Have you ever come across a cat who seems lazy or finds it difficult to run or engage in everyday activities? If yes, then it could be because of obesity. Obesity isn't just limited to humans; our four-legged friends are prone to this, too. The perils of obesity are far-reaching and contributing to chronic pain and illness.

Obesity is the excess of fat cells in the body. All mammals are born with fat cells. Over time, with the consumption of too much calorie-rich food, these cells get more prominent. Fat releases inflammatory hormones, putting the body in a state of chronic inflammation. According to one survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 60% of cats in the US face obesity. That figure covers around 56 million cats in the US alone. Imagine the number of overweight felines globally.

Ideal Cat Weight

Before we learn how to help our beloved pets bring down their weight, it is vital to understand what their ideal weight is.

The easiest way to identify an obese cat is simply to look at them and estimate their weight.  However, veterinarians use two methods of diagnosing obesity— weight and body condition. If the scale goes beyond 10 pounds, then the animal is considered obese.

Further, vets use the Body Condition Score Chart. Ideally, they should weigh less than 10 pounds, varying between the breed and frame. For instance, a Siamese breed can weigh around 5–10pounds, while the Maine Coon weighs about 25 pounds. Some veterinarians use a score of five or nine points for assessing weight. A score of 2.5–3 in 5 and 4.5–5 in 9 points indicate the cat is at an ideal weight. However, if the feline is skinny but has a heavy belly, it is a cause of concern.

Here are some reasons they may become obese:

  • If they are a short-haired European type breed
  • If they are 5-10 years old, they may not be very active anymore

If a cat is obese, then the fault partly lies with the pet parent. They are feeding their furry friend too much. It's done out of love, but it can be damaging or even dangerous.

Why Is Obesity in Cats Spreading Fast?

Like in humans, obesity is a complex disease for felines. They are generally restricted indoors and must consume whatever their owners can feed them. That means low-calorie burn. It is easy for cats to eat much more food than they should if their owners free feed them. And this leads to obesity and other health issues.

Indoor-only cats usually don't burn off their calories due to low or no activity. It is often seen that boredom leads to the overconsumption of food. Therefore, it is vital to keep them active and make them burn calories to balance their weight. Feeding them a balanced diet is essential to maintain their ideal weight and keep them healthy.

On average, neutered male cats living indoors carry the highest risk of gaining weight. Here, again, calorie intake plays a role. Cats living indoors will limit their activities. Today's cats live an easy lifestyle with no need to hunt compared to their ancestors.

Risk Factors of Obesity in Cats

It has been proven that obese cats have a lower life expectancy and face more health issues than normal-sized housecats. Moreover, their activity is less, and it is difficult to transport them to necessary check-ups. Weight gain in cats can lead to joint damage and osteoarthritis. In addition, an increase in fatty tissues can cause excess hormone secretion, causing enhanced inflammation. Some of the other risk factors involved are-

  • Diabetes

Felines facing obesity are at high risk of diabetes. Between 0.2% - 1% of cats are expected to develop diabetes. Owners need to inject insulin regularly to keep the disease at bay. However, proper diet, exercise, and implementing other actions can reverse the disease once the accumulated fat is no longer present.

  • Compromised Immune System

The immune system in cats plays a significant role in the body, and if it is compromised, it can result in a weight imbalance. Moreover, they are prone to other infections. This includes urinary infections which usually occur in cats that are less active and drink less water.

  • Liver Failure

There are many cases where cats with weight issues have liver failure. When their body starts feeling short of food supply, fat moves from stores to the liver to provide more energy. Since the body is unable to manage the energy, this leads to poor functioning of the liver, which eventually fails.

  • Mental health and Grooming issue

Cats with extra weight find it hard to groom, leading to skin problems. Moreover, their joints start suffering from arthritis. When they engage in heavy activity, heart problems and breathlessness can take place.

Preventing Obesity in Cats

Since we have covered how feline obesity is quite common and the reason behind is the same, let us shed some light on preventing the condition.

  • The Right Type and Amount of Food

Each different breed of cat requires different food types and quantities during their life stages. Young kittens need food with more energy, minerals, and protein. If your region is quite cool, then feeding food with high energy is vital. Similarly, pregnant and nursing moms need food with high protein and minerals to provide milk for their kittens. Some cats can regulate food, but some are unable to. Therefore, it is best to feed them with meals rather than allowing them to free graze dry food. In many pet households, providing the right food in meals helps to regulate your pet’s eating habits. If your pet is already eating weight-loss food, but still not able to balance the weight, make sure the food is low in calories. Too many calories can be harmful, and over-the-counter foods are often calorie rich.

  • Increase in Exercise

Like humans who work out to stay in shape, exercise helps your feline friend maintain a healthy weight.  So, it is advisable to increase your cat’s exercise to help them burn calories. Take your pet to an outdoor enclosure that has ledges and encourage them to move around. In addition, you can train your cat to walk on a leash. Regular walks and exercise can bring in benefits like:

  • Strengthening the respiratory system
  • Keeping muscles and joints flexible
  • Releases boredom and avoids free grazing
  • Better digestion

One of the practical ways to encourage your cats to exercise is to provide them with customizable and stackable cat furniture. You can create an apartment for your cat by placing multiple units vertically. So, your cat gets its own place to rest, and exercise while moving around from one box to another.

When it comes to exercise, sometimes the best solution is just to play with your cat. Make use of interactive toys that will keep them engaged. In addition, you can see some online videos about exercise activities to include for your pet cat. If your cat is obese, you certainly don't want to risk an injury with a heavy workout.  Working out for 10–20 minutes daily is enough to bring a change in a cat’s weight. Some of the activities you can try are:

  • Purchasing a laser pointer to aim at the floor or wall and let the kitty try to catch it
  • Buying feather toys attached to the stick and whirl them around the cat
  • Purchasing a scratching post for your cat to scratch
  • Limiting Treats

One of the offenders of weight increase is treats which lack nutritional value. Pet owners usually treat their pets during the training period, which is a good thing. However, extending the giveaway long beyond training can affect their weight. Most cats, when it comes to training, will have more attention towards treats. The best is to spend extra time playing and grooming, which will give your pet a limit on those unneeded calories.

Calorie-dense or extra treats can also result in adverse medical conditions. If there is an unexplained increase in weight or appetite, the best thing you can do is contact your veterinarian.

  • Restricting Calorie Intake

One of the ideal ways to reduce your feline’s weight is by restricting calorie intake. Furthermore, regular weight checks every 2 weeks, along with proper food consumption, are advised. You may need to research foods that carry limited calories but include other essential minerals that will help in balancing your cat’s weight.

Conclusion

Obesity is certainly a problem for owners and for the pets themselves too. By taking suitable measures in terms of diet, exercise, and other aspects will help to bring a positive result. However, if a larger health issue is a concern, the best thing to do is to consult a vet. To find the best vet near you, you can use GreatVet and find professional veterinarians operating their vet clinics and hospitals in your area. You will also find a reliable source of veterinarian info for your pet cat. 

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