Obesity in cats
More and more cats are developing obesity. A cat is considered overweight if it weighs over 20% more than its ideal body weight. If it weighs more than 20% above its ideal weight, it is classified as obese. Obesity is a disease, which negatively affects a cat's health and quality of life.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Causes of obesity in cats
Cats that are less active are at greater risk of developing obesity. Inactivity can in turn be caused by, for example, castration, pain from joints or lack of stimulation. Low levels of activity require much less energy (food). A cat will become overweight if it consumes more energy than it uses.
Unless your cat is a grazer that self-regulates their food intake, cats that have free access to food will have a significantly increased risk of becoming overweight. Some medications can also increase the cat's appetite, therefore these cats need very careful dietary management.
Consequences of obesity in cats
Obesity can increase the risk of a cat developing other diseases such as diabetes, urinary tract problems, osteoarthritis, skin diseases and fatty liver disease. Overweight cats are also more at risk of inactivity, having a weaker immune system and difficulty feeding their kittens normally.
Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is used when assessing the cat's and ideal body weight. BCS 4-5/9 is ideal weight and is usually characterised by the following:
- Ribs should be felt with a light touch without being clearly visible
- Waist should be clearly visible when looking at your cat from above
- Fat pad under the abdomen should not be present
Treatment of obesity in cats
Keeping a close eye on your cat’s waistline will help to prevent extra weight gain. Many vet practices have weight clinics, with nurses who are trained in nutrition. These clinics are a very helpful way to learn how to make a weight reduction plan and help your cat lose weight.
Weight loss can be achieved by changing what you feed, how much you feed, how you feed and when you feed. If your cat has a body condition score greater than 5/9, they need to lose excess fat. If appropriate, exercise is a key part of any weight loss plan.
What are you feeding your cat? There are lots of obesity and weight loss diets on the market. It is always best to change the food gradually, over a couple of weeks, to avoid any problems. Diets formulated to help weight loss and control include:
- Purina: Proplan OM Obesity Management
- Hills: Metabolic, w/d and r/d
- Royal Canin: Obesity Management, Satiety, Weight Control
Here are our top tips for achieving your cat’s weight loss goals; everyone in the household must be involved!
- Who: choose one person in the household to set the quantity of food and feeding routine
- What and when: look at what you feed, how much you feed, how you feed, how often you feed and when you feed. Considering all elements of feeding will give you more weight management options
- Weigh out the daily food allowance using scales. All training treats must come from this bowl, rather than being an addition to it
- Record your cat’s weight weekly in a way the whole family can see
- Reminders placed around the house will tell the whole family that your cat is on a diet
- Remove temptation and hide away all the treats
- Discourage friends and neighbours from feeding your cat treats
- Scatter feed to slow down your cat’s eating
- Indoor and outdoor exercise will encourage further weight loss as well as improve muscular strength
- Remember that weight loss is more effective with dietary change than increased exercise
Get advice from an experienced vet
- If you notice that your cat is overweight
- If your cat is not losing weight despite the advice above
Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our FirstVet vets. Every cat is different, so they will be able to discuss specifically how best to manage your cat’s weight, exercise and nutrition.