Dealing with Obesity in Cats

0 Comments Posted by tcahvet in Nutrition, Pet Health on Thursday, January 29th, 2015.

obese-cat-istock-000031410062smallFeline obesity is a serious problem that has become more common as cats have become primarily indoor.  When cats are spending more of their time outdoors they have a more active lifestyle with stalking and roaming.  Bringing cats indoors has certainly made them safer as we have taken away the risks from cars and other animals but we have also made them more sedentary.  The typical indoor cat spends their day resting with very little play time or movement around the house.  Combine this lack of activity with readily available food and we have an epidemic of feline obesity.  Feline obesity predisposes a cat to arthritis, diabetes and other diseases.

Keeping an indoor cat an appropriate weight is a challenge.  Starting when they are young we need to set up healthy habits that adjust for their indoor lifestyle. 

The first challenge to address is food.  Very few cats will keep a healthy weight when they have food set out all the time.  This practice is known as “free feeding”.  Most cats must have a measured amount of food each day given in several meals.  I prefer using both dry and canned food so if we need to make adjustments due to disease we  have already had exposure to different food types.  As most cats hit adulthood their calorie needs go down dramatically.  Many of these cats will need a low calorie food to balance their caloric needs.

The second challenge is keeping indoor cats active.  Stimulating activity is helpful not only in keeping cats a healthy weight but also the mental stimulation is good for them.  Starting as kittens, many types of cat toys should be introduced and cycled frequently to keep them interesting.  If you are tying to get an adult cat to play you should start with several types, including feather toys, scratch toys and balls.cattoys2

Adult obese pets are often difficult to entice to play. A great way to get them started are feeding toys.  These help to give the cat the enjoyment they receive from eating over a longer time as well as some physical activity.  These feeding toys come in a wide variety including balls, mazes and others.  I have seen great success when these are implemented.catfoodtoy_

Feline obesity is a very slow problem to resolve.  Even when every measure is taken it will take several years to get an obese cat down to a healthy weight.  Most cats will loose one to two pounds each year with any weight loss plan.  Prevention of feline obesity is the key to treating this disease.

Jill Child DVM

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