Obesity in Cats
Though a chubby cat may look cute, feline obesity is a significant problem that’s extremely dangerous to a cat’s well being. It’s estimated that about 40% of adult cats are obese and indoor cats are more prone to obesity due to their sedentary lifestyle. As with humans, diet, lack of exercise and genetics can impact a cat’s weight. Also like humans, overweight cats can suffer from heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. It’s important to figure out the reason your cat is gaining weight if you want to help them lose it in a safe and healthy manner.
Cats can gain weight for any number of reasons. Though medical problems like thyroid issues can be one cause, most cats gain weight due to lack of exercise and over eating. House cats today are living the high life, sleeping most of the day and only playing if someone actively engages them. Veterinarians recommend that cats get at least 20 minutes of active playtime a day. Active play is considered running and jumping, not just casually swatting at a toy while lounging on the floor. Kittens are easy to engage; they’ll chase anything. Older cats can be difficult to engage because they get bored easily or just lack the energy. With older kitties it’s a matter of finding a toy they really like and not giving up after the first couple minutes of play. Just when you think they have no interest is when they’ll spring up and attack! I’ve found that cats will always play with one of two toys I bring out; the laser light or plain old paper balls. There are lots of other great toys like Da Bird or Cat Catcher that will have your kitty flying through the air. The important thing to remember is that most older cats won’t actively play unless someone motivates them, so make sure to take 20 minutes a day and focus on some kitty exercise.
Diet is another factor that contributes to obesity in cats. Free feeding, or leaving a bowl of dry food out for kitty to eat at any time, is a significant cause to feline obesity. I found that when I left a bowl of dry kibble out all day my kitty Doodlebug would eat until he would vomit (known as gorging). He still gained weight so the vet decided it was time for Doodle’s to go on a diet. Now we focus on portion control; in the morning I measure out a specific amount of dry kibble for each of my kitties and they get a little throughout the day. Doodlebug has slowly lost weight over the last year, and it’s at a rate the vet says is safe and healthy.
The type of food a cat eats can also impact their weight. Canned food is important to a cat’s diet because it provides water that they might not be drinking on their own. Many cat foods on the market are high in carbohydrates and cats’ bodies aren’t designed to break down carbohydrates like human bodies do. Cats are carnivores and their diets should consist mainly of protein. When trying to select a good cat food, look at the ingredient list; the first ingredient should always be a protein. High protein cat foods are available in dry kibble as well as canned soft food and can be found in most any pet food store. They’re generally more expensive than high carbohydrate foods, but they’re much healthier for cats. My kitties get a portion of soft in the morning and evening, and dry kibble snacks throughout the day, but many cat owners feed their cats only canned food. If you’re not sure what the best diet is for your kitty then just ask your vet!