Cat Obesity Management
Help! My Cat Might Be Fat!
Is He Really Fat, Or Just Fluffy?
The best way to know if Mr. Fluffy is just fluffy, or may be getting fat, is to ask your vet. Your vet or vet tech will be able to give you an estimate of Mr. Fluffy’s ideal weight and current body condition score (similar to the Body Mass Index – BMI in people).
If you want to figure this out yourself, here are some helpful guidelines:
- Has Mr. Fluffy gotten progressively heavier after the age of 2 years – if so, he may be a fat cat.
- Can you feel his ribs without having to FEEL FOR his ribs – a thin padding of fat over the ribs is okay, a thick one is not.
- Does he have a Figure 8 body shape when viewed from above – if not, he may be a fat cat.
- Does he have a tucked up tummy when viewed from the side – if not he may be a fat cat.
I Feed a Really Expensive Cat Food, So How Did He Get This Way?
Mr. Fluffy got to be a fat cat the same way we all gain weight – he ate more calories than he exercised away. As we have gotten heavier as people, so have our cats. Even if you are feeding a really wonderful diet, Mr. Fluffy may just be eating too much of it for his lifestyle and potentially, it may be the wrong diet for his metabolism. Just like people, each cat has to have a diet matched to his metabolism, lifestyle, and nutritional needs – it isn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach.
Hey, Fat Cats Look Happy So Why Does It Matter?
Mr. Fluffy does look happy asleep on the sofa, but he may actually be developing a whole host of health problems while he sleeps there day in and day out. Fat cats are higher risk of developing diabetes, arthritis, other joint problems, breathing difficulties, and heart disease. Additionally they have more trouble grooming themselves and have shorter life spans than fit cats.
These health problems sneak up on Mr. Fluffy, and you, and once they are present, a cure may not be possible. Sometimes we can reverse these changes, but most of the time we have to manage the symptoms. It’s always easier to prevent weight gain in the first place than to treat these diseases when they occur.
Okay, Okay, He’s Not Just Fluffy, What Do I Do Now?
The most important thing you can do is have a serious discussion with your vet about where to start. Mr. Fluffy may need blood work or other diagnostics to make sure he is starting his diet as a healthy cat, or he may just need a diet plan. Either way, your vet can help. If you want to get a head start at home, you can stop feeding food in a free choice manner, and start feeding 2 or more meals a day instead.
You can also decrease the amount you are feeding by 20%, as well as give away his kitty treats to a skinnier cat. This is not always an easy task, but stick to it! Cats can’t feed themselves – if you don’t put it out, they can’t eat it.
Also, you can encourage exercise in the form of play as often as possible. Mr. Fluffy may need a prescription diet food that has been specially formulated to provide all his nutritional needs in a small serving to make sure he is a healthy dieter. This is something your vet may recommend. The goal is 1-2% weight loss per week – it took years to get a fat cat, and it will take some time to get a thin one! However, every little bit of weight loss is a victory, so hang in there.
Helpful Info On Cat Obesity
- Pet Obesity Prevention is a fantastic website
- 1 Calorie (capital C) = 1 kcal = 1000 calories (lower case c)
- 2 lb weight gain in a cat is approximate to a 30 lb weight gain for the average woman
Helpful Information to Have When You Call the Vet
1. My cat currently eats:
dry food brand and amount: ______________________________
canned food brand and amount:___________________________
cat treats brand and amount: _____________________________
human food type and amount: ____________________________
*it may also help to have the containers available to look at calorie content.
2. How many cats are in the house? Do any of them have health issues that require specific diets?
3. What is your cat’s activity level? Does your cat like to play with toys?
4. Has your cat been showing any signs of illness or aging lately – decreased energy, vomiting, poor grooming, unwillingness to jump…?
5. How much time can I spend to help my cat get thin?