With proper care and attention, cats can routinely live to be decades old. There are many cases of cats living to be twenty, twenty-five, even a few making into their thirties! If in general good health, a cat should be jumping, climbing and playing until well into their old age. So if your cat is spending the majority of time sleeping, eating , and then sleeping some more, there may be something wrong. And more often than not, what's wrong is that your cat is overweight.
House cats bear remarkable similarities to thier untamed cousins in the wild, both large and small, as they are meant to be sleek predators, lean with muscle. Unfortunately, too many of them are inactive and overweight.
Why are there so many fat cats? There are many causes to the rise in feline obesity. For one thing, there is more of a tendency to keep cats indoors for their own safety then in the past, and they simply are not getting the exercise they need. Cats are natural predators and being indoors stifles their hunting instinct to an extent. Being inside, their simply bored much of the time and boredom leads to hunger. Leaving your cats food out all the time contributes to overeating due to boredom.
Without knowing it, many pet owners also overfeed their cats, either because they can't resist their cats begging or they really have no idea how little food cats actualy need to be fit and healthy. Just a few extra bits of kibble added to a single meal can lead to weight gain.
An overlooked cause of cats gaining weight is due to spaying and neutering. Animal shelters and pet writers often say that spaying or neutering won't cause cats to gain weight. There is much well researched veterinary literature, however, that demonstrates that spaying and neutering lower both the metabolic rate and caloric intake needs of cats.
You may ask why cat owners aren't being advised of weight gain caused by spaying or neutering. The reason is that the goal of spaying and neutering programs is seen as so important, that many animal advocacy groups tend to silence or deny any negative information about the programs.
Although there are well-meaning and understandable reasons for this attitude, it doesn't help the average cat owner understand why their cat may be gaining weight. Cat owners just need to be aware to watch their cat carefully for weight gain after their cats have been spayed or neutered, because in most cases, all that is needed is to reduce the amount of food their cat is eating to prevent unwanted weight gain. Although advising cat owners that spaying or neutering doesn't make fat cats may be true to some extent, it creates a false impression that this process causes no metabolic effects which is not entirely true. When given this incomplete information, many cat owners will lose out on their chance to intervene early to ward off excessive weight gain in their cats.
Not intervening on your cat's obesity can have dire consequences. Excess body weight in cats can literally reduce their life span. In fact, the risk of death for middle-aged overweight cats is almost three times greater than cats that are at an optimum weight. There was one study that showed that obesity in cats increased risk for diabetes mellitus, skin disorders, hepatic lipidosis, and musculo-skeletal problems. Other risk factors that have been identified as directly linked to feline obesity include urinary tract disease, problems tolerating anesthesia, respiratory problems, heat intolerance, skin disorders, and impaired immune functioning.
The first issue to tackle in fighting feline obesity is to determine if your cat is, in fact, obese
The ideal weight for a particular cat varies by breed, gender, and body type of the cat, so it is difficult to give a specific range for every cat. One way to tackle this problem is to compare your cat's current weight with her weight when she was 12 months old, the age where cats reach their full adult size. Your veterinarian has likely weighed your cat at annual examinations and can see if your cat has gained weight over the years.
Not every cat, however, will have lifelong medical histories, especially like in my case where they have adopted an older cat. In these cases, your vet can give what is known as a "Body Condition Score" .This is determined through several different methods but all she scales used will range from emaciated to grossly obese. The ribs and the hipbone can be felt, but not seen in a cat at an ideal weight . Your veterinarian should be able to palpate the abdomen with no abdominal fat interfering with the process.
Once you've determined your cat is overweight, where do you go now?
Unfortunately, many veterinarians report that they haven't had a lot of success stories in helping their clients cats losing weight. In order to be successful in helping your cat lose weight, you need to have a high level of determination and confidence, both from the pet owner and veterinarian themselves. All members of the team need to be "on board" with the treatment plan of losing weight, owners included. If members of the team are not convinced that weight loss is beneficial to the cat, or they are not confident that the weight loss plan can be accomplished, the risk of failure will increase dramatically as will the chances for a successful outcome.
Attitude, too, plays an essential role in successful a cat losing weight. Without a determined, postive attitude to help your cat lose weight, success will be limited. This is where a team approach is vital. Many veterinarians report, for instance, that though they have given their clients specific diet and exercise plan to lose weight, owners often do not adhere to the plan. But veterinarians need to play an active role in communication, monitoring and follow-up with the owner to ensure they are following the plan. This teamwork is the key to successful weight loss.
You'll need to really convince your veterinarian that your serious about your cat losing weight in order to get enthusiastic support and participation in the weight loss plan. You must be persistent. If your vet's main recommendation is simply to buy a bag of diet cat food, don't let it discourage you. Tell your vet you need her expert advice and monitoring to be sure you have the information you need to maintain your pets health. Your enthusiasm will ignite hers and your vet will then be a willing participant in weight loss planning.
What are you going to Feed your Overweight cat?
With a single cat, it's not too complicated to change dietary habits. Your veterinarian can recommend a cat food that is made for "active weight loss". This doesn't mean cat food that's low calorie, "lite", or made for senior, indoor, or inactive cats. Nor does it mean a low carbohydrate, fat or protein diet. It also doesn't mean giving your cat less food than your giving now.
Commercially available foods that are created for "active weight loss" provide all the nutritional needs to your cat while also reducing caloric intake. By feeding them less of a maintenance diet or using a food that is not designed for active weight loss, you'll risk giving your cat less nutrition than she may need and possibly lead to other health problems.
There isn't a single recipe or food that will meet the needs of every cat for every situation. There have been successful weight loss stories with cats losing weight on canned foods, homemade diet recipes, and dry foods alike. You may have to experiment with several different diets or recipes to find the specific one your particular cat loses weight on. Be consistent and patient. Most cats can be switched to new foods relatively easily, but even the most finicky cat is not impossible to deal with.
For multiple cat owners, trying to provide a special diet to one cat and not the others presents a challenge. This is mainly due to the practice of "free feeding" that many multiple cat owners do by leaving their cats' food available for them at all times. With this practice, it can be almost impossible to know who is eating what.
The first goal of managing weight loss for multiple cat owners is to change from free-feeding to meal-feeding. This involves making your cats' food available a specific number of times per day, then picking it up and putting it out of reach after the cats have had a chance to eat. For your cats that are healthy and of proper weight, this change in routine is only a minor one. But if one or more of your cats are in need of a special diet, you'll need to separate them from the others and feed each cat by themselves. You can use a cat carrier or place your cat's bowl in another room with the door closed to accomplish this. Many people, for instance, use the laundry room to feed their cat.
If you tend to travel much of the time or have a rather hectic, unpredictable schedule, making the switch to individual feeding can be more challenging. If you have a cat with serious health problems, it may be wise to arrange boarding, a cat sitter or even hospitalization when you can't be there to monitor meals.
For most cats, owners can use a little strategy to get them by. For example, all the cats can be fed separately at meals, and the skinnier cats can be given a little extra food before bedtime. Automatic feeders can also be useful as they can be programmed to feed on any schedule, even multiple times per day if necessary, allowing you to feed your cats several smaller meals rather than leaving bowls full of food available to them at all times.
The only problem with these automated feeders is that they don't allow for you to separate your cats at mealtime. There is a way around this problem, however. What you can do is leave a bowl of food or an automated feeder in a room that can only be reached through a hole your skinny cats can crawl through but is too narrow for the heavier cats. There are also special cat doors available that open only when activated by a magnetic tag on the cat's collar. You can place the tag on your skinnier cats collars so only they can enter a specific room.
These techniques may seem like a lot of work but keep in mind it's a small price to pay for maintaining your cat's health. Feline obesity can lead to other problems such as kidney failure, diabetes and hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease, which can be fatal. Being able to monitor your cat's eating habits, that your cat has stopped eating or is beginning to refuse food for instance, can literally save your cat's life.
Get Those Fat Cats Movin' and groovin'
Exercise is an important component of success in combatting feline obesity. Cats are naturally physically active - hunting, climbing, jumping, playing. But cats that are kept indoors, often for their own safety, can become extremely sedentary. Many cat owners have the idea that getting a kitten to play with their older, overweight cat will help them to get exercise. But cats are very independent creatures and don't necessarily want to play with each other. In fact, in many cases, the older cat will actually see the younger cat as an annoyance rather than as something to play with.
There are ways to make sure your cat's level of activity increases during the time she is trying to lose weight. It can be as simple as putting the food dish on top of a cat tree and make the cat climb for their meal, burning a few calories along the way. Toys such as laser toys and "cat dancers" can motivate your cat to get up and move, pouncing, jumping and stalking their way to losing weight. You can play with your cat in this way every day for a few minutes while your watching your favorite television show. Besides, watching your cat's joy as they play is better than anything on television anyway!
While you are decreasing your cat's intake of food and beginning to see that they get some exercise, it's important to have a clear idea of just how much weight they are shedding. This can be accomplished by weighing your cat at regular intervals and then reporting the results back to your vet.
Dog owners who have large dogs have really no choice but to take their pet to the vet's office to be weighed on special scales designed to accomodate larger animals. But because cats are small, you can weight them yourself at home. Simply weigh yourself and then weigh yourself again while holding your cat. You can then simply calculate the difference to get your cat's weight. Make sure you weigh yourself each time in case you've gained or lost weight in between weighings.
A sensitive digital scale is crucial for weighing your cat as a good digital scale can measure to the nearest ounce rather than nearest pound. Because there is a risk of hepatic lipidosis, you must be sure your cat's weight loss is slow and steady. Do not allow your cat to lose more than <b>2 percent</b> of body weight per week. For a fifteen pound cat, this amounts to only about an ounce or two.
Even though you are weighing your cat at home, be sure to return to your veterinarian for routine monitoring of your cat's progress. Call your vet every week so any weight loss or gain can be notated in a chart. If your cat seems to hit a plateau where she neither gains or loses weight, ask your veterinarian to re-calculate your cat's caloric needs to a new level. Request from your vet a weight loss graph so you can see the overall weight loss trend over many weeks . This is especially important when your feeling progress is slow and you feel discouraged. Another tool to monitor weight loss in your cat is to keep a food and exercise diary for your cat.
Helping your cat lose weight is not a passive, but an active process. It's unfortunately not as simple as changing your cat's food to a "lite" variety. But once you've made a few small changes to what and how you feed your overweight cat, adding a few minutes of exercise every day along the way, the benefits to both you and your cat will be huge, allowing your cat to remain running, jumping and playing for years, if not decades, to come.