Obesity in cats has reached epidemic proportions with more than half of U.S. cats being overweight or obese. Many people think fat cats and other animals are cute and they’ve become a popular theme on the internet, but the health risks that go along with that extra weight are very serious.
Weight related diseases include diabetes (which may respond to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet in restricted amounts); arthritis, from the excess weight putting too much stress on joints; and urinary tract and kidney problems (crystals and stones form when cats eat large quantities of dry foods with an inappropriate mineral balance).
Being overweight or obese also increases a cat’s likelihood of heart and respiratory disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer, and lowers its life expectancy. A great place to look for more information on the pet weight problem is the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
Weight gain occurs when the number of calories coming in exceed the number of calories being burned. Cats need high protein diets. Unfortunately, many dry foods contain too little protein, and being offered dry foods free choice allows cats to overeat trying to meet their protein needs.
The cat overeats because its body needs the nutrient (protein) that is in short supply, and the extra calories consumed trying to get that protein get stored as fat. Substituting a portion of the dry with a daily serving of canned food can help. Also, try feeding your cat two meals per day with appropriate portions.
Cats are, by nature, curious and athletic. If not stimulated indoors, they become bored and sedentary which leads to weight gain. Therefore, encourage games with your cat such as chasing a ball, a feather on a string, or the light dot from a laser pointer. You may try to train your cat to do tricks—sit up, roll over, jump up or even, if you are very dedicated, to walk on a leash.
Additional suggestions to help your cat get more exercise:
- • Provide climbing towers and perches
- • Put your cat’s dry kibble in a dispensing toy which drops out pieces of food as your cat bats and chases it
- • “Hide” a few kibbles in multiple dishes around the house and change the locations regularly so your cat has to “hunt” every day.
- • Consider another cat. Cats are more likely to play with a feline friend
Part of the problem is that the image of a “normal” cat has changed over the years, so owners don’t recognize that their cats are over-indulged. Using the chart above, how would you rate your cat?