A Guide to Dealing with an Overweight Cat

Diet Tips For Cats

Pet obesity is on the rise, with research suggesting up to half of all vet visits are now linked to being overweight or obese. If your pet is one of these, it can have a big impact on your pet’s health and wellbeing. While weight gain can be caused by certain medical problems, lifestyle and diet are major culprits in many cases.

In this guide, we look at obesity and weight management in cats.

Is Your Cat Overweight?

It isn’t always possible to gauge your cat’s weight just by looking at his or her size. Recent research from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) suggests that a whopping 92% of pet owners are completely unaware that their pet is an unhealthy weight. These simple tests will help you to assess whether your pet should be deemed overweight.

Appearance of the ribs: How visible are your cat’s ribs? A cat that is a healthy weight won’t necessarily have prominent ribs but you should be able to feel them by gently pressing gently along their sides. If you cannot feel them properly, this may be an indication that there is excessive fat covering them.

Waist definition: Looking at your cat from above, can you see an obvious “waist” that narrows between the chest and hips? This is not usually present in overweight cats and the “waist” area will probably be a similar proportion to the abdomen.

Tucked-in abdomen: Looking at your cat from the side, can you see evidence of a tucked-in abdomen? An overweight cat will often display a saggier abdomen.

If you suspect that your cat is overweight, contact your vet and arrange for him or her to be weighed and examined.

 

Why Has My Cat Gained Weight?

Some medical conditions can cause weight gain, including osteoarthritis, which can affect your cat’s ability to exercise. This can lead to a vicious cycle in which weight gain makes the condition worse and further reduces the ability to exercise. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help to reduce pain and inflammation and improve mobility.

As with humans, weight gain occurs when excess calories are not burned off. This can be a problem affecting indoor cats, who may not be getting exercise.

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What Are the Health Implications for My Cat?

Being overweight puts your cat at risk of developing health problems such as diabetes and complications such as additional strain on the heart and lungs, stress on the joints, and increased risks associated with general anaesthetic (if surgery is needed  in the future). Many overweight cats will also experience a decline in their quality of life.

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Controlling Your Cat’s Weight

Regular monitoring and examination will be crucial for keeping your cat’s weight under control. Making changes to your pet’s lifestyle can be crucial in regaining optimum body condition and improving health, happiness and quality of life.

Exercise: Obesity can be managed through increased exercise. This can be more challenging for cats (compared to dogs), especially if they are predominantly indoor cats. It can be useful to spend time with your cat in the garden to encourage physical activity when he or she may otherwise be completely sedentary. Toys that encourage movement and exercise are also a good idea.

Diet is also a key aspect of keeping your cat’s weight under control. Cutting back on treats and human food is a good starting point but you’ll need to go beyond this to encourage your cat to become a more healthy weight again. If you are going to share treats with your cat, ensure they are high quality with a rich meat content, like Pet Munchies.

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Prescription Diets: A low-fat, low-calorie diet is another option for ensuring that your cat will still receive a balanced diet while losing weight. Seek advice from your vet before embarking on this dietary change to ensure that it is the best option for your cat and to receive confirmation on which product may be the most suitable for your pet.

There are several diets available, including:

Hills prescription diet r/d has proven results and can be a wet or dry diet. It is a low calorie diet that promotes fat burning and provides high fibre levels to encourage your cat to feel full despite consuming fewer calories. Once target weight has been achieved, it is effective for weight control and prevents weight gain.

Purina Veterinary Diets OM (Obesity Management) is a complete and balanced diet with low calorie, low fat and high fibre content and a high protein to calorie ratio.

Royal Canin Obesity Management is specially formulated to reduce excess body weight and to reach target weight. It is available in wet and dry format.

[Photo credit: mt3o]

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  • Chemcat

    Having house cats, my two not surprisingly had a tendency to gain weight. I switched them to a raw diet (a proper balanced BARF diet not just human raw food which doesn’t contain all the essential nutrients). Initially it was mainly for health reasons. It took a while to work out the correct quantities to feed, but once I got that right, their weight regularised quite quickly plus it kept them fuller for longer.Not for everyone as there’s no denying it’s more expensive but it transformed their health.