Twenty-Five percent of cats are clinically obese, which is defined as an excess accumulation of body fat. This is important because obesity can reduce your cats life span. Obesity also predisposes to Heart Disease, Skin Disorders, Arthritis, and Fatty Liver Disease, Cancer, Lower Urinary Tract Disease, and Diabetes. Obesity can either cause or result from Diabetes. In either case weight loss helps regulate blood sugar and may decrease or eliminate the need for insulin. Obesity also increases the risk of anesthesia, makes cats more intolerant to heat and decreases their stamina. NOTE: A cat or dog in optimal body condition has 15 to 20 percent body fat.
- The aging process effects body weight. Cats and dogs less than 2 years old are rarely over weight. Weight problems in pets increase as they age. Six to eight years old is when weight problems peak. After 10 to 12 years of age cats and dogs become thinner and many tend to be in less than optimal body condition.
- Breed and Genetics also influence body weight. In contrast to dogs, mixed breed cats are more likely to suffer from weight problems then Pure Breeds.
- WEIGHT GAIN AND NEUTERING: Neutering male and female cats decreases the rate the body functions at by 20 to 25 percent. Reducing calories by the same amount will help prevent cats from gaining excess weight after being neutered.
- Low levels of Thyroid Hormone can cause excess weight gain. This occurs in less than one percent of cats.
- Body weight is influenced by several factors but eating excess calories because well meaning owners indulge their cats with oversized portions and too many treats, is the most common cause of obesity.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
- Before starting your cat on any weight-loss program, have your vet confirm your suspicions. Rule out medical problems that mimic obesity, like heart and liver disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.
- Determine whether or not your cat is overweight. Most cats should weigh between 8 and 12 pounds or 3.5 to 4.5 kilograms. Some may go up to 5.5 kilograms but cats over 6.4 kilograms are definitely obese.
- Cats should have an hourglass figure which means that their chest should be wider than their abdomen.
- To successfully lose weight owners must reduce calories, increase exercise and monitor their cat's progress regularly.
- High quality lean protein like chicken, turkey, beef, or liver making up at least 50 percent of the diet is necessary to prevent the loss of lean body tissue. Protein levels over 50% help stimulate metabolism and promote weight loss.
- Reduce dietary fat to less than 10 percent of the diet. This may cause a dry skin and hair coat. Fatty acid supplements such as fish oil and/or flax seed oil will help prevent dry hair coats
- Increase fiber up to 15-20 percent under your vet's guidance. Fiber provides bulk which makes cats feel full and keeps them happy while losing weight. Excess fiber can interfere with absorption of minerals and lead to other nutritional problems.
- Give a good vitamin-mineral supplement.
- Initially decrease the total number of calories by 20 percent and set a maximum initial weight loss goal at 15 percent, then make calculations accordingly.
- Weight loss must be greater than 0.5 percent per week, 1% is considered ideal, but losing over 2 percent of body weight per week is unhealthy because your cat will lose lean body tissue in addition to body fat.
- Feed smaller meals more often. Try increasing the number of meals from 1 or 2 up to 6. Spread the food out on a very large cookie platter, which makes it take longer to eat and looks like a lot more to your cat.
- Leave food out 20 to 30 minutes and remove-don't free feed
- Avoid snacks, or feed healthy treats like fresh vegetables.
- Pet, hug, kiss, massage and brush your cat as much as possible.
- Allow free access to clean, fresh water at all times
- Play games with your cat
Tips on Treating Cat Obesity
- Play with your cat at least 10 minutes, four times a day
- Create games and schedule play periods. Consider getting your cat a kitten to play with.
- You should also discontinue cat treats except for the treats that you use to clean your cats teeth. Even these treats can be cut down to once a week.
- Cats enjoy laser mice games and dangling bird toys and other games that enhance their natural hunting instincts.
- Fiber sources that can be added to meals: 1 tsp wheat bran, 1 tsp of finely grated carrots or zucchini or 1 tsp of peas, corn or chopped green beans
- Cat Nip (Nepeta Cataria) is an herb that cats love. It's available at pet food stores and may be stuffed into toys, and/or rubbed onto hemp perches/ the loose herb can be sprinkled onto food or used as a low calorie treat. It stimulates the cat's nervous system so cats feel good and want to play. Catnip is very safe and has no known adverse effects.
If you follow these tips you should be able to get your cats weight down within a few months. Always check with your vet before you start any diet regimen and make sure there is no underlying disorder which is causing your cat to overeat or be obese.