Have you ever seen Garfield the fat, animated and food-obsessed cat, who loves nothing more than eating a whole tray of lasagna and napping in the sunshine? The cat who makes millions of watchers laugh, when in reality there really is nothing comical about a cat who carries around so much extra weight. The explanation: Obesity. Obesity in felines has been connected to several health problems including constipation, heart disease, diabetes, liver problems, arthritis and joint issues. There is also a higher risk during surgeries on cats who are obese. These kitties don’t gain all that weight and develop those issues overnight, so you can take action to help prevent it from ever happening to your cat. If your cat is already overweight and developing any or some of those issues, there are some steps you can take to help them drop extra weight now.
Why Do Cats Put On Extra Weight?
Most often it’s because of too much food and not enough exercise, which would cause any animal to put on excess weight. Cats are usually able to regulate their food intake, however, many factors such as overfeeding and boredom (among others) can cause your kitty to overeat. If the cat food you feed your feline friend is overly “tasty” they can tend to overeat as well. A rough estimate of approximately 20-30 percent of all cats in the U.S. Are obese. Older cats, neutered males, and indoor cats are at the highest risk level. Neutered adult males need to intake less food in order to maintain a proper body proportion, and indoor and older cats most often do not get an adequate amount of regular exercise. On the other hand, kittens and younger cats need more energy and nutrition, because their bodies are still growing and are more active than other cats. Pregnant or nursing mother cats also need more food in order to provide the adequate amount of nutrients to their young. Even though any cat can become obese, there are some breeds that tend to have higher likelihood in becoming obese than others. For example, Persians- cats that have square and “blocky” shapes tend to gain more weight than others. Always check with your veterinarian to find out how much exercise and food is necessary for your kitty to maintain a healthy lifestyle, no matter what age or breed.
Tell-Tail Signs That Your Cat Is Obese
The first sign that your cat is overweight requires you to look at your pet’s lower abdomen (usually the first place to show weight gain). If you can see your cat’s belly swing back and forth as he or she walks, there is most likely a weight issue.
The second sign that your cat may be overweight is their ribs. Even though you should not see them, you should be able to at least feel them. If you run your hand across your cat’s chest area and you cannot feel their ribs, your kitty probably has a pad of fat covering them. Remember to always check with your veterinarian before cutting back your cat’s food or before putting your cat on a strict exercise plan. There are times when other health issues can cause some cats to look obese, such as heart, liver, or kidney diseases.
What Are The Risks?
If your veterinarian tells you that your cat has a weight problem and is in fact obese, don’t just shrug off the diagnosis because obesity can be life threatening.
Obesity can cause the following health issues:
- Gastrointestinal Disorders.
Cats who are obese suffer from constipation, pancreatitis, intestinal gas, and indigestion more often than cats of a normal weight.
- Metabolic Disorders.
There are some researchers who believe that obese cats, or cats with weight issues, may develop diabetes. Obesity has been linked to Cushing’s Disease, which interferes with a cat’s immune system and can make them prone to serious infections.
- Heart and Liver Diseases.
Having too much excess weight can put stress on a cat’s heart and weaken its ability to function properly. Obesity can also affect the liver by replacing normal healthy liver cells with fat, which makes it difficult for the organ to function properly and effectively.
- Bone, Joint, and Muscle Problems.
Being overweight increases “wear-and-tear” on a cat’s bones and joints. This can make it difficult for your cat to move around normally. This added stress on your cat’s body can lead to arthritis and degenerative joint disease.
What Are The Solutions?
The first thing you can do to help your cat lose weight is to cut back their food intake or the number of calories your cat is getting and increase the amount of exercise your fluffy friend is getting on a daily basis. Some cats don’t react well to finding less and less food in their bowls, so if this is the case and your cat is constantly pestering you to feed them, you can try feeding your cat several small meals throughout the day instead of one or two “normal-sized” meals. If you are one of those pet parents who can’t resist the pitiful “I’m starving” stares or cries, you can always check with your veterinarian about putting your cat on a reduced-calorie diet. Diets that fall into that category swap calories for bulk, which will help you cat feel full but will still allow them to lose weight. However, the diet alone will not produce the best results on its own. Adding exercise in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet will help slim down your pet. Provide your kitty with plenty of toys (especially the ones that force them to continue moving). Ping pong balls, toys (or old socks) filled with catnip, cardboard boxes and even paper bags can help encourage your cat to actively play.
Getting a second cat (if it is an option for you and your family) can help your cat become more active.
Give Them Love, Not Food
There are some instances where the way to a cat’s heart is through its stomach, which is why some people take to treating and feeding their cats to enhance their relationship with their pets. Unfortunately habits like this can often lead to your cat becoming obese. Many owners will use foods and treats to bribe their furry friends when they will not come when they are called, but will come running for some fishy snacks or tunafish. In some cases the owners can feel guilt for leaving their cats home alone for long periods at a time and they will use food to make up for not having the energy to play or give them attention after a long day at work. In reality, this kind of attention really isn’t worth the high obesity risk. Find other ways to show your kitty affection. You can take 15 minutes out of each day just to play with them using a feather duster or a ball with a bell inside it. Playtime will always do more for you and your pet than all the treats in the world!