Managing an Overweight Cat’s Health

It is estimated that about 25% of the cats in the United States are overweight and an additional 25% are obese. Overweight and obese cats are at higher risk for developing diabetes, fatty livers (called hepatic lipidosis), lameness, and skin problems. Both diabetes and hepatic lipidosis can be fatal, so it’s important to keep cats at or near their ideal weight.Cat and Weight Management

Indoor or Outdoor Cat?

Many cats live indoors, and the ones that are outdoors are sleeping on the patio furniture instead of running around in fields chasing prey. Indoor cats are often left alone during the day when owners are at work or school, and they get bored. They don’t exercise and are allowed to graze all day. Commercial dry cat foods tend to be high in carbohydrates and fat which makes them more palatable, leading to overeating by your cat.

How do I Know my Cat is Overweight?

You and your vet can determine if your cat is overweight or obese. You should be able to easily feel his ribs and hips under the skin, without having them sticking out. The abdominal contents (intestines, kidneys, etc) should be easily felt by your vet, without being surrounded by excess fat. If it is decided that your cat is overweight, your vet will help you design a weight loss program, but here are some suggestions.

How Do I Improve My Overweight Cat’s Health?

Ideally, cats should be eating mice and birds, which are made of protein and lesser amounts of fat. The newer prescription diet foods are lower in carbohydrates and fat, and higher in protein. Canned foods have lower calorie counts than dry, due to the amount of moisture they contain. And, whenever your cat eats, he burns calories during digestion. So the ideal feeding plan consists of very small and frequent meals of canned diet cat food. Your vet can provide samples of several different types of diet foods for your cat, to ensure that he is eating something he likes. If you are gone at work all day, you can purchase a feeder which automatically opens chilled food compartments every couple of hours. Managing an Overweight Cat's HealthClick here to learn more about the caloric content of different pet foods.

Provide exercise, about 20 minutes a day, for your cat. Try placing the food up high, on top of a refrigerator or cat tree, so that your cat has to burn calories every time he wants a bite of food. Place his food upstairs and his litter pan and bed downstairs. Have him chase a laser pointer or cat dancer (by far the best cat toy ever invented) while you are watching TV. Leave balls of tinfoil on the floor when you leave in the morning.

Your cat should be weighed using an accurate baby scale every 3 weeks. A proper weight loss program will have your cat losing 4 to 8 ounces a month, so don’t be disappointed with small results. If the weight loss slows, your vet may adjust the amount of calories your cat is allowed.

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Dr Jill Christofferson

Jill Christofferson, DVM is an experienced veterinary general practitioner. Her professional interests include ophthalmology, dentistry, and reproduction.

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