Between 39 to 52% of cats are estimated to be either overweight or obese. Many studies have shown that a fat cat will be more likely to have a shorter lifespan. So how do we tell if our cats are overweight and if they are how do we tackle the issue? Is there a weight watchers for cats?
Is my cat overweight?
Body weight is commonly used in clinic to assess if your pet has gained or lost weight. However as in humans, two people may weight the same but one may have more body fat than the other. This will depend on height and build. Similarly in cats the ideal body weight is individual and depends upon the age and breed of your cat.
Measuring body condition score is a much better way to assess obesity in our pets. The body condition score is a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is very thin and 5 is obese. The chart below can be used to assess your own pet.
Why should my fat cat lose weight?
Obesity in cats can increase the risk of developing or worsening many diseases such as:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Lower urinary tract disease (i.e. cystitis)
- Arthritis and joint inflammation and pain
- Skin diseases
- Hepatic lipidosis (too much fat in the liver)
- Breathing problems
As well as this it can lead to a reduced quality of life and increase the risk during anaesthesia.
How do I help my fat cat lose weight?
Firstly cats must not lose weight too quickly because this may predispose them to developing hepatic lipidosis, a problem with too much fat in the liver. This condition affects their liver function and potentially can be fatal. In cats we aim for a steady and gradual weight decrease. In obese cases this may mean a weight loss plan to reach their goal weight in over 1 year.
Start by measuring out the food you feed you cat daily and feeding your cat the amount of food for the weight it should be. Most foods will give you amounts on the packet. Most cats should aim to be around 4kg. If you are unsure then come in for a check up and we can help you with this. If that alone does not lead to a weight loss then drop the food level down by another 10%. Remember to give it time as we are aiming for a gradual decrease in weight. Special diet foods can be helpful as they maybe more filling and satiating.
One of the main problems we see with overweight cats is in multi-cat households where they often eat the other cats or even the dogs food. There are a few ways to tackle this one is to feed the cats in separate rooms and taking the food up between meals. However many cats are grazers and this may not be suitable. Another way is to purchase a microchip cat feeder such as the one in the video below, a Surefeed cat feeder. They work by opening just for the cat or cats registered to that feeder so only they can get the food. Sometimes you only need a feeder for the cats not on a diet!
Encouraging more exercise for your fat cat- both physical and mental.
Whilst it has been shown that reducing food is the best way to lose weight, increasing exercise to burn more calories will help too. More exercise also helps to maintain muscle whilst losing weight. Try playing with your cat for up to 10 minutes two to three times per day. Some cats prefer different toys so try laser pens, string toys, ball toys and prey like toys.
As well as playing with your cat more puzzle feeders have been shown to enhance both physical and emotional wellbeing. Naturally cats would have to use their brain to catch their food. Feeding them in a normal bowl skips that step. Thia can lead to overeating and boredom. Puzzle feeders can be used to increase mental stimulation and can also slow the speed of eating down and can lead to less food being consumed. They have other benefits too such as reducing anxiety and inappropriate toileting. You can make them at home or buy them. For more information check out this website http://foodpuzzlesforcats.com.
If you think your cat may be overweight and you would like some help then please contact our reception on 01702 545558 to book an appointment so we can help you to help your cat to be as healthy as possible.