We explore the health risks associated with obesity in cats and offer some useful tips for improving your cat’s health and wellbeing.
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 in Australia, it has been suggested that the numbers are similar to those in dogs, with up to 40% of feline companions being overweight.
CAUSES OF OBESITY AND ITS IMPACT
It is extremely rare for your cat to have a medical reason for his obesity; his 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.
Obesity in cats can result in arthritis, diabetes, liver disease and an early death.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CAT IS OBESE
The best way to assess your cat’s body condition is to use your hands and feel him all over. 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, if your cat has a short coat. You should be able to see his waistline just after his 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.
SAFE WEIGHT LOSS FOR CATS
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.
To avoid this, you need to carefully control your cat’s weight loss journey and this is often easiest by using a prescription low calorie diet food. Make sure you measure what you put in his bowl at mealtimes because it’s easy to be too generous with his food.
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 his 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 him his 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.
It’s not easy putting your cat on a diet. He can be quite demanding when he wants more food, and they may not be too enthusiastic about any increase in exercise. However, it’s important that you persist because in the long term, it will be very good for his health.