Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 9, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Feline obesity has continued to increase over the past years. Statistics by the Association for Pet Obesity in 2017 show that a staggering 60% of America’s cats are considered obese. Pet insurance company Nationwide reports that nearly 20 percent of its members’ claims in 2017 were for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity, marking a 24 percent increase over the last eight years.
Definition of “obese”
Obesity is generally viewed as body weight that is 20 percent or more above normal weight. Obesity is more common in middle-aged cats. Neutered and indoor cats are at the highest risk of becoming obese, since they often lack physical activity.
Overweight and obese cats will almost always become sick cats
Overweight cats are prone to the same diseases as overweight humans.
- Arthritis, joint problems and strained or torn ligaments
- Heart and respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
- Gastro-intestinal and digestive problems
- Urinary tract disease
- Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
- Compromised immune system
- Increased risk during anesthesia and surgery
It is up to cat parents to prevent cats from becoming overweight or obese
Cats rely on us to provide food, which means they rely on us to make appropriate nutritional choices for them and feed them appropriately sized portions.
Food is not love!
We are doing cats a disservice by overfeeding them, or feeding them the wrong diet. The term “enable” is an overused term in human psychology, but when it comes to overweight or obese cats, it is an appropriate analogy. Cats can’t open the fridge and grab that midnight snack by themselves. Humans enable cats to become overweight and obese.
Help your cat reach and maintain a healthy weight
Stop free choice feeding
Don’t leave food out for your cat at all times. Feeding two or three small meals a day, and feeding normal portions can go a long way toward helping your kitty loose and maintain her weight. Don’t follow manufacturer directions when it comes to portion size – they’re generally 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).
Eliminate all dry food
Dry foods, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, are the equivalent of junk food for cats.
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 meat-based treats, and give only a few.
Help your cat exercise
Playing with your cat is a great way for the two of you to spend quality time together and to help kitty lose and maintain her weight. Use interactive wand toys to get your cat to run up and down cat trees. Toss toys for her. You can even teach her to fetch.
Safe weight loss for cats
Cats need to lose weight slowly and gradually. “Healthy weight loss is about two ounces a week,” says Dr. Colleran, a feline veterinarian and owner of two cat hospitals. This is especially important for seriously overweight and obese cats. When food intake is cut too quickly in obese cats, they can develop hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease,) a potentially life threatening condition.
Dr. Colleran advises to feed 40-50 Kcal per kilogram (1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, 1 pound equals 0.45 kilograms) times the cat’s target weight times 60-70%. This means that if your cat should weigh 10 pounds, she should eat between 108 and 157 Kcal per day.
This is quite a bit less than what the recommendations on a can or bag of food will tell you to feed. As a result, Dr. Colleran spends a lot of time helping her clients separate pet food marketing from medical issues. “Unfortunately, cat food manufacturers give a lot of false information to pet owners,” says Dr. Colleran. Additionally, she says, “many of the prescription diets for weight loss are actually inadequate at maintaining lean body mass.”
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!
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.