Obesity in pet cats has reached alarming proportions. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, a whopping 58% of cats in the United States are considered obese, meaning their body weight is at least 10-15% greater than the recommended weight.
The consequences of obesity are grim for our feline friends as it causes long-term adverse effects on their health. Many cats have a healthy appetite, so ultimately, it is up to their pet parents to monitor the body condition of their four-legged companion and make appropriate adjustments to their food intake.
Similar to humans, overweight cats are far more likely to suffer from certain health disorders. One of the most common issues a fat cat may have to deal with is diabetes. For every 2.2 pounds a cat gains beyond his healthy weight, insulin sensitivity decreases by 30%. Diabetes can cause symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, depression, lethargy, and vomiting. Additional diseases that obese cats are prone to developing are osteoarthritis, skin problems due to skin folds, and difficulty in grooming themselves.
The best way to reduce a cat's risk factors for obesity- related diseases is to help him lose weight safely. Unfortunately, weight loss for a cat is not as easy as simply taking them for an extra-long walk around the neighborhood. The best course of action is to make adjustments to your cat's diet. With cats that don't have much weight to lose, it's appropriate to reduce the amount of food you put in their dinner bowl. However, if your pet needs to lose a substantial amount of weight, then a prescription weight-loss food is appropriate. These foods still have all the nutrients your cat needs but with fewer calories.
If your cat is fed ad-lib, meaning that they have constant access to a full bowl of food, the first step in helping them shed weight is to provide them with a measured amount of food twice daily. If you give your cat treats and tidbits, these will need to be cut out of their diet. However, if you feel you absolutely must give your cat a special treat every now and then, offer small pieces of canned tuna instead of the potentially high-calorie treats available from the pet store.
When putting your cat on a diet, it is extremely important not to promote fast weight loss. Doing so can lead to hepatic lipidosis (also known as fatty liver disease). This occurs when an obese cat isn't given enough energy in their food so they start to mobilize their stored fats for energy. This quickly overwhelms their liver's ability to clear this fat and it accumulates in their liver. Hepatic lipidosis is a very serious illness and can result in liver failure. It's a good idea to reduce your cat's caloric intake gradually and under close veterinary supervision.
The keys to weight reduction in cats are to provide appropriate food in appropriate amounts, increase their activity level, and alter their behavior. A prescription diet fed twice daily is ideal for the obese cat. Their activity level can be increased by encouraging them to play chasing games with small balls or lasers. Behavior modification involves encouraging them to work for their meals using food-dispensing toys.
If you share your life with an overweight cat, it's essential that you take steps to trim them down for the sake of their long-term health.