Obesity is the most common disease in cats. Nearly 50% of the feline population has the disease. (See this article to determine if your cat is overweight.)
The good news is that it is treatable, and in many cases curable. Obesity can be caused by other primary diseases such as: orthopedic problems (like arthritis and injuries), or from hormonal problems (very rare).
Most commonly, though, obesity is the primary disease that sets your cat up for other problems. These commonly include:
- Orthopedic injuries
Strained or torn ligaments, strained muscles, early onset arthritis
Increased or inappropriate urination, blindness, decreased ability to heal, poor circulation leading to amputation
- Heart disease
Sudden cardiac death, exercise intolerance, chronic heart failure
- Scaling skin and matted hair
Usually due to the inability or lack of ability and desire to groom
- Urine or fecal scalds due to infection on the skin (see above)
- Behavior changes
lethargy, aggressiveness, avoiding people, urinating or defecating outside of the litterbox
- Uncoordination resulting in injury
occurs when for whatever reason the cat stops eating, fat is mobilized in large amounts to the liver (blocking it and inhibiting its ability to filter the body’s toxins); it is extremely difficult to treat
How to Treat Obesity
Just like for people there is an effective treatment: diet and exercise. Your cat simply must eat less and move more. No matter how little you feel you are feeding your overweight cat, it is too much if he/she isn’t losing weight. And no matter how active you think he/she may be, it isn’t enough if your cat isn’t losing weight.
There are several ways to increase activity in your cat's routine. However, ANY new kitty exercise plan MUST begin with low impact activity. Strained muscles and ligaments (not to mention broken bones!) will seriously reduce your cat’s ability to lose weight.
- Purchase interactive toys. Two favorites are KittyTease and the ever-popular laser light. Get creative with play, keep in mind your cat’s natural predatory instincts as you play, encourage him/her stalk, stare, and pounce to play.
- Move the food to a place where your cat will have to work to get to it, such as up/down stairs or up a ramp. In order to reduce orthopedic injuries, do not make your cat jump for food.
- From your cat’s daily ration of food, toss the kibble across the room so that your cat has to go after it to eat.
- If it is within your budget and lifestyle, and your cat is accepting, a great interactive toy is to give your cat: a cat! Two cats in a household tend to be more active than a single cat.
The idea is to get your cat moving around the house for 20 minutes a day. This 20 minutes doesn't have to be all in one shot, but four 5 minute sessions or three 7 minute (approximately) sessions per day.
There are several ways to change the diet of your cat:
- Decrease amount of regular diet
- Implement set feeding times
- Change the type of food
We will recommend a change for you, but that is only a recommendation. It can be difficult for some cats to adjust to their new feeding regimen, but don’t give up! Call us if the initial plan isn’t working after 2 weeks and we can work out a schedule and diet that works best for your cat. If your cat stops eating for more than 2 days, call us immediately!
Obesity doesn't occur overnight and it won't go away overnight. Overweight cats tend to become more lethargic and feel hungrier as they become heavier. (This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to reduce the calorie intake.) However, if we are consistent with our feedings and exercise routines, over time this symptom (along with kitty’s weight) will decrease.
Weight control can be one of the most difficult challenges you face with your cat. Cats are very persistent and are very effective persuaders. DON’T GIVE IN! Each time you give in, you have just taught your cat that vocalizing, getting into trouble or any other behavior will get him/her food! Remember, you are helping your friend, not hurting your friend. You are placing and keeping your friend on this diet and exercise plan so that you may spend many years together!