The pet obesity epidemic is a big concern in this country, and the problem is growing worse. Weight loss is not easy for anyone, human or otherwise. When it comes down to it, the solution seems simple: Eat less, exercise more. This is easier said than done, however, particularly in the cat. But there are important reasons for us to strive to reach a healthy weight for our feline companions.
Overweight cats are prone to illness and shortened lives
Overweight cats are prone to some serious medical conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer. Overweight cats live shorter lives than normal weight cats. Also, these cats tend to be “lazier”, not moving around as much, which makes it harder to detect early signs of serious illnesses. Fat cats are no laughing matter.
What can you do to help your cat slim down?
So how do we accomplish safe, successful weight loss for our furry felines?
- Cut the calories. This sounds simple enough, but there is more to it than just not eating as much. Fat cats are prone to developing a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis if they do not eat enough. Kitty diets should only be started under the guidance of your veterinarian. He or she can help you to calculate your cat’s daily calorie requirements. Don’t be tempted to use a self-feeder. Instead, measure out portions daily. Pet or play with your kitty when it begs–some cats are literally starving for attention! Feed small meals frequently and freshen the water bowl often. These little changes can make a big one!
- Change the food. For some cats, simply changing the diet can make a drastic difference. For instance, most canned foods have a lower caloric content than their dry counterparts. Light or diet foods are also available. Be sure that you are not cutting calories too drastically by calculating caloric needs with your veterinarian. Cats can be finicky about new foods, so be sure to gradually introduce the new diet over a 1-2 week period. You can try to make new foods more palatable by warming them slightly or adding a little oregano or a splash of salmon juice or omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
- Get that kitty moving! No bones about it–it is harder to increase your cat’s activity level than your dog’s. It takes some creativity to get your cat burning calories. Make your cat “hunt” for its food by moving the bowl frequently. Try putting it at the furthest place from kitty’s sleeping spot to encourage movement. Use interactive toys such as flashlights, laser pointers, paper bags–anything your cat likes to chase to have a short activity session daily. You may need to change it up frequently.
- Keep track of progress. Rechecks and weigh-ins can help tell you if you are on the right track. Monthly weigh-ins are ideal. If you are not making progress in a month’s time, it is time to try another food or technique.