Feline Obesity

Feline Obesity

Obesity in our companion cats is a rising issue.  The majority of cats we see for wellness examinations are either overweight or obese.  Most are fed too many calories, but they are also more complacent, especially because most of our companion cats are indoor kitties.  If your cats are like mine, their favorite past time is lounging around the house and sunning themselves in front of the sliding glass door.

The risks of obesity in cats are similar to those in people.  Excess fat causes generalized inflammation, lethargy, and insulin resistance.  These factors are a component of the development of diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, among other diseases.  Overall, an obese and inactive cat will live a much shorter life than a lean and active kitty.  Plus, the more fat they store, then the more they want to eat, which just perpetuates the problem.  Our goal is to get these obese kitties back to being lean and fit.  We can do this with both diet and exercise. 

The number one problem with food is that cats are being overfed! Instead of free-feeding our cats, we should meal feed them twice per day with a correctly measured amount of food.  If you only have one cat and it must be free fed, then measure the total daily requirement.  This won't work with multiple cats or multiple animals in a household.  The second problem with food is quality.  Make sure and feed a high quality diet, preferably one that has an AAFCO statement that says it is animal tested for your cats particular life stage.  If your cat is just slightly overweight, altering their caloric intake should be enough.  If your cat is obese and/or already has health problems associated with this, then your veterinarian can put them on a proper prescription diet.  They will NOT lose enough weight by just decreasing some calories. PLUS, we cannot decrease their caloric intake by too much or they will starve and have even more issues.

Exercise and activity is the other component.  Cat's don't jog or even really want to walk much, so we need to cater to their instincts! They are designed to sprint, leap, climb, and pounce.  We need to engage these instincts. To tap into their predatory instincts, divide their food into small bowls and have your cat watch as you place the bowls throughout the house.  The cat will then hunt the food.  To get them jumping, place a small amount of food in their bowl and place in a higher level so they have to jump to get to it.  Repeat several times.  Do this activity at feeding time so no additional calories are added to their diet.  Toys and lasers are great for getting your kitty to exercise.  Most cats will chase a laser, feather attached to pole, remote-controlled car, or interactive toy.  Find the toy that your cat likes the best and play with them for three five-minute sessions per day.

As the weight starts to melt off of their body, you will notice their energy increase and even their attitude will improve.  Getting your cat to a healthy weight for them will not only improve their quality of life, but it will also prolong their life so that you can enjoy each other longer!


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