Weight Management in Cats
South African vets say more than half the patients they treat are overweight. The fact is... obesity is the number one health problem faced by pets today. If your cat is overweight, she can develop all kinds of health problems such as painful arthritis, heart disease, breathing difficulty, diabetes and even bladder cancer. For your cat, the excess weight and the resulting health problems can mean less play time and depression.
How can you tell if your cat is overweight? First, your veterinarian will weigh your cat at her regular check-ups. Between checkups, place your hands on her side - are her ribs hard to feel or even impossible to feel? If so, she is likely overweight.
There are many easily identifiable causes of weight gain in cats:
Overfeeding - Cats with unlimited access to food understandably eat more than they need.
Overeating - Many commercial foods are loaded with salt and fat. This improves taste, which means your cat will want to gorge.
Feeding habits - Feeding table scraps and "people food" can lead to obesity.
Lack of exercise - Too much food and too little exercise produces a typical result: obesity.
Age - Older, less active cats are prone to weight gain.
Gender - Female cats are more likely to become overweight.
Neutering - Spayed or neutered cats are twice as likely to become obese due to a more sedentary lifestyle. (There are many important health reasons to have your pet spayed or neutered - just remember to monitor your cat's weight.)
Why is overweight a problem?
A lot of different diseases are seen more often in cats that are overweight. Sadly these cats also tend to be less comfortable and content. Some of the most common problems that can occur in overweight cats are:
- Skin problems
- Urinary tract problems
- Heart problems
- Higher risk of cancer
In cats over 7 years of age, the risk of dying is almost 3 times higher in overweight cats compared to cats with a normal weight.
This is why it is so important to:
- Keep your cat slender
- Help her lose weight if she is already overweight
Your vet is the best person to help you set a healthy eating programme for an overweight cat but these tips should also give good results:
- Cats should have multiple small meals every day. If you are away from home a lot, try a food ball or a mechanical food dispenser
- If she begs for food give her extra cuddles and attention instead
- Make sure you set time aside every day to play with your cat - treat her to some new toys or just use scrunched up paper
- Buy a tall scratching post to encourage your cat to climb
- Consider getting a kitten to keep your cat company. Ask your vet what breed would be best for your cat
- Watch out for cat treats - they contain lots of calories
- Ask your vet to recommend a weight management food
Food plays a very important role in treating an overweight cat. Along with exercise, a low-fat and low-calorie food is essential in helping your cat lose weight and stay fit. Fibre is also a key ingredient since it helps your cat eat less while keeping her full.
Once your cat has been overweight, she may be prone to weight gain and should have an ongoing weight-management plan based on good nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups and weigh-ins.
For an accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian.