America has a growing problem—the number of overweight and obese pets is on the rise, especially among the feline pet population. While there’s more to love when snuggling a chubby kitty, those extra pounds can create a bigger health threat than you may think. As more cats’ waistlines expand, more are suffering with weight-related medical problems. Despite your desire to show your cat affection through her favorite snacks, those extra calories aren’t doing her any favors. To help understand your cat’s ideal weight, and how to keep her healthy, check out the following facts on proper feline nutrition.
Fact #1: You should be able to feel your cat’s ribs
While you don’t want to see your kitty’s ribs poking out, you should be able to feel them under a slight fat layer when pressing lightly on her sides. House cats are known for their “pooch,” the sagging belly that develops from inactivity and overfeeding, but cats should have an hourglass figure, and a minimal abdominal fat pad. Most domestic cats should weigh between 8 and 10 pounds, but specific breeds can vary. Yet, whether you have a large Maine coon or a petite Singapura, evaluating your cat’s body condition score is the best determination of her healthy weight. Take a look at the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s detailed body condition score chart, and see if you can classify your cat’s body condition. If you struggle with categorizing your cat appropriately, contact Groves Veterinary Clinic for help. We can identify your cat’s current body condition, and offer guidance on reaching her goal figure.
Fact #2: Cats thrive on several small meals per day
Cats aren’t nearly as domesticated as they lead us to believe. Normally, wild felines would spend their entire day hunting small morsels, sometimes eating as many as 20 mice per day. While dogs have adapted, and can digest more starch than their wolf ancestors, cats still do best when eating multiple, small amounts each day, rather than binging on a heaping bowl.
If you cannot cater to your cat’s frequent meals, calculate her required daily total calories, and divide the total into three meals—one before you leave for work, one as soon as you come home, and one right before bed. This handy Pet Nutrition Alliance calorie calculator can help determine your cat’s correct number of daily calories once she has reached her ideal weight—including room for treats. For help calculating the appropriate number of calories your cat needs to lose weight safely, contact our team. Rapid weight loss, or an improper diet plan, can cause serious health issues in cats.
Fact #3: Like people, cats can overeat because of boredom
Although your cat is not inhaling snacks while binging on the newest Netflix series, she can still devour too much food because of boredom. Without adequate environmental enrichment, or structured activities, she may simply eat to fill her free time. To alleviate your cat’s boredom, and to encourage her to be more active, try the following:
- Food puzzles — Feed your cat from food puzzles, such as stuffed Kongs, commercial food puzzles, or one you create from folded cardboard tubes, or a box stuffed with crumpled newspaper that is hiding kibble pieces.
- Working for food — Have your cat work for her food or treats—no free meals simply because she is adorable. Like dogs, cats can learn tricks, and can be lured over an agility course for a tasty reward.
- Predatory play — Engage in a rousing play session using a feather wand, fishing pole toy, or robotic mouse. By using toys that cater to your cat’s predatory nature, she will be more likely to play.
- High climbing — Provide scratching posts, lookout towers, and feline shelves near windows as climbing opportunities for your pet. Cats enjoy being up high to better survey their territory, plus climbing a tall tower to perch on a lofty lookout will burn additional calories.
Fact #4: Extra weight in cats can lead to serious health problems
Layers of fat, or adipose tissue, create more problems than extra strain on your cat’s joints. Adipose tissue releases inflammatory proteins, and can cause chronic, low-grade inflammation. Overweight or obese cats are at a much higher risk for developing diabetes, osteoarthritis, urinary issues, and some forms of cancer. A too-hefty cat will also find that proper grooming is difficult, and poor grooming can lead to mats, skin irritation, and infection.
Fact #5: Severely limiting food can cause liver failure in cats
After discovering the dangers of your cat being overweight or obese, you may be tempted to drastically cut her portions to encourage rapid weight loss. Yet, an obese cat who fails to eat normally for longer than 48 hours can suffer from hepatic lipidosis, a life-threatening liver disease that requires aggressive nutritional support, usually provided by a feeding tube, to reverse the liver changes, and save the cat. To avoid hepatic lipidosis, a carefully formulated diet plan is crucial, to help your cat lose weight safely.
If your chubby kitty needs assistance shedding those extra pounds, schedule an appointment with our team. We’ll rule out underlying metabolic conditions, and create the diet plan that will best ensure her health and safety.