Your cat is adorable. Except for her bulging pregnancy, which appears to be dragging her down. Not only does your cat have some extra “fluff,” but approximately 60% of cats in the US are overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).
The issue? Being overweight puts one at risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease that can be fatal. Do you want to assist your cat get in shape? Continue reading for professional advice on anything from how much to feed your cat to lose weight to easy methods to get your cat moving more.
What is obesity?
Being overweight by 15 to 20 percent of one’s optimal body weight is referred to as obesity. Obesity is the most prevalent nutritional problem in cats and dogs, affecting up to 44% of the pet population in North America.
Does Your Cat Need to Lose Weight?
Any amount of weight gain reduces your cat’s quality of life. It causes discomfort in your cat and lessens her willingness to move around, which can lead to even more weight gain. Additionally, overweight cats typically live shorter lives.
But weighing your cat isn’t the best technique to determine whether or not it needs to lose weight. Instead, evaluate your cat’s physical health and keep an eye out for these signs, advises Aimee Simpson, DVM, medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia:
Your cat could have a waist. While you are both standing, look down at your cat. There is a little depression between the ribs and the hips in a healthy cat’s body.
Can you feel the ribs in your cat? Along the sides of your cat’s chest, gently push. At a healthy weight, you should be able to feel your individual ribs.
Does the tummy of your cat droop? Look at your cat’s profile who is standing. As it reaches the hips, the abdomen should be tight, straight, and slightly elevated. Cats who are overweight have rounded abdomens without any upward tucking.
Ask your veterinarian for assistance in estimating your cat’s appropriate weight if his body form suggests he is overweight.
How do I know if my cat is overweight?
Publicly available charts may be useful in calculating the optimal weight for a certain body size in people. Charts are not as helpful for our dogs because of the wide variation in their body size and form. Instead, we use a Body Condition Score to evaluate dogs visually (BCS).
Why Do an Extra Few Pounds Matter?
When your cat might drop two pounds or so, as suggested by your doctor, it’s simple to downplay the significance of weight loss. After all, humans don’t really notice a difference of two pounds. But because the typical cat weighs 10 pounds, two pounds is a significant issue!
Consider it in this way to grasp the magnitude of the issue. Compare a 10-pound cat to a person who weighs 160 pounds on average. The equivalent of 32 additional pounds on that 160-pound person would be two extra pounds on that cat.
And if the typical cat carried three pounds of extra weight, the average person would carry close to fifty pounds of extra weight.
Therefore, evaluate extra weight proportionally. If you have a fragile 5-pound Siamese, 8 ounces will matter.
How Many Calories Should You Feed Your Cat to Help Them Lose Weight?
You must first ascertain how many calories your cat is currently consuming in order to calculate how much to give him to aid in weight loss. All treats, meals, and leftovers must be counted. Simpson advises cutting the quantity by 20% after that.
It might be challenging for some pet owners to determine a cat’s daily calorie consumption. That may be as a result of the cat being fed by several family members, frequent brand changes, or leaving unmeasured food out all day.
If it describes your circumstance, relax. Simpson suggests using the following method to determine how many calories your pet should consume to lose weight:
Ideal weight is 30 x 70 kilos. To find the number of calories to feed your cat each day, multiply this value by 0.8.
Also, keep in mind that healthy weight reduction requires patience. Simpson suggests aiming for a weekly weight loss of 0.5 to 2% of your cat’s body weight. “Because fatty liver disease, a significant health problem, can be brought on if overweight cats lose weight too quickly.”
Why is my cat overweight?
When they consume more calories than they burn, pets grow overweight. The body stores these extra calories as fat. A cat’s number of fat cells is established when it is a kitten. Depending on how much fat is stored inside each particular cell, the size of the cell might change.
Once produced, fat cells are irreversible. Because of this, cats who gain weight as kittens struggle more to stay in shape as adults and are more likely to be fat. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid obesity at a young age.
Determining How Much Weight to Lose
Humans frequently refer to weight reduction in terms of pounds because we frequently determine our ideal body type using weight-based standards. However, BMI charts and other guidelines that are effective for most humans are ineffective for cats. We advise using body condition rating to determine the ideal body type for a cat.
Cat body condition is frequently graded using a 1–5 or 1–9 scale. Mud Bay employs a scale from 1 to 5, with 3 being the optimal result. A scale can be helpful for tracking monthly weight reduction goals if your cat scores higher than optimal, but you should still perform a hands-on and visual check as you get closer to your target.
It might be challenging to evaluate your own cat. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you advice on how to assess your cat’s physical condition and establish weight loss objectives. If you need assistance, Muddies are also trained to assist you in determining your cat’s physical health.
What is a body condition score (BCS)?
The BCS is a rating that is somewhat arbitrary and is used to normalize an animal’s weight. Pets are graded on a scale of 1 to 9, with 5 being the optimal body mass index.
For instance, the ribs, spine, and hip bones of a skinny cat (1/9) would be visible. The ribs of a very obese cat (9/9) would be covered with fat, and the cat would also have deposits of fat in front of the hips, close to the neck, and an enlarged tummy.
A cat with an optimal body weight (5/9) would have an abdomen that is tucked in when viewed from the side, ribs that are easily touched without having to cut through a layer of fat, and a visible last rib.
Slow and Steady Weight Loss Wins the Race
Purposeful weight loss should enhance health, but cats must adhere to a strict diet regimen to prevent liver damage. It’s possible for a cat to get fatty liver disease if they lose weight fast.
Rapid weight loss can sometimes lead to fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic lipidosis by your veterinarian, which has a deadly propensity.
Your cat can experience all the health advantages of a trim frame without running the danger of internal organ damage by slowly losing weight. Your objective should be to lose just 3 to 4 percent of your cat’s overall body weight per month. That translates to 5.76 to 7.68 ounces each month for a 12-pound cat.
Consider feeding your cat a diet rich in L-carnitine or boosting their L-carnitine intake with low-calorie treats or a supplement to further guard against fatty liver disease.
There is little proof, however one research from 2002 revealed that L-carnitine helps safeguard the liver during weight reduction. L-carnitine is a beneficial supplement for any cat trying to lose weight because it also safeguards against loss of muscle mass and could even assist in doing so.
What are the health risks of an overweight pet?
Skin infections, high blood pressure, heart disease, immunological suppression, diabetes mellitus, orthopedic and arthritic illnesses, and some types of cancer are just a few of the health issues that overweight pets are more likely to experience.
Lower urinary tract issues and hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) are frequent in overweight cats. Risks associated with anesthesia and surgery might also increase.
The Diet Alterations That May Help Your Cat Lose Weight
You may help your cat lose weight by giving them a little less food. However, cutting less on food isn’t the only weight-loss strategy to attempt. When cats consume the same quantity of lower-carbohydrate wet or raw food as they do of kibble, which contains far more carbs than cats require, many of them will naturally lose weight. Altering your cat’s diet from wet to raw may also aid in weight loss.
Even while not all cats will change their diets, we firmly advise include at least some wet or raw food in your cat’s diet.
The benefits of these diets’ increased moisture content help shield your cat against chronic dehydration and the illnesses and urinary stones that are frequently associated with it. A good side effect of this diet adjustment is frequently weight loss.
The best diet for weight reduction is one that emphasizes raw food. Cats respond well to a diet high in muscle-preserving protein and low in carbohydrates. And many cats acclimate to raw food quite quickly if given enough time.
Kibble may not always be the best feeding option for your cat or your home. To aid in weight reduction in these situations, opt for a high-protein, low-carbohydrate kibble.
As obligate carnivores, the majority of cats will react to this shift by losing extra weight. This kind of kibble might not be suitable for all felines. The next food to attempt in these circumstances is low-calorie, high-fiber kibble.
How much exercise does my cat need?
If you want your pet to reduce weight, you must actively participate in their exercise regimen. You will need to gradually increase the quantity of exercise your cat gets if they are not used to exercising.
Start off by working out for 10 minutes several times a week, then increasing the duration until you are working out for at least 30 minutes each day. Your cat will benefit from exercising for at least 15 minutes twice a day by burning more calories, speeding up his or her metabolism, and maintaining lean body mass.
Although it might be challenging to exercise cats, supervised play with cat toys (such as feather teasers and laser pointers) can be quite beneficial. Catnip may be used to promote and improve your cat’s playfulness. For indoor-only cats, environmental enrichment is also essential.
When to Talk to Your Vet About Weight Loss
The majority of vets are happy to work with you to support your overweight cat. It might be challenging to make sure that your cat loses a little bit of weight each week, and there are a few uncommon health conditions that may make weight reduction difficult.
Talk to your veterinarian if you’ve tried switching to raw or wet food (or the lowest carbohydrate choice your cat will eat) and playing with your cat frequently but the scale hasn’t moved. Your veterinarian’s clinic can assist you in resolving any particular problems you’ve been having.
How should I change my feeding strategy?
Only feed your cat food and treats from its bowl. Given that it will take more work on your part and that of your family, this will aid in preventing overeating. To avoid the temptation to feed “human food,” you should keep your cat away from the kitchen and other locations where food is made or consumed.
While feeding, keeping the cat apart from other house pets helps lessen competitive eating and food sharing. To prevent hunger and begging, your cat should ideally consume two or more modest meals throughout the day.
Best Ways to Help Your Cat Lose Weight in a Healthy Way
Cats may lose weight using the same strategy as humans: Eat less and exercise more. Here are some pointers for exercising your cat.
Make eating difficult. To promote both physical and mental exercise, use a puzzle feeder. Puzzle feeders are beneficial for several reasons, including preventing boredom and limiting the amount of food your cat consumes.
Make exercising enjoyable. Cats experience habitual boredom much as people do. Provide lots of vertical climbing surfaces and switch up the toys to liven things up. Include little periods of play all throughout the day. Simpson points out that cats are not made for endurance, but rather for speed, so aim for five to ten minutes of action during each play session.
Limit your indulgences. Instead of food treats, substitute hugs and playtime. It’s an easy approach to lower the daily caloric intake of your pet friend.
Change foods gradually. Cats have a reputation for being picky. Therefore, don’t abruptly alter your cat’s diet. If you’re transitioning to a new cuisine to manage your weight, you need to be cunning.
For a few days, start by substituting a quarter of your cat’s kibble with fresh food. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention advises gradually increasing the amount of new food over a few more days. The transition should take one to two weeks.
Stop cats from eating together. If you live with several cats, you’ll need to take extra precautions to prevent your obese cat from overeating.
Instead of letting your cats graze all day or eat from the same dish, Simpson advises serving them multiple little meals at particular times of the day from their own, dedicated feeding bowls.
As a result, cats are more likely to finish their meals, leaving less for a housemate to eat. If you can’t be present to feed your cats during the day, use a programmed feeder.
Take a feeder with a microchip for example. Only the specified cat will receive food from this kind of sophisticated feeder. It’s a fail-safe way to make sure that your cat won’t get to eat his friend’s leftovers.