Do You Have an Obese Cat? How -- and Why -- to Keep Your Kitty Slim

Do You Have an Obese Cat?
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Is your cat overweight because you're not following the guidelines for proper cat nutrition and care? Read how to prevent and treat feline obesity.

One of the most preventable yet most common health problems in cats is obesity. According to a Cornell University study, overweight cats are more likely to suffer from serious diseases like diabetes. Plus, obese cats are more likely to die at a younger age. Published in the Journal of Nutrition (December 1998), the study noted that of 2092 cats, 20% were heavy and an additional 5% were obese.

Many veterinary health experts estimate that about 40% of U.S. cats are obese. Is your cat one of these?

Causes of Obesity in Cats

One study found that overweight cats were most likely middle-aged neutered males living in apartments and eating diets of dry cat food, having no outdoor access and little exercise. Even more serious was that researchers found that nearly 15% of obese cats were overweight by one year of age!

Cats can be be more prone to weight gain after being spayed or neutered, so you'll want to take your pet's weight into consideration when choosing a food and encouraging exercise.

Additionally, the American Animal Hospital Association Compliance Study found that veterinarians underdiagnose feline obesity and that cat owners are typically unaware at how fat their cats are and donโ€™t understand the consequences of obesity in their furry little friends.

Treating Obesity with exercise

How does one prevent obesity in their feline companions? First, consider what is making them fat in the first place. Are they sedentary and sleeping all day? Like dogs, your cat needs exercise, especially if they're living a solitary feline life with no cat friends. Check out some ways to play with your cat.

Because apartment-living cats are most at risk for growing obese, think of ways to give your cat exercise in your smaller environmentโ€”cat trees, track balls, bell balls and even another cat can engage them in play to help keep them healthy.

Feeding your cat

Make sure you read the labeled directions for feeding on your cat food. Some foods are meant to be fed less than others. Like people food, some food is higher in calories or fat.

Also, like people, some cats may fare better on different diets. Talk to your veterinarian about how much food your cat should eat, what his or her diet should be made up of, and, if they're obese, look at what you might need to do to change their diet. Some veterinarians suggest a high-protein, low-carbohydrate formula like Hillโ€™s Prescription Diet m/d or Royal Canin Veterinary Diet for cats that is designed to manage feline weight. Ask you veterinarian how to determine a healthy weight for your cat and learn how to weigh them.

How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight

So now youโ€™ve acknowledged that Portly needs to lose a few pounds. How will you do this? Experts recommend a full physical exam with lab tests to determine that Portlyโ€™s fat is indeed a result of overeating and lack of exercise, rather than an underlying medical condition. Other changes you can make include:

  • Feed smaller portions once or twice a day instead of free freeding (having a bowl always out and filled).
  • Feed foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Know how much you feed each day and adjust if there is weight gain or no reduction.

Additionally, James Richards, DVM, in Cornellโ€™s Science News, suggests particular tips when fighting feline fat:

  • Like Weight Watchers for cats, schedule regular weigh-ins with your veterinarian.
  • Ask your veterinarian if your cat should be eating a particular weight-reduction meal plan.
  • Develop the weight reduction program for your corpulent cat under the guidance of your veterinarian.
  • Get that feline couch potato off the couch! Mice, feathers, laser pointers, and teasers will engage them in some exercise each day.
  • For lone kitties, experts suggest adopting a second cat. Having a friend will give them someone to interact and play with while youโ€™re not home.

When you change your kittyโ€™s meal plan, make sure you are consistent and maintain course until you see a change for the better. It could take up to a year to see significant weight loss, but donโ€™t lose heart if it seems to be taking a long time. Any change youโ€™ve made in your kittyโ€™s exercise and diet regimens will be doing your feline friend a healthy favor.

The Diet that can Help Fat American Cats

Just like humans, cats are prone to a number of health conditions with obesity being one of the most common. More than 50 percent domestic cats in the US are overweight and only their overindulgent owners are to blame. The most common causes for obesity in American cats is unsuitable, unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle.Overweight cats live shorter lives compared to their healthier counterparts. They become prone to all kinds of secondary health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and arthritis. While fat cats are all the rage on the internet, as a pet owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your feline companion leads a long, healthy life.

Put your fat feline friend on a diet

The easiest way to help your cat shed some pounds is by controlling its fat and calories intake. The best way to start is by feeding him a diet which supplies about 70 percent of calories necessary to maintain his current weight.Your pet is an obligate carnivore, which means that he needs meat for certain nutrients. Start feeding your cat highly digestible food that contains meat as the primary source of protein. This plays a major role in prevent him from putting on weight.Another step is to give your cat more raw and canned foods in his daily diet. These low-carb foods contain high amounts of meat protein and lesser calories compared to dry food. You can start by changing 25 percent of the entire meal to wet food and slowly increase it to 50 percent. Besides weight loss, wet food is also beneficial in protecting the health of your catโ€™s urinary tract.Switch the dry food to one that is specifically made for weight loss. These foods limit your catโ€™s intake of fat and calories while proving him with necessary nutrition. Pick a food that has high fiber content. This can make your cat feel fuller and reduce his consumption.

Less treats, more play

If your cat has a lazy lifestyle, you should play with him more often and make sure he becomes more active. Introduce him to new games and toys so heโ€™s less bored and more playful. This also helps in multi-cat households. Playing with your pet more will also strengthen your bond.Pique his hunting interests by hiding healthy treats around your house for him to find. Buy toys that look like mice or have feathers on them to make him more keen on playing.Another great way to get your cat moving is by erecting vertical spaces for him to climb. Invest in a tall post with a sturdy foundation for your cat to have more fun and feel safe when he wants to retreat.Your involvement in your catโ€™s life plays a big role in how healthy he is. Spend more time playing and bonding with him and invest in healthy food and treats so you can enjoy a longer, healthier time with your feline best friend.Before you put your overweight cat on a diet, consult with your veterinarian for the best course of action and recommended food.

More on Feeding Cats

Nutrition for Male Cats
What to Feed a Female Cat
Food for Overweight Senior Cats

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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