Overweight and obese cats are reaching epidemic proportions across the country. According to recent research, the presence of excess body weight in cats has increased by almost 90% since 2007. As a result, all of these cats are being put at risk for many debilitating diseases and their quality of life is being diminished.
The most common diseases associated with feline obesity are: diabetes, cancer, oral disease, urinary tract infections, arthritis, and liver, heart and kidney disease. Also overweight cats are unable to properly groom themselves which can lead to skin disease as well as painful matted fur.
One of the biggest reasons cats become overweight is because the weight gain occurs gradually and owners don’t realize it is happening. Therefore, it is imperative for owners to understand this so a treatment plan can be instituted.
There are 5 steps owners can take to maintain a healthy body condition in their cats.
1. Weigh your pet frequently and discuss with your veterinarian your pets body condition score (a number scale based on the amount of fat over your cat’s ribcage).
2. Calculate the exact amount of calories your cat eats in a day including all food, treats and table food. A healthy adult cat only needs 200-300 calories a day. Use an actual measuring cup to monitor your pet’s intake.
3. Reduce your cat’s calorie intake at the time of spay/neuter surgery. Gradually change from kitten to adult food by the age of 12 months.
4. Monitor weight gain and/or any increase in body condition score immediately as losing a small amount of weight is much easier than overcoming obesity.
5. Consult your veterinarian for a prescription veterinary diet designed for weight loss.
A key variable and way to assist or prevent weight loss is through enrichment activities. This involves making feeding more interesting. Some great ideas that all owners can try are:
1. Food puzzles- make your cat work for their food (these are sold at most pet stores)
2. Hide and Seek- hide kibble all around your house and have your cat hunt for their food.
3. Feed atop a cat tree or on a shelf/ledge so your cat has to climb and work for it's food.
4. Automatic Feeders. This way the cat will associate food with the feeder and not you as the owner.
5. Play with the cat using laser pointers and cat feathers on a daily basis. Demonstrate love with play and attention as opposed to food.
Overweight and obese felines can be seen at all stages in life. That is why exams every six months are crucial in identifying and treating this before an unhealthy body condition develops.
Feel free to calll our team at Eagle Animal Hospital (610)458-8789 to discuss your cat's body condition score and whether an appointment needs to be made with one of our veterinarians to create a weight loss plan. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding areas.
Written by Jennifer Granite, VMD