steps you can take to get your cat’s weight back to a healthy number. Here is what you need to know.
Why Your Cat’s Weight Matters
Just like in people, obesity creates diseases in cats. Fat cats are more likely than normal weight cats to develop one or more of these health problems:
- Diabetes (exasperated by obesity)
- Pancreatitis and/or liver disease
- Digestive stress disorders (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation)
- Assorted obesity related cancers
- Heart disease and circulatory system disorders
- Arthritis in major joints
- Skin sores/matted hair/hair loss
You Know Your Cat is Overweight or Obese if:
- Overweight: the body weight is 10% to 20% above its breed average
- Obese: the body weight is 20% or more above its breed average
Cats that are 0% to 10% over their breed weight average are considered to be at a healthy weight. You can use an online weight chart or a cat weight calculator to determine your cat’s body weight status.
Also note that healthy adult cats average about 10 lbs, but weights differ between breeds. Small breeds like Siamese will range between 5 lbs to 7 lbs. The less common large breeds like the Maine Coon can weigh a healthy 25 lbs. For mixed breeds, look to the predominant breed’s body weight traits. You can also compare your cat’s body condition to the information and pictographs given in weight charts.
Most vets will agree that a cat’s body weight is no longer a stand alone measurement of its health and fitness. There are simply too many variations among breeds and crossbreeds. Instead, they look at weight and body condition score. Some vets prefer scoring the cat on a scale of 1 to 5, while others use a system that scores the cat from 1 to 10. Both systems are fine, it is just a matter of training and personal choice.
In body condition scoring, a low number means the cat is too skinny and a high number means it is too fat. A score of 4 in the 1 to 5 system corresponds to an 8 in the 1 to 10 system. A 4 or 8 score means the cat is overweight. A score of 5, or 9 to 10, means the cat is obese.
Here are some tips to help your obese cat.
Limit the cat’s Calorie Intake
Feed your cat smaller portions. This is key to any weight loss plan. Instead of giving your cat a large meal once or twice a day, break it up into three or more smaller rations at designated times during the day. If that is not practical for you, then feed smaller amounts at morning and night. Be sure the cat has ready access to fresh water at all times.
You can also try feeding your cat less treats. Treats are a diet breaker. If you must give treats, then be sure they are small (like a kibble) and infrequent.
Another way to cut back on calories is to put your cat on low calorie food. Your vet may advise you to change to a high protein, low fat, low calorie cat food. They may also suggest changing from dry kibbles to an all meat canned cat food. Canned cat food is typically lower in fat and carbs than kibbles.
It is also recommended to feed the cat separately from other cats or dogs. This is very important. Overweight cats tend to be food bowl bullies. They will slap and hiss at other pets in order to dominate the food. Those cats will continue to overeat and pack on weight if you do not feed them separately from others.
Get Them on Their Paws and Flicking Their Tail
Play with the cat more. There are some great cat toys available that are fun for the cat and you. Not only are they fun, but they can be great mental and physical calorie burning exercise too. Be careful with cat laser toys though. Never point them at your cat’s eyes, or anyone’s eyes, as they can cause permanent blindness.
Taking the cat for walks on a leash is also great for physical activity. We should all know by now that diet alone will not totally reduce weight and keep it off. Exercise with a proper diet plan is key to your cat’s fat reduction and improved health.
Enticing the cat to follow you around and making a game of your routine household chores can also do the trick.
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Make a Game Plan With Your Vet
It is always best to start a weight management plan with your vet during the kitty’s first visit. If it is not possible, perhaps you have raised or adopted an adult cat with a weight problem. It is then imperative to immediately begin a weight management plan with your vet’s supervision. Your cat’s comfort, health and longevity depend on it.
The number of overweight and obese pet cats is escalating everywhere. The blame is often erroneously laid upon our affluent societies. The truth is that we as cat parents are to blame, rich and poor alike. We overfeed and over treat our cats with calorie laden goodies while we neglect to exercise them. A cat will simply not exercise itself as it grows older, yet it will eat itself into an early death if allowed to do so by coddling owners.
There is no doubt that you love your cat, but if you have any doubts about your cat’s weight or body condition, then get your vet’s help to start a weight management plan for the wellness of your feline friend.