Today’s domestic cats have it pretty easy when it comes to food acquisition. Likely, you’ve established a feeding routine that ensures kitty doesn’t go hungry for any length of time and requires little physical exertion on their part to get to it. Their relaxed lifestyle, along with a lack of playtime and any extra cat treats may start to add up to some extra pounds.
Just like us, cats will gain weight if they consume more calories than they burn. Their weight gain will likely happen slowly over time and you might not even notice any change in their appearance or size. Many studies have been conducted on just how heavy our pets have become and they have all concluded that at least 50 percent of cats are obese or overweight. Overweight is deemed to be at least 10-15% heavier than ideal and obese would be considered 25-30% above ideal. When your veterinarian examines your cat each year, they will assign a Body Condition Score (BCS) to your cat’s weight relative to what is ideal based on your cat’s size and bone structure. If it has been more than a year since your cat’s last check-up and you’re concerned about their weight, give this easy test a try.
Place your cat on your lap and feel for their ribs – are they easy to find? There should be some fat over top of them, but each rib should be distinct. If you can’t feel them, this could be a sign that your cat is overweight. When standing, there should be an “hourglass” feel to your cat’s shape, as you slide your hands down its sides from chest to hips.
If you and your veterinarian have determined that the time has come to get your cat in shape, it is important to have realistic expectations. Cats are different from dogs in many ways and when it comes to losing weight cats can only safely lose weight slowly. Crash diets are just as dangerous as the diseases that result from being overweight in the first place.
The first place to start in any feline weight loss program is with a diet specifically formulated for cats to carefully lose weight. Your veterinarian is your best source of advice here and regular monitoring is important. The primary concerns with overweight cats is the development of either Diabetes or Hepatic Lipidosis (a serious form of liver failure) and both can be fatal. The reason for the monitoring of the weight loss program is that if it is too aggressive, it can trigger Hepatic Lipidosis, as well.
Along with having a good weight loss diet, increasing your cat’s activity level (and your own) is a fun way for you both to get some exercise. Consider mixing up their activities by creating vertical spaces in your home, creating an obstacle course or adding catnip to increase your cat’s interest in a toy. Through some simple lifestyle changes to your pet’s routine and some patience, your cat will be headed towards being in tip-top shape in no-time.