percentage of overweight or obese cats in recent decades
Did you know that a staggering 53% of America’s cats are considered overweight or obese? This trend has been on a disturbing increase, and mirrors the equally disturbing increase in human obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one third of adults in the United States are obese.
The serious health problems in cats which result from obesity are the same as in humans:
- Arthritis, joint problems and and torn or strained ligaments
- Heart and respiratory problems
- Gastro-interstinal and digestive problems
- Compromised immune system
- Increased risk during anesthesia and surgery
There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in cats:
- Free choice feeding. This has been the single biggest factor in causing obesity in cats. Free choice feeding means that food is left out for the cat at all times, which goes completely against the cat’s natural habit of being a hunter who may only eat one, maybe two meals a day.
- Carbohydrates. Unlike other mammals, cats don’t have Amylase, the enzyme required to begin the process of digesting carbohydrates, in their saliva. Nature did not intend our cats to consume carbs. They metabolize carbs into stored fat. Unfortunately, most commercially available dry cat food is very high in carbohydrates, contributing to this problem.
- Lack of exercise. As we all know, our cats spend most of their day sleeping.
- Treats. For most of us, giving treats is one way we show our cats that we love them.
How can we counteract these factors and help our cats maintain a healthy weight?
- Stop leaving food out for your cat at all times. Feeding two small meals a day, and feeding “normal” portions can go a long way toward helping your kitty loose and maintain her weight. A normal size portion for a cat is about equal to the size of a mouse. Don’t follow manufacturer directions when it comes to portion size – they’re all much higher than what your cat really needs.
- Feed a meat based diet. This is consistent with the needs of a carnivore. There are many quality commercial raw and canned diets available that are high in protein (meat) and free of grains (carbs). I do not recommend diets marketed as weight-loss diets, especially not the veterinary prescription diets. Most are too high in carbohydrates, and contain by-products and fillers.
- Eliminate dry food from your cat’s diet. Dry foods, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, are the equivalent of junk food for cats.
- Play with your cat. This is a great way for the two of you to spend quality time together and to get your cat some exercise.
- Limit or, ideally, eliminate treats. If you absolutely must feed treats, look for grain-free treats that are high in protein, such as freeze dried chicken, and give only a few.
Don’t let your cat become a statistic. Keep your cat at a healthy weight, and if your cat is overweight, start helping her loose weight now!
Graphic from CATalyst Council