According to a 2015 study by The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) an estimated 58.2% of US cats are overweight or obese. Just as for humans, obesity can lead to many related diseases and health problems, such as:
- Feline Diabetes
- Heart problems
- Joint problems
- Torn or strained ligaments
- Respiratory problems
- High Blood Pressure
- Gastro-intestinal and digestive problems
- Urinary tract disease
- Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
- Compromised immune system
- Increased risk during anesthesia and surgery
According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine feline obesity is generally viewed as body weight that is 20% or more above normal bodyweight.
Obesity is a problem largely present in domestic cats that stay indoors. Often times their energy usage is not big enough compared to their calorie intake, and just as their human owners, that will cause them to gain weight.
What Should My Cat Weigh?
Since so many cats in the US are overweight and obese this may indicate that cat owners may not be completely aware of what a healthy weight for their furry companion is. It is important for us as cat owners to monitor our cat´s health and happiness and as such it is important that we educate ourselves on what constitutes a healthy cat weight wise, as to help our cat (indoor cats especially) live a healthy, happy and hopefully long life.
Every cat is different because of their body build and breed, so a helpful tip to see if your cat in specific is overweight or obese is to look at your cat and observe certain physical characteristics.
Severely Underweight Ribs, spine and bony protrusions are easily seen at a distance. These pets have lost muscle mass and there is no observable body fat. Emaciated,bony, and starved in appearance.
Underweight Ribs, spine and other bones are easily felt. These pets have an obvious waist when viewed from above and have an abdominal tuck. Thin, lean or skinny in appearance.
Normal/Healthy WeightRibs and spine are easily felt but not necessarily seen. There is a waist when viewed from above and the abdomen is raised and not sagging when viewed from the side.
OverweightRibs and spine are hard to feel or count underneath fat deposits. Waist is distended or often pear-shaped when viewed from above. The abdomen sags when seen from the side. There are typically fat deposits on the hips, base of tail and chest.
ObeseLarge fat deposits over the chest, back, tail base and hindquarters. The abdomen sags prominently and there is no waist when viewed from above. The chest and abdomen often appear distended or swollen.
Also, check out this video from HowTo.com to learn about how to assess your cat´s weight visually.
What Are the Cat Weight Loss Tips?
So, you have just established based on the criteria above that your cat is either overweight or obese, and it is time for your cat to lose those extra pounds / kilo´s. As mentioned, weight gain or weight follows this simple equation: Daily calories consumed – Daily Calories burned. If there is a surplus of calories your cat gains weight, if not, your cat will lose weight.. It is really that simple, yet not that easy to manage, just like with humans.
Stop Free Feeding
If you are free feeding your cat, you should stop and go to a regular meal schedule instead. This gives your cat predictable meal times, makes it less stressed about wether or not it will get fed, and avoids your cat overfeeding and gaining weight.
As you probably already have figured out it then becomes crucial to monitor how many calories our cat consumes daily, as well as monitor that they burn the needed amount to lose weight. Because indoor cats dont get to roam outside and burn their energy hunting for food or running, it is even more important that you as a human owner give them a lot of opportunity every day to expend their energy and exercise, this is also important for a cat´s mental health.
Monitoring Food Intake and Choosing the Right Food For Your Cat
If it is particularly difficult for your cat to get sufficient exercise, it is even more important that their diet is lighter when it comes to calories to counter their lack of exercise, while still giving them all the required nutrients a healthy cat needs in their daily diet. A bad diet that lacks the needed nutrients, vitamins, oils or hydration etc can cause your cat to become sick and get related health problems. Ask your vet for advice on your cats diet.
Another reason why so many cats become obese (this is also true for humans) is the abundance of food and ease of access to food they have in these modern times. Cats in the wild, like other predatory animals, may go days without a meal, always searching for the prey that will guarantee their continued survival. This ingrained instinct also cause cats to want to eat all the food that you give them, because they cant be sure of then their next meal will be.
This is also why some cats eat so fast that they get sick and vomit. If that is the case with your cat, spread the meal over a longer period of time (15 minutes for example), in smaller portions at a time. If you maintain a consistent schedule, your cat will know when to expect food, and you will see less of this type of behavior. If you struggle to maintain a regular feeding schedule or your cat wants food instead of letting you sleep at night, you might want to consider an automatic feeder.
Exercise and How to Activize Your Indoor Cat
If you have to have your cat inside an apartment, and especially if the cat is the only cat in the household, the responsibility to activize them falls on you as their owner and friend. If your cat lives with other cats, they activize each other with daily play, even though you still have a responsibility to give each one of your cats a dedicated amount of playtime each day.
Since indoor cats don´t get to naturally use their hunting instinct and run free after prey, it is up to you to stimulate their desire to hunt daily.
Avoid Laser Pens
You may know that most cats go crazy when you use a laser pen and have them chase the red dot around. While this does stimulate their hunting instinct and does provide ample exercise, fun other mental stimulation, we do not recommend it, for a few reasons:
- The Cat will never be able to catch their prey. Since light is pretty hard to catch, the cat never gets a sense of accomplishment for having finally caught it´s prey. When your cat catches their prey, dopamine is released into their system, giving them a sense of euphoria and accomplishment. Playing with a laser robs them of this reward and leaves them frustrated. So when you play with your cat and help them stimulate their desire to hunt, let them catch the “prey” sometimes, so that they can “kill” their prey as their predatory instincts tells them too. But dont make it too easy for them! A challenging hunt is mentally and physically stimulating for them and will give you a much happier (and slimmer) cat.
- You may damage their eyes, if you accidentally point the laser at their eyes, just like you could do with humans.
References used to create this article
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbfa2yMmYfc – HowTo.com – How to see if your cat is overweight