Helping Kitty Lose the Weight
An obese cat is not a pretty sight. Cumbersome and clumsy, a cat suffers a marked deterioration in mobility and appearance. His decrease flexibility leads to an inability to thoroughly groom himself and he becomes subject to skin problems. Obese cats also face an increased risk of contracting diabetes and are poor candidates for surgery and anesthesia.
Obesity happens when an animal consistently takes in more calories than needed. Some contributing factors include overfeeding, inactivity, reproductive status, environment, body type, age, and genetic predisposition.
Assessing Your Cat's Body Condition
Assessing your cat's body condition
is an important first step in the overall evaluation of your cat's nutritional well-being, and can especially help in determining feline obesity. The Cat Body Condition Chart below shows the different body conditions of cats.
Cat Body Condition Descriptions
Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible
Thin neck and narrow waist
Obvious abdominal tuck
No fat in flank folds, folds often absent
Backbone and ribs easily palpable
Minimal fat covering
Minimal waist when viewed from above
Slightly tucked abdomen
Ribs palpable, but not visible
Slight waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above
Abdomen tucked up, flank fold present
Slight increase in fat over ribs, but still easily palpable
Abdomen slightly rounded, flanks concave
Flank folds hang down with moderate amount of fat-jiggle noted when walking
Ribs and backbone not easily palpable under a heavy fat covering Abdomen rounded; waist barely visible to absent Prominent flank folds which sway from side to side when walking
Visit Your Veterinarian
Weight problems are one of the leading issues veterinarians deal with on a daily basis. Therefore, if you suspect that your cat is either overweight or obese, a complete evaluation by a veterinarian is not only recommended, but a good idea.
Your veterinarian will probably ask you some questions about your cat, such as what and how much your cat is eating, and how much physical activity your cat gets. Answering these questions honestly will help your veterinarian recommend some simple changes that may help improve your cat's weight.
Your veterinarian may also perform some tests. A few medical conditions may contribute to obesity. You will want to rule these out before you proceed with any weight loss or weight management program.
Your veterinarian may suggest you change your cat's diet to one specifically designed for weight loss. Portion control will still be necessary. Your cat, however, will most likely be able to eat more of the special food than if she was consuming her regular diet.
A diet based in replacement of some fat with highly-digestible carbohydrates is a good low-calorie alternative. Digestible carbohydrates contain less than one-half the calories of equal quantities of fat, and do not have the disadvantages of indigestible fiber. High-fiber foods may reduce the digestibility and absorption of many nutrients. High-fiber diets may also result in large and frequent stools, and decreased skin and coat conditions.
Feeding a diet that contains the carbohydrates corn and sorghum can result in lower blood-sugar and insulin levels, as compared to feeding a diet that contains rice as the primary carbohydrate source. Lower blood sugar and insulin levels can also help with maintaining a proper weight.
In addition, a diet that contains L-carnitine will help to induce weight loss. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like compound that helps with fat metabolism. Vitamin A is another nutrient that can help with the "battle of the bulge." Boosting dietary intake of vitamin A has been shown to decrease the likelihood of weight gain in cats.
Changing diets can be a stressful time for pets. So if you veterinarian recommends changing diets, proceed slowly.
Begin by mixing a daily portion that includes 25% new food with 75% of the old food. The next day, increase the amount of the new food with 50% and decrease the old food to 50% of the daily portion. Continue increasing the proportions during the next few days until the daily portion consists entirely of the new diet.
This method increases the likelihood of acceptance of the new diet and decreases the occurrence of gastrointestinal upsets.
Another way to help you cat lose weight is to increase your cat's activity level. Provide cat "trees" for climbing. Teach your cat to play fetch. Buy or create your own toys that encourage exercise. Many cats enjoy chasing lasers or lights from pointers or flashlights. One ingenious owner throws her cat's dry food ration, a piece at a time, to get her cat moving! Many enjoy learning to walk on a leash. You can also use your cat's natural hunting instinct to help her lose weight. Hide several small portions of her daily food ration around the house. If you have a multi-level house, make your cat use the stairs.
Use your imagination, but be cautious. Don't let a fat cat become exhausted, overheated, or out of breath. Also keep in mind that older cats may not be able to exercise vigorously.
Use playtime, grooming, stroking, or conversation as rewards instead of food treats. If you cannot resist the fat cat who begs for food at the dinner table, remove the cat during dinnertime.
If yours is a multi-cat household, the consistent winner of the food competition sweepstakes is often obese. If this is the case, separate the cats at mealtimes if at all possible.
Obesity is easier to prevent than to cure. It is never too late, though, to reverse obesity, though it requires long-term patience and commitment. Weight reduction in cats is a slow process. If food intake is too severely restricted, other health problems in your cat can arise.
Increased activity, behavior modification - for both you and your cat - and calorie restriction are your weapons against feline obesity. With all these things, it is important to expect a few setbacks and plateaus as well. It will take at least four months for an obese cat to realize a 15% weight loss.
At that point, you can reassess your cat's body condition and proceed from there. And congratulate yourself and your cat for success.