by Dr. Rachel Luoma
When was the last time you actually measured out your cat’s food? No, not using a coffee scoop, but using an actual measuring cup. Are you feeding your cat the right amount?
Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States in both humans and animals. In 2018, it was estimated that approximately 60% of cats were either overweight or obese (1). This number has increased over the past few years from 58% in 2014 to 59% in 2016, and now 60%. If we’re recognizing that obesity is an issue, why aren’t these numbers going down?
Part of the problem is in our perceptions. While some owners are keenly aware of what their animal’s body condition should look like and what they should weigh, most don’t realize what a truly overweight animal looks like. When veterinarians identify an animal as being overweight or obese, many owners are shocked to find out that what they thought was normal is actually too much.
How you can help your cat.
One of the first steps in combating feline obesity is learning about proper weight and body condition. There are a few different body condition scoring (BCS) rubrics, but most rely on a 1-9 scale. 1 is far too thin while 9 is overweight. 5 is just right. At a BCS of 5, the cat should be well-portioned with the ribs being palpable with slight fat cover and a minimal abdominal fat pad.
Next, determine how much your cat is actually eating! Measure out their food in an actual measuring cup. Now look at the food bag to see how many calories are in a cup. Chances are, you’ve been overfeeding your cat. Restricting your cat’s calorie intake to an appropriate amount is the next step in getting them to lose weight. Your veterinarian should be able to help you determine the appropriate amount.
What to feed.
Changing the diet can also help your kitty lose weight. Many dry foods are very calorie-dense, meaning that your cat only has to eat a small number of kibble before filling up on their total daily calories. Switching to a low calorie food or a food designed for weight loss is ideal. Additionally, introducing canned food to your cat’s diet is incredibly beneficial. Canned food is typically not as calorie-dense as dry food, meaning your cat has to eat more before filling up on calories. Canned food is also typically high in protein and low in carbohydrates, a great combination for kitties. Because of canned food’s high moisture content, you’ll be helping to keep your cat hydrated as they often don’t drink as much water as they should.
If your cat can’t switch to a weight loss diet or refuses to eat wet food, in addition to reducing calories, there are additional options for helping them to lose weight. Encourage exercise as much as possible. Use cat toys such as a laser pointer or a Cat Dancer to get them to run and play. Introduce a cat tree for them to climb on and survey their territory. This also stimulates mental health. Using puzzle feeders, such as Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder or Lickimats can encourage hunting and slow down eating, allowing your cat to slowly fill up on calories instead of chowing down.
Ultimately, you are the most important part of helping your cat to lose weight. Choosing an appropriate diet, limiting the number of calories, and encouraging play and mental stimulation are necessary for your cat’s weight loss journey. Losing weight has many other benefits as well.
Obesity is linked to many different conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, chronic inflammation, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure. By getting your kitty lean and fit, you’ll be improving their long-term health so that you can enjoy many years with your special kitty.
Visit our website for more information at https://www.scottsdalecatclinic.com/veterinary-services/wellness-care/