Obesity in cats

New Year – New You, but what about your cat?

For most of us the New Year starts with some healthy resolutions. We have excessively indulged in food and made some other poor choices which now make us promise ourselves to start the New Year with better habits. As we make all these decisions on our own life style, maybe it is a good time to also consider how we take care of our cat(s).
Cat obesity has been a growing problem over the years,

What is obesity?

The WHO defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation which represents a risk of health. Whether this is in regard to yourself or your pet, obesity is a problem on multiple health fronts.

What is the danger of obesity?

In cats there are many health problems which can arise from being overweight, most commonly seen are Diabetes mellitus, heart disease, osteoarthritis, lower urinary tract disease and some forms of cancer. Hepatic Lipidosis, a severe form of liver failure can be a life-threatening illness if obese cats do stop eating for whatever reason.

How can we rate obesity?

See the WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee Body Condition Score table next to this article

How do I know what weight my cat should be?

Your best advisor in this is your own veterinarian. Most breeds will have a weight varying between 4-7 kg, depending on the size of the cat breed. As Vets see huge variety of cats throughout their daily routine, they have established a good eye for a healthy body score and its related weight and can guide you to ensure your cat has a proper weight for his size, age, breed and health condition.
Certain health conditions require or cause a different weight. Animals with joint problems are massively helped by reducing their body score to almost “skinny – under ideal” as this leads to them carrying less weight around on their already painful joints.  Morbidly obese Cats, on the other hand, are at risk to develop hepatic lipidosis, a severe form of liver failure in cats. Stress, illness, period of not eating or sudden change in diet or weight loss programs can be a reason for these cats to develop this very serious condition. It is therefore very important that weight loss in obese cats is done cautiously and under veterinary supervision.

What can I do to help my cat lose weight?

  1. Change your habits – feed your cat a set amount per day which is specifically calculated for your cat and will keep him/her in ideal condition. This daily amount can be divided into as many portions as you want to feed per day + one additional portion to use for giving him/her a small “treat”. If your cat keeps begging and cursing at you for more food, consider feeding them when you are home instead of during the time you are out of the house. This way his moaning is not rewarded by feeding him/her.
  2. Regular weighing – Seeing is believing, and this also counts for weighing of your cat. Weigh your cat at home or at your vet and register this weight with the date the weighing was done. This ensures you can see changes easily in both positive and negative direction. Weighing and registration of your pet’s weight can be done for free in our Clinic.
  3. Diets – although there are many diets which are specifically designed to keep your cat at the correct weight or ensure weight loss whilst getting all the important vitamins, minerals & fiber, ensuring not to overfeed your cat is the first step.
  4. Exercise – cats are not easily exercised. Most of them will not walk with you on a lead like a dog does. This causes especially indoor cats to be easily bored, overeat and go into a bit of a depressed mode, sleeping long hours in the day. It is our task as pet parent to ensure that your cat gets mentally challenged and invited to play and “work” for his/her food. Hiding food, using specially developed toys to feed your cat and having some exercise triggers in your house, or allowing the cat to go out for a few hours daily will hugely improve their mental and physical health. Some cats which are allowed to go outside, however find a “friendly neighbor” who feeds the cats in their yard, which might make all your hard work, trying to make your cat lose weight, undone. Toys/games that work for cats (each cats is an individual with his/her own mind, so you have to try to find out what works). Toys that smell, make noise or move, laser pens, cat nip or cat grass, cat towers & scratching posts, feathers, cat-wheel (variety of hamster wheel) e.o. Youtube is a good source of very inventive ideas to keep your cat stimulated and exercise.