Feline Obesity

Not all fat cats are bankers! Vets estimate that 29% of family cats in the UK are obese. To classify as obese a cat’s body weight needs to exceed 20% of their ideal body weight. Cats whose body weight is 10% to 20% above their ideal body weight are described as overweight. Cats, like humans, gradually gain weight so it can be almost imperceptible to an owner who sees the cat every day. The problem is often picked up when cats are weighted by vets during their annual health check.
There are a number of predisposing factors associated with obesity in cats which include:
Breed Moggy’s are most at risk, Oriental breeds less so.
Age Cats are at greatest risk between 10 to 13 years of age.
Neutering Increases the risk of obesity especially in male cats.
Medication Certain drugs like steroids increase appetite and consequently weight.
Activity The biggest cause of obesity in cats is inactivity. This is a serious problem for indoor cats that spend the majority of their time sleeping, grooming and eating and often get little or no exercise.
Household One to two cats in a home have an increased risk of developing obesity.  Three to six cats have a reduced risk as do households which also have a dog.
Food Food type, treats and scraps all have an influence but many owners are guilty of making food available all of the time by topping up feed bowls whenever they are empty. Many owners are under the misapprehension that cats will regulate their own food intake, this is not the case.
So what can owners do to prevent their cats getting too fat? Like humans it can be summarised by “move more, eat less”.
We have already said that inactivity is the biggest cause of feline obesity so increasing activity will help prevent obesity:
  • If it is safe let your cat go outside. Selective entry cat flaps like the Microchip Petporte Smart Flap® allow your cat the freedom to explore their outdoor environment while providing them with an indoor security. Not only can this cat flap keep potential intruding animals out of your home it can be programmed to keep your cat in at night, reducing the risks of road traffic accidents.
  • Play with your cat and use toys as a catalyst. Keep a selection of toys in a box and play with a different one each day of the week.
  • If you feed dry kibble use a feed ball to deliver the daily ration. A SlimCatTM feed ball is ideal because you can adjust the size and number of holes which release food. This means you can make it easier or harder for your cat to release the kibble by interacting with the ball.

As a result of the increase in feline obesity food manufacturers have reassessed their recommended daily feeding rations. Recent recommendations appear to reduce feeding quantities in an attempt to manage the obesity epidemic. However the food manufacturers cannot address this problem alone and owners need to follow these new recommendations. Owners also need to remember that each cat is an individual and what the manufacturer has produced are only recommendations so owners need to take responsibility for fine tuning feeding quantities to maintain their cat’s ideal weight.

Cats are social animals and communicate with their owners with chirps, meows and rubs. Unfortunately many owners interpret their cat’s interaction with them as demands for food, so they feed them. However the cat may not be hungry and may have simply been attempting to interact with the owner. So every time your cat appears to be demanding food try playing with it or grooming it.

Feline obesity plays a significant role in the development of several diseases:

  • Obesity and physical inactivity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes in cats.
  • Obese cats suffer with under confidence and anxiety.
  • Hepatic lipidosis, also known as “fatty liver,” is one of the most common liver disorders of cats.
  • Fat cats cannot groom properly so their hair can become severely matted which can cause discomfort and skin infections.
  • Pre-existing heart and lung disease, and arthritis, are aggravated by obesity.

If weight loss is too rapid it can cause fatty liver disease and so dieting an obese cat requires veterinary support. An appropriate weight loss program can then be developed to ensure a slow and controlled reduction.

Owners of fat cats often despair when they are advised to put their cats on diets because many cats will simply steel from their neighbours or increase their hunting activity. Life is often a compromise and a combination of dietary management and increased activity will reduce the dependence on dietary measures alone. If appropriate allow your cat to explore outside, feed it from a SlimCatTMfeed ball and play with it every time it apparently demands food!

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