Newton’s Purrspective – Healthy Feline Weight
People often complain that they put on extra pounds during the winter. Indoor cats may have the same problem – too many treats and not enough exercise. Although we do not have any incentive to prepare for swimsuit season, being overweight is a problem and can be a serious health concern. Feline obesity can lead to:
- Liver disease
- Joint disease
- Skin problems
- Shorter life
The demands of increased body mass may exceed the body’s ability to produce insulin. Obese cats are 2-4 times more likely to develop diabetes.
The liver is a vital organ that supports nearly every other organ in the body. Excess fat stored in the liver (hepatic lipidosis) decreases liver function and can be life threatening.
Of course, excess weight puts stress on joints. If movement is painful Kitty is even less likely to play and burn off calories.
Overweight cats cannot groom themselves properly. The extra weight makes us less flexible and we just can’t reach all the places that need attention. Consequently we may have dry flaky skin and dull fur, even if we have a high quality diet.
Before starting a weight loss program Kitty should have a complete exam. Weight needs to be taken off slowly and should be done through a combination of diet and exercise. The body can’t cope with rapid release of toxins and certain vitamins stored in fat.
FUN FACT – Did you know that, unlike people, cats must get all their vitamin D from food? It is stored in fat, and blood concentrations of vitamin D can be a predictor of feline health.
Your vet may suggest a special weight loss diet or simply smaller portions of Kitty’s regular high protein food. (Obesity in Cats… and What to do About an Overweight Cat – PetMD) Cats are obligate carnivores. We just don’t have the ability to digest carbohydrates the way people and dogs do. We need protein. Under natural conditions our meals would be small and unpredictable.
In fact – one mouse is the perfect meal for an average sized cat! A typical mouse is made of 20 percent protein, 9 percent fat and lots of moisture.
This is a difficult concept for many humans. Food is equated with love and cats have a way of looking “so hungry” we must need at least a small treat. Free feeding (leaving a full food dish out all day) is the human equivalent of sitting next to a large bag of snack food. Kitty may be eating more due to boredom than because she is hungry. Feeding small meals throughout the day has an added advantage of showing exactly how much is eaten (or not).
Follow your vet’s recommendations for portions and number of feedings per day. Weight should be checked at monthly intervals. Toys are a great way to increase activity — everyone in my family loves Cat Faeries toys. But some cats just aren’t interested in catnip. (It is genetically determined and does not mean anything is wrong.) In that case interactive toys (e.g. feathers on a wand), cat furniture for climbing, or even a playmate may help.
Once Kitty has reached a healthy weight follow your vet’s recommendations for maintenance. (Remember, being too thin is also unhealthy. If your cat is losing weight despite eating normally or has stopped eating do not delay in seeking professional help.) Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the ways to increase the chance of a long and happy life for your cat.
Some advice from your Cat Faerie – how to help a chubby cat in a multi cat household lose weight.
First, free feeding is never a good idea. To prevent over eating cats should have two meals a day. Breakfast and dinner. Each cat should have their own food bowl spread out to allow for space between the cats.
Tell your vet how much the plump cat weighs. Ask what the ideal weight for that particular cat is. Ask the vet how many calories a day the cat needs to slowly (and we do mean slowly, quick weight loss leads to liver failure in cats) drop the weight. Ask your vet for a realistic time frame for the weight to come off safely. Call the cat food company and ask how many calories are in the food, so you know exactly how much to measure.
For a chubby cat who needs to lose a few pounds we’ve created a very successful method ~ you will feed that cat in a room separately from the other cats with the door shut. To make this even better – split that cat’s food portion into TWO BOWLS! The cat will be overjoyed first because of the special room but also thinking it’s twice as much food because it’s in two bowls! Allow 20 minutes for all of the cats to eat. Collect the food bowls of the cats in the kitchen first, then the bowl of the cat who’s behind a closed door and let the cat out. Wash in hot soapy water to remove food bits and bio film.