If you ask, no one will admit to wanting an overweight pet. Just as in people, animals who are obese are at higher risk for many health problems including pet diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The fact remains, though, that over half of our nation’s dogs and cats are obese or overweight.
Godspeed Animal Care knows that it can be pretty difficult to discern whether your cat is overweight or just fluffy. That’s why we would love to put a focus on feline obesity for you so that you have the tools needed to keep kitty fit and healthy.
Identifying Fluff Overload
Because so many American pets are carrying a few extra pounds, it can be a little difficult for the untrained eye to identify excess weight on our cats.
While most adult cats should weigh in around ten pounds, there can be pretty dramatic variations in ideal body weight for cats. After all, the number itself isn’t as meaningful as how it is being carried.
A more accurate way of looking for feline obesity is assessing body condition score. This scoring system uses the presence of palpable and visible deposits of body fat to determine where an animal falls on a spectrum of underweight to overweight.
Anyone can perform a body condition score with the aid of a visual chart such as the one provided by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee.
One of the simplest ways to determine your cat’s ideal weight is just to ask one of our veterinarians. We are always happy to help your pet, and while we try to discuss nutrition and weight management as needed it helps to know that you are open to discussing your pet’s weight.
Strategies to Combat Feline Obesity
If you have identified that your feline family member is over their ideal body condition score, it is time to buckle down and work on weight loss. That is often easier said than done, though.
Combating feline obesity is not impossible, though. Start step-by-step and be sure to:
- Start with calories—It is important to know how many calories your cat should be eating in a day to support a healthy body weight. Determine your cat’s ideal weight (ask for help if needed) to find their daily calorie recommendation. Then be sure to find out how many calories are in the food and treats they eat on a daily basis to make appropriate adjustments.
- Encourage movement—Indoor cats tend to be fairly sedentary, and encouraging daily activity (two ten minute spurts a day is a great goal!) can make a big difference. Experiment to find what your cat enjoys most, be it catnip, a laser pointer, a feather lure toy, or a bird feeder outside the window to stalk.
- Use us—The staff at Godspeed Animal Care is a huge resource. Please call to schedule a nutrition consultation for your pet, especially if you are having trouble.
- Check in often—When it comes to a small pet like a cat, change can be slow and seemingly unimpressive. Depending on how overweight your cat is, even losing a few ounces can be great progress! Weigh your pet in at least monthly on a scale that can measure ounces. Bring them in to be weighed at the veterinary clinic if you don’t have an appropriate way to weigh them at home.
- Get creative—If you put your mind to it, there are lots of easy ways to increase activity and decrease calorie intake that may work for your pet. Move the food bowl to a location that requires a little effort to access or even change its location periodically. Consider using an indoor hunting feeder or puzzle feeder. Consider using some canned food in place of dry kibble as it tends to have a lower calorie concentration per amount. Avoid automatic feeding dispensers so that you are in more control. Offer attention instead of food when your cat seems needy.
It is important not to put your cat on a crash diet–slow and steady wins the race and avoids potential complications like hepatic lipidosis.
Feline obesity is a real and serious problem that puts our pets at risk for a shorter and potentially less healthy life. Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge if your cat is affected is an important first step to fixing the issue. Don’t forget, though, that we are here to help you in your pet’s weight management journey. Please let us know if you need or want help.