Confession time, cat lovers – how many of you love the image of a big, fat, fluffy cat? As cute as the image may seem, in reality, obesity is one of the biggest health crisis’ facing our feline friends today.
Did you know that being overweight by 20% puts your pet at risk for serious health issues? For cats, that equals, on average, a mere extra two pounds! Although there can be many health issues that can result from that extra chub, one of the most noticeable is the loss of mobility due to added stress on their joints – yes, even cats develop arthritis! Our overweight feline friends can also be at much higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and a liver condition called hepatic lipidosis.
How do you tell if kitty is overweight? First, take a good look at your cat. When they’re standing, a cat of healthy weight should have a noticeable waist when viewed from above, and their belly should have a slight tuck up towards their hindquarters, instead appearing of rounded or hanging down. Next, run your hands lightly over your cat’s sides. You should be able to easily feel your cat’s ribs and backbone without pressing – if you can’t, then your feline friend is definitely carrying excess weight.
To help your feline friend lose weight, your vet will probably recommend a reduced calorie diet; they can also help you keep on track with your feline’s fitness program, too – close monitoring is important for cats in order to prevent liver problems from weight loss that’s too rapid. Interestingly, it’s been found that foods with higher fiber and protein contents tend to be most effective at getting the pounds off our pets.
The other important key to weight loss is to increase exercise – get that kitty moving! Remember that cats in the wild are constantly on the go in order to track and hunt their prey, so it’s a good idea to play into that natural instinct to get your cat up and moving around. Cats don’t tend to do ‘fetch’ or enjoy long runs like dogs do, but there are lots of simple ways to add activity into your cat’s lifestyle.
- Feed meals in a different spot every day! By hiding small amounts of your cat’s meal in several places around your house (that they can access, of course) you’re actually reinforcing their inner instincts. Don’t be afraid to get creative and vary your hiding spots – upstairs, downstairs, on chairs…you get the idea!
- Figure out which toy appeals to your cat best. Did you know that cats actually develop a prey preference? Some cats tend to like fuzzy or squeaky mouse toys better, while other felines go gaga over bird lookalike toys and feathers. Most cats like very short play sessions of 2-3 minutes, but many times a day, mimicking hunting behavior; this way, they expend energy in short bursts.
- Use a cat treat ball or puzzle toy instead of a feeding bowl for mealtimes – this works both their brains and their bodies, and makes food last longer for your cat throughout the day, too, helping to decrease annoying begging by your kitty friend
- Consider building an indoor obstacle course for your cat – they have to climb over, under, around and through to get to tasty treats or food!
There’s no quick and easy solution or crash diet for our cats, but the health benefits of keeping your cat at a healthy weight are tremendous. By keeping our cat companions sleek and slim, we can keep them feeling fantastic well into their senior years!