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Obesity in Cats

The Truth About Fat Cats

Your cat may be a big cuddly bundle of fur that entertains friends and family with her wobbly belly and lazy ways, but even though there’s more of Fluffy for you to love right now the truth is a little less amusing. Obesity in cats can be deadly.

Here are some facts to convince even the most adoring “fat cat” owner that it’s time to re-think those treats.

A Cornell University study involving 2,000 cats showed that 25% were overweight.

As well as diabetes, fat cats share a number of health concerns that plague overweight humans, including hypertension, cardiac problems, fatty livers and arthritic joints.

Nearly one-third of the owners of overweight animals are unaware that their pets are overweight.

Purebred cats are less likely to be obese than mixed-breed cats.

Neutered male cats are more than three times more likely to be overweight than those sexually intact, due to a lack of testosterone. Spayed females are twice as likely to face weight gain.

Just like their owners, cats’ eating habits can be affected by their environment. If your cat is stressed or bored, she could turn to her food bowl for comfort.

Obese cats that suddenly eat less, or nothing at all, can face a potentially fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. This means that it’s very important to follow a weight loss program, rather than simply reducing your cat’s food portion.

Ten Steps to Help Your Fat Cat Lose Weight

There may not be a fancy, brand-name diet program for fat cats yet, but there are other ways to help your cat drop those extra pounds. Follow these ten steps to help your cat reach a healthier weight, but first check with a veterinarian to establish goals and make sure your cat is otherwise healthy. Then, continue follow-up visits with your veterinarian to monitor progress.

Let the games begin! Help your cat burn calories by encouraging her to play. Toss her toys for her to chase, wiggle a wand for her to jump up high, or provide a taller cat scratching post for her to climb.

Go for a walk. Show those dogs a thing or two, and take your cat for a walk, even if it’s just inside the house. Many cats learn to enjoy walking on a leash, especially if trained while still young. It’s a great excuse for you to get more exercise, too.

Ease into shape. Watch how your fat cat handles increased activity. Don’t let your cat become exhausted, overheated or out of breath. Also remember that older cats may not be able to exercise vigorously.

Replace treats with praise. When your cat is begging for treats, it could be that she’s just begging for your attention. Substitute play, grooming, stroking or conversation for food treats as expressions of love. You can also try catnip as a non-food treat.

Resist those pleas. Is your cat an expert at begging for table scraps? If you find it difficult to ignore those “sad eyes” (or wailing!) at mealtime, keep your feline in a separate room.

Feed cats individually. If you have more than one cat, consider keeping them in separate rooms during their mealtime. This will prevent the greediest cat from overeating, and ensure that slower cats get fed.

Play fetch. Toss dry food kibbles to your cat, one piece at time, to combine exercise with mealtime.

Avoid fiber overload. Many reduced calorie pet foods include increased levels of fiber that can interfere with a pet’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients. Food with the proper balance of animal-based protein, fat, carbohydrates and moderately fermentable fiber sources, such as beet pulp, is a healthier choice.

Smaller meals, more often. As with people, several smaller meals each day vs. one large serving helps cats burn more calories. This is through meal-induced thermogenesis heat produced by the body during digestion, absorption, metabolism and storage of nutrients actually causes more calories to be used.

Tip the scales. A baby scale works great for keeping track of your cat’s weight, or alternatively you can take your cat in your arms, step on your own scale and then subtract your weight from the total weight shown to find your cat’s weight. Check weight loss progress every two weeks.