Obesity is a common problem in domestic cats, with estimates suggesting that nearly 60% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. But how do you know if your cat is overweight?
Overweight cats look kind of like a rectangle when you look at them from above. At a healthy weight however cats will look more like an hourglass from above. An overweight cat also has a belly that drags toward the ground and sways when they walk as opposed to a belly that slopes up to meet the hips. But maybe the most obvious tell of an overweight cat is that, when you pet a fat cat, you can’t feel their backbone or any ribs. When your cat gets this fat, they start having problems.
Excess body weight in cats can lead to a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. That’s why it is important for cat owners to be proactive in preventing their cats from becoming overweight. In this article, we will discuss the factors that contribute to obesity in cats, provide tips for keeping your feline friend slim and explore options for managing obesity in cats. By following these recommendations, cat owners can help their cats maintain a healthy weight and live long, happy lives.
Factors that Contribute to Obesity in Cats
According to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, certain owner and cat characteristics may be associated with an increased risk of obesity in cats. It shouldn’t be a surprise that our actions can have a direct and massive impact on the health of our pets who are completely dependent on us.
For example, the study found that male cat owners and owners with a higher body mass index were more likely to have obese cats. Additionally, the study found that feeding cats treats or table scraps was associated with an increased risk of obesity. Other potential factors that may contribute to obesity in cats include a lack of exercise and poor feeding practices. While offering your cat a daily treat can be a great way to strengthen your bond, make sure to account for those treat calories in their total daily intake. Too many treats can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. That’s why it's important for cat owners to be aware of these potential risks, so that they can take steps to prevent obesity in their cats.
In addition to the owner and cat characteristics mentioned earlier, there are several other factors that may contribute to obesity in cats.
For example, cats that are neutered may be more prone to obesity. This is because neutered cats may have a slower metabolism, which can lead to an accumulation of excess body fat. Additionally, cats that do not have access to appropriate toys and opportunities for physical activity may be more likely to become overweight. Finally, feeding your cat a diet that is high in calories and low in nutrients, or feeding them more than they need, can (of course) also contribute to weight gain.
Tips for Managing Obesity in Cats
There are several steps that cat owners can take to manage feline obesity or even help prevent their cats from becoming overweight in the first place. Luckily, the steps are pretty simple and anyone can help their cat live a full and healthy life.
1. Feed your cat a balanced diet: Choose high-quality cat food that is appropriate for your cat's age and lifestyle. Preferrably, you should feed your cat wet food because wet food offers more volume per calorie thanks to the included moisture. This helps your cat to feel more full with less calories. The meaty taste and texture of wet food can also help them to feel more satisfied.
2. Monitor your cat's food intake: Remember that the feeding guidelines on the packaging are a general recommendation and a great place to start, but can be adjusted up or down based on your cat's body condition and activity levels. Above all,however, avoid overfeeding. You can use a measuring cup to portion out your cat's food and track how much they are eating. This can help you ensure that your cat is getting the right amount of nutrients and prevent them from becoming overweight.
3. Encourage your cat to be active: Provide your cat with toys and playtime to keep them active and prevent boredom. This can help them maintain a healthy weight and improve their overall health and well-being. Play that simulates how your cat would stalk and kill prey in the wild may even help them develop a healthy appetite. We sell a feeding ball in our stores called Slim Cat that gradually dispenses kibble as your cat plays with it, mimicking natural hunting and encouraging the exact type of activity you want.
3. Avoid giving your cat junk treats or table scraps: These can add extra calories to your their diet and contribute to weight gain. Instead, if you’re going to give your cat treats, consider offering your cat healthy, simple, meat-based treats. And only give them occasionally to control calorie intake as much as possible. Alternatively, if you dote on your cat, you can simply reduce the amount of calories they get at meal time to offset the calories they're taking in with treats.
4. Consult with a veterinarian: If you are concerned about your cat's weight, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They can help you determine the best feeding plan for your cat and provide guidance on how to help them maintain a healthy weight.
By following these recommendations, cat owners can help their cats lose weight safely and effectively and improve their overall health and well-being. It is important to remember that weight loss in cats should be done slowly and under the guidance of a veterinarian to ensure the best possible outcomes. This is especially true when underlying health conditions are possible.
The Fat Cat Diet Plan
The best general diet for cats is one that is nutritionally balanced and meets their specific needs based on their age, size, and activity level. Many needs can vary from cat to cat. One thing that is true for all cats though, is that they are obligate carnivores. This means that they require a diet that is rich in animal protein. It is important to choose a high-quality cat food that is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cats and contains appropriate levels of animal protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
In general, wet food (also known as canned food) is a good choice for cats because it contains more moisture than dry food. This can be especially important for cats that are prone to urinary tract problems or that do not drink enough water. It is also a good idea to avoid feeding your cat a diet that is heavily composed of treats or table scraps, as these can contribute to weight gain and may not provide all of the nutrients that your cat needs.
If your cat is overweight, however, they may need to eat an adjusted diet. In general, a weight loss diet for cats should be low in calories and high in protein to help preserve muscle mass during weight loss. It is also important to choose a food that is formulated for weight loss and follows the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines for adult maintenance.
In addition to choosing a nutritionally balanced food, it is important to feed your cat appropriate portion sizes and monitor their food intake to help them lose weight safely and effectively. It is also a good idea to encourage your cat to be active and provide them with toys and playtime to help them burn calories and maintain muscle mass.
It is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best approach to weight loss for your cat. They can help you develop a customized weight loss plan that takes into account your cat's specific needs and provide guidance on how to help them lose weight safely and effectively.
Obesity is a common problem in domestic cats, but it is a preventable one. By following the recommendations outlined in this article, cat owners can help prevent their cats from becoming overweight and ensure that they maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives.
This includes feeding their cats a balanced diet, encouraging them to be active, avoiding treats and table scraps, and consulting with a veterinarian. If your cat is already overweight, it is important to work with a veterinarian to develop a weight loss plan and make any necessary adjustments to your cat's diet and exercise routine.
With proper care and attention, cat owners can help their feline companions live long, healthy, and happy lives. Don't hesitate to reach out to a veterinarian for guidance and support as you work to keep your cat at a healthy weight.
- "Prevalence of overweight and obesity in cats: a review." Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, vol. 11, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-12.
- "Association between owner and cat characteristics and obesity in cats: a cross-sectional study." Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, vol. 32, no. 2, 2018, pp. 505-514.
- "Factors influencing the development and resolution of obesity in cats: a prospective study." Journal of Nutrition, vol. 141, no. 12, 2011, pp. 2160-2166.
- "Effect of a weight loss program on body weight, body condition score, and blood chemistry in overweight cats." Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, vol. 21, no. 2, 2019, pp. 133-139.
- “How Can You Tell If Your Cat is Overweight?” https://www.petmd.com/cat/nutrition/evr_multi_is_my_cat_fat_overweight