Fat Cats Routinely Become Very Sick CatsThere are so many reasons to prevent your cat from becoming overweight or obese. One of the most important is to insure your kitty has a good quality of life throughout her life. Another is so that you’ll have your pet with you for as long as possible.
- Overweight pets often don’t live as long as pets at a normal weight. The shortened lifespan of a heavy cat can be the result of one or more obesity-related diseases.
- Carrying around extra weight on a small feline frame places tremendous stress on joints, tendons and ligaments. This can cause arthritis. Tragically, in worst-case scenarios, senior cats immobilized by weight and intractable pain wind up euthanized.
- Overweight cats have fat lurking in places you can’t see. For example, accumulations of fat deposits in the chest and abdomen can restrict the ability of your kitty’s lungs to expand, making breathing difficult.
- Obesity is the biggest risk factor for diabetes mellitus in cats. Kitties fed processed cat food, in particular dry food (kibble), are at highest risk for developing this often difficult-to-manage disease.
- Overweight kitties can also develop hypertension (high blood pressure), which can negatively impact major organ systems.
- Overweight and obese cats are often predisposed to fatty liver disease, a potentially life-threatening disorder also called hepatic lipidosis. A buildup of fat cells in the liver prevents normal functioning. Left untreated, the liver ultimately fails and sadly, cats can and do die from this condition.
- Your overweight kitty is also at greater risk for feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
Are You Enabling YOUR Cat to Be Fat?Given the tremendous risks associated with allowing cats to become overweight, I hope veterinarians and cat owners alike will heed the words of Dr. Steve Budsberg, Director of Clinical Research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine: "The prevention of obesity needs to be at the forefront of all discussions people have about the health of their pet with their veterinarian. The body of evidence that shows the negative impact of obesity on all the body's systems is overwhelming. As an orthopedic surgeon I see, on a daily basis, the effects of obesity on dogs and cats with osteoarthritis. It is very frustrating to see how much pain and discomfort excess weight has on my patients. Veterinarians and owners have the ability to stop obesity in our pets. No animal goes to the refrigerator or the pantry and helps themselves. We enable our pets to get fat!"3
Nutrition and Exercise Recommendations for Overweight Cats
- In order to slim down an overweight cat, you must feed a portion-controlled, balanced, and species-appropriate diet. In my experience, most overweight cats are fed a dry diet and are often free-fed, which means they're grazing day and night on food that is keeping them fat.
- Next, make sure your kitty has at least one thing to climb on in your home, like a multi-level cat tree or tower. If he's willing to use it, he'll get some good stretching, scratching and climbing time in each day even when you're not around.
- It's important to keep in mind that your cat has a very limited attention span. Consider investing in a laser toy, either a very inexpensive, simple one or something more sophisticated like the FrolicCat. Many kitties will enthusiastically chase the beams or dots from these toys.
- You'll also want to invest in a few interactive cat toys. To pick the best ones, consider things from your pet's point of view. She's a hunter, so when choosing toys and activities to engage her, think in terms of appealing to her natural instincts to stalk prey.
- Also keep some low-tech interactive toys on hand, like a piece of string you drag across the floor, ping-pong balls, or bits of paper rolled into balls. Any lightweight object that can be made to move fast and in unexpected directions will entice almost any cat to chase after it.
- Turn mealtime into a workout session. Put your kitty’s food in a bowl, and then walk around the house with it, with her following close behind. Stop from time to time and offer her small bites of food. As she gets used to this new game, you’ll probably notice her being very active as she weaves around your ankles, runs ahead then turns back and runs towards you, stretches up toward the bowl, and hops around on her back legs.