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Overweight Cats: Causes, Risk and Treatments

In our last article we looked at giving your cat a bath. Today we look at the impacts of having an obese cat.

Everyone’s seen really huge cats and wondered, is that really healthy for a cat or is that a classic case of being overweight? According to a 2008 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 57 percent of cats are considered overweight or obese. The truth is, overweight cats are an epidemic.

So how do you know if your cat is overweight?

With so many overweight cats it’s important to know how to test if your cat is obese. While everyone thinks a chubby kitten is cute the health risks can be serious.

  • To check and see if a cat is overweight gently pick kitty up and verify you are able to feel the ribs with just a slight fat pad on them. If there is more than a slight fat pad on your cats ribs, this will be your first indication that they might have weight issues. It may be time to start considering a bit more exercise and a bit less food for kitty.
  • Another method is to observe your cat from above, and look for a defined waistline. Can the waist be seen from the side angle as well? If not, kitty could be overweight. There should be no fat pads over the shoulders and if the skin is picked up say at the nape of the neck there should not be any thick fat deposits felt underneath the skin.
  • Finally, the top from the backbone to the back of the head should not feel too thick or too thin either, it should feel just right, well muscled and not overly prominent.

These are some of the few method to assess your takes weight, if your are unsure and need a second opinion, bring it up at your next vet visit.

 

What is the ideal cat weight?

The answer to what overweight cats should weigh will depend a lot upon the breed of cat owned. If one owns a Domestic cat the average weight should be between eight and 10 pounds. A Persian cat should weigh between seven and 12 pounds. Siamese cats will average between five and 10 pounds and a Maine coon will be between 10 and 25 pounds.

 

Main Causes of cat obesity

There are three main causes of overweight cats.

  • A Lack of exercise is the leading cause of obesity in indoor cats. Indoor cats don’t go out mousing around as outdoor cats do. They don’t have the opportunity to explore, climb trees and chase after things while getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.
  • Another leading cause of obesity in cats is a diet that that is too high in carbs. Many veterinarians prefer a canned cat food over dry kibble for this very reason. A measured portion (read the feeding instructions either on the canned food or on the side of the dry kibble bag) and follow them closely. Even if kitty begs and pleads for more (and most of them will) don’t give in to temptation. Just like healthy humans there is a reason for portion control.
  • Free feeding (having food always available) is another reason for overweight cats. Pet food companies make pet food delicious and it’s only a natural instinct to want more and more of something that is delicious. Since kitty can’t read and follow the feeding instructions, it’s up to the owners to do it for them.

Finally don’t discount those treats :). Many owners feel it is necessary to give kitty treats in addition to their daily food. Just as in humans, treats are fine in moderation, but when kitty is begging for treats on a frequent basis and you give in, you run the risk of having weight issues.

 

Risks and issues to having overweight cats

Just as in humans, the health risks associated with being an overweight cat are very real and should be taken seriously:

  • Overweight cats can struggle with skin disorders from not being able to self-groom. Kitty needs to be able to groom under the tail and in the arm pits in order to have healthy skin. When your cat can’t groom properly, their skin can become infected and irritated. For more information on this please review our Cat Dandruff post.
  • Poor diets and too much of a good thing can cause diabetes. A diabetic cat (Diabetes Mellitus) will have a shortened life span and require a special diet that is closely monitored. They will also need to see the veterinarian a lot more frequently. This is a serious condition that will change the quality of your cat life.
  • Extra weight can also cause Arthritis and increase the risk of hepatic lipidosis (Feline fatty liver syndrome). Also if your cat were to require any surgical procedure, there will be an increase in the amount of anaesthetic that needs to be administered and this can present a serious problem for the surgeon. Lastly, kitty may have a seriously shortened life span if he or she is overweight.

 

 What are the treatments options for overweight cats?

To begin with, an overweight cat should be seen by a veterinarian. A complete health exam should quickly determine how overweight the cat is and what steps to take to treat and prevent the obesity issue.

The Best Cat Diet for kitty should be no more than 200 calories per day. That’s right, 200 calories. It doesn’t sound like very many and in truth, it isn’t. That’s why so many pet owners are guilty of feeding kitty too much. An eight to 10 pound cat shouldn’t be getting over 200 calories in their daily diet. Go back to that bag of kibble and re read the serving size and stick to it. If kitty seems hungry at night give them a portion in the evening and a portion in the morning. Breaking up feeding’s will often help kitty to control his or her weight.

Your pet needs an exercise program, so why not make it fun. For indoor kitties this could include a bouncy ball to toss for kitty to chase. A laser light beam is another ideal “toy” that the owner can use on a wall or on the floor and entice kitty to chase it. Build kitty a climbing tower out of carpet remnants and blocks of wood. Create an obstacle course to get to their food dish. Give kitty a box and an old ping pong ball to bat around. A creative owner will come up with many great ideas to get kitty to move around more and play.

Overweight cats didn’t become overweight overnight and they won’t lose their excess weight overnight. If it took kitty a year to gain all that weight, it could very well take kitty a year to lose the excess weight. As an owner your job is to help them get health and stay health, that way you can both enjoy each other’s company.

In our next article we look at the two major external parasite (Cat Fleas and Ticks) that drives every cat owner insane.

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