4 Signs Your Cat Is Overweight + 4 Ways to Help Them Lose Weight
Have you noticed that your cat is gaining weight and wondered how to keep them fit and healthy? If you have, then you are not alone. The 11th annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention survey found that 59.5% of cats are overweight or obese. In this article, we'll go through the dangers of overweight and obesity in cats, how to spot the signs, and the ways to help slim your cat down.
Signs that your cat might be overweight
While some of us may enjoy watching our furry friends snuggle on our sofas and follow us around, there is the opposite side of this: our cats can get a little chubby from leading such pampered lifestyles. How do you tell if your cat is overweight? Look for the following signs.
- Excessive body fat. Overweight cats tend to be rounder in the stomach area, while thinner cats are more streamlined. The best way to measure your cat's health is to feel their ribs. If you can't feel them easily, your cat could be overweight. Another sign of an overweight cat is loose skin around their neck or abdomen.
- Cat food bowls. An overweight cat is likely to eat too fast because they're eager for another taste of their favorite food or treats. This leads to overeating, which can lead to obesity. You may notice that your cat eats their food from a bowl on the ground rather than from a bowl on a flat surface. They may also have trouble grooming themselves if they're overweight because they feel too heavy for their paws.
- Waist size ratio. A waist measurement that's greater than one-half of the length of the body is a strong indicator of obesity in cats (for example, an 8-pound cat with a 2-inch waist has a waist size ratio of 1:2.)
- Changes in behavior. If your cat has become sluggish or lethargic, it could be that they're struggling with their extra weight and needs some exercise or a change in diet.
The dangers of overweight or obesity in cats
Overweight or obesity in cats can lead to a number of life-threatening conditions. Here's are the risks associated with being either overweight or obese.
It can shorten your cat's life span. One study found that obese cats had a median lifespan of just 7.1 years compared to 12.4 years for non-obese cats. Obese cats were also more likely to suffer from diseases associated with old age like cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure.
It increases their risk for other health problems. Overweight or obese cats are more likely to develop arthritis, respiratory issues, and digestive problems like constipation or vomiting. They're also more likely to develop diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease than normal-weight cats.
Obesity can cause serious orthopedic problems. With extra weight comes extra pressure on their bones and joints, which can lead to arthritis or joint pain later in life.
Easy ways to help your cat lose weight
If you’re worried that your cat is gaining too much weight, we've got some suggestions to help them shed those excess pounds and get them healthier and fitter.
Scale back treats. Treats are fine as long as they don't make up more than 10 percent of your cat's total daily calories. And remember that treats are extra calories, so if you're giving your cat out on top of their regular meal, that can mean even more weight gain. Cutting down on treats can be very simple. Instead of giving them a treat every day, give them one every other day or three times a week instead of every day. The amount of calories they get from treats will be the same, but you'll be cutting down their overall calorie intake since you'll be cutting back on treats. Also, consider switching from fatty treats like cream cheese or chicken-flavored fish oil pills to low-fat varieties of these foods if possible.
Consider diet changes. Another key to helping your cat lose weight is to increase their caloric output. This is accomplished by increasing the amount of wet food your cat eats. Try adding canned wet food to dry kibble. Wet food is more calorically dense than dry kibble, so it will fill your cat up faster and make it less likely that they will overeat on the dry kibble at their next feeding. You can also make your own homemade food for your cat by combining low-calorie ingredients. A mixture of half canned cat food, half-boiled chicken breast, steamed green beans, and a little bit of water is enough to feed a 20-pound adult cat once daily. Always ask your vet which brand they recommend and what instructions they have for switching foods safely.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 60% of cat owners fail to provide their cats with daily activity or entertainment. If changing your cat's diet isn't enough, you'll need to get involved in exercise and playtime activities.
Offer exercise opportunities. Cats are naturally active, and they need regular opportunities to get some exercise in order to keep their mind sharp and body fit. Toys are an obvious way for cats to burn off energy. Some have a motion that encourages stalking and pouncing — laser pointers and birds that hang from strings. The motion of chasing and catching something that is moving is perfect for encouraging a cat's pursuit instinct. Cats also enjoy being high up, so placing a scratching post by a window where your cat can climb up to watch birds or sunsets safely is an excellent idea. In addition, engage your cat in interactive play with you, so they'll be more interested in exercising and playing with you rather than sleeping all day long.
Take your cat on walks on a leash. According to research by the University of Sydney, taking your cat out for walks could help them lose weight. The study conducted on 60 cats showed that those who were walked regularly were generally leaner and healthier than their sedentary counterparts. Your cat will be healthier and happier if they get plenty of outdoor time. Not only will they burn excess calories and fat, but they'll also have more opportunities to get some much-needed fresh air and sunshine. Before you start out on a walk with your cat around the neighborhood, make sure you get a harness & a leash to keep your kitty safe while providing them some freedom of movement. If you're wondering what kind of cat harnesses that's best for your fur baby, we've put together a guide to the 3 most popular types of cat harnesses. And if you're planning on taking your cat out for the first time, make sure to avoid these 10 common mistakes.
Whether you’re dealing with an overweight cat or an obese one, the key is to be consistent with your plan to get your cat’s weight under control. That way you’re much more likely to succeed in keeping your cat healthy for years to come.