While overweight cats may be the stars of viral videos, your cat’s health shouldn’t be a laughing matter. Obesity in cats is a serious condition that affects the quality of life of your feline friend. Pet owners have the responsibility of making sure obesity isn’t something that affects their four-legged family members. So, how to help a cat lose weight? Read on.
Is My Cat Overweight? Signs You Can’t Deny
- As a cat owner, you might wonder whether your feline is obese. With all that fur, sometimes it’s hard to tell. These are some obvious markers of cat obesity to look out for, including:
- Visible excess fat, or a high body fat percentage.
- Lethargy or growing disinterest and/or inability in playing or other physical activity.
- A less-than-ideal body fat percentage for their particular breed, as determined by your vet.
Now, it can be easy to slip into denial about your cat’s health – especially if your feline isn’t visibly carrying any extra chub. Bodyweight isn’t even the main determinant for obesity in adult cats, since what can be considered “normal” varies from cat to cat.
The best way to get clarity is to get your vet’s help in completing a body condition scoring chart. You can also try to assess possible obesity with these methods:
- Feel for your cat’s ribs along their sides. If you can’t feel the bones through their fur and skin immediately, your cat could be storing extra fat.
- Try to spot your cat’s waistline when you examine them from above. There should be a slight dip or narrowing after the ribcage.
- Watch for respiratory issues, like coughing or wheezing, as well as skin disorders and urinary problems, as these tend to be associated with obesity.1
Obese Cat Facts: Risk Factors
There’s more to controlling cat obesity than just cutting back on cat treats or meals. Some cats (especially indoor cats) could be more predisposed to becoming overweight. Reasons for this could include:
- Lack of opportunity to exercise or move around
- Changes in metabolism due to aging and/or neutering
- Excess calories due to unregulated food intake
- An innate tendency to store calories and retain fat
Other Health Concerns Associated With Cat Obesity
An obese cat is more likely to develop complications that can affect their long-term health. By allowing your cat to remain obese and not pursuing weight management, you could be setting your beloved kitty up for ongoing health problems. Excess body weight can lead to increased pressure on their joints, major stress on their vital organs, diabetes, and problems with their digestive system.2
How To Help A Cat Lose Weight: Monitor Your Pet’s Food And Diet
First of all, consult with your cat’s vet and figure out what their ideal weight should be. If your cat is overweight, you’ll be able to plan a guided weight-loss program and a special diet with your vet to help your kitty safely shed excess pounds.
Getting your cat the proper nutrition is essential for their overall health. Many cat foods lack the essential nutrients that cats need for optimal health. Instead, they may contain “fillers” that are high in empty calories.
Talk to your veterinarian about getting your cat proper nutrition and helping them shed some pounds. They may recommend meeting their dietary needs by using a diet cat food, a dietary cat supplement, or both.
Once you find the right diet for your cat, try these strategies to help them lose weight:
- Schedule meals with controlled portions instead of leaving a full bowl of food out for your cat the whole day. Cats can’t regulate their own diet. If you’re out for most of the day, an automated cat feeder is an easy solution.
- Consider feeding your cat a diet of fresh, whole food rather than processed food. That way, you can make sure your cat is getting the key nutrients they need to stay healthy — and avoiding those empty calories and fillers that can contribute to weight gain.
Just remember, never make changes to your cat’s diet without first consulting your vet.
Enhance Your Cat’s Environment To Encourage Exercise, Play, And Physical Activity
Physical activity is also an important factor when it comes to weight loss in cats. Pet weight management is also about how you stimulate their senses and get them to move around. Exercise can help your cat burn off excess calories and build lean body mass.
Here are some easy tips for getting your cat to be a bit more active:
- Get them a workout buddy. If you have another cat or dog, pairing them up for active play might be a good idea.
- Install a cat tower or other toys that will test your cat’s agility. Jumping and climbing can serve as exercise, but you do need to be mindful of stress on their joints if they’re exceptionally obese.
- Invest in some more toys and leave them within easy access. Cats are playful by nature. Leaving colorful stuffed or rubber toys, wand toys, and even cat-safe household items like ping pong balls in their area could invite them to move more.
- Consider a “catio” or outdoor enclosure to stimulate your cat’s instinct to explore. If you have a sunroom or screened-in porch, consider allowing you cat to use it and adding a bed or a few cat toys.
- If you can manage it, daily walks on a leash might also be beneficial.
- Create games for your cat to play. Put a small ball in the bathtub and let your cat bat it around. Get a laser pointer, and watch your kitty go nuts chasing the little red light around.
Feline Obesity: See Your Cat’s Veterinarian
Ultimately, the best weight loss plan for cat obesity is one that’s guided by your veterinarian. Always talk with your vet before you change what you’re feeding your cat, or before you invest in pricey toys or gear that you think might help. Your vet can also help you with guided exercises for better weight control and provide you with more information on what to watch out for when your cat begins losing weight.
Cat weight loss is possible, even with an unwilling, furry participant not to keen on going on a diet. Just make sure you help them lose weight slowly and let the expert (your vet) be your guide.
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1 Öhlund, M., Palmgren, M., & Holst, B. S. (2018). Overweight in adult cats: a cross-sectional study. Acta veterinaria Scandinavica, 60(1), 5. doi:10.1186/s13028-018-0359-7.
2 O’Connell, E. M., Williams, M., Holden, S. L., Biourge, V., & German, A. J. (2018). Factors associated with overweight cats successfully completing a diet-based weight loss programme: an observational study. BMC veterinary research, 14(1), 397. doi:10.1186/s12917-018-1740-5.