Earlier this year, we featured a post on dog obesity, a growing problem in the UK and according to some statistics; it’s also an issue for our cats. The Guardian recently reported one in three dogs and one in four cats (even rabbits) are considered overweight or obese in the United Kingdom.
Similar to dogs, cats can also be subject to the same type of health risks that face canines and humans alike when it comes to excess weight. They can develop arthritis, have heart problems, contract diabetes, suffer from hormone difficulties, bone and joint disorders. They’re also more likely to have hepatic lipidosis, a potentially deadly disease that affects their liver.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
Since we see them every day, we often don’t realize they’ve packed on some extra kilograms. When humans gain a kilo or two, it’s barely noticeable, but for a cat, just a few kilograms can represent more than 30% of their total body weight in some cases.
The Culprits and Calculation
Just like their masters, cats can become fat from too much food and a lack of exercise. Often the culprit comes from giving them table scraps and an over abundance of treats. One or two healthy snacks a day, depending on their size, is more than sufficient when it comes to doling out treats.
Another problem lies with the “open buffet” concept, where pet owners simply leave out a full dish of food for them every day. This actually goes against their natural instincts as a hunter when they may eat only two or three, small meals per day in the wild.
While you should consult with your vet before altering your cat’s diet, it’s recommended that cats are fed twice a day, usually in the morning and evening. Depending on their current size, weight, age and other factors, they should be consuming roughly fifty calories per kilo of their current body weight. Kittens will need more than this amount and older, less active cats require less.
How To Tell
The PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association) has drafted what they call a “cat-size-o-meter,” to judge whether or not your cat is too large. At their ideal size, their ribs should be easily felt, have a visible waistline and a very small amount of belly fat. Once they become overweight, their waistline diminishes, their bellies begin to sag and their bones are difficult to feel.
Along with a proper diet, cats need exercise too, but besides simply playing with them, you should have other methods for getting your feline more active. For example, it’s not unheard of to train your cat to wear a harness and take them out for a walk. There’s also a wide variety of interactive toys that are specifically designed to help keep them moving.
Again, you should always check with your veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet or exercise routine. Your feline’s doctor will likely agree that a healthier diet fed in the right proportion along with an appropriate amount of exercise is key to them living a longer and happier life.