By Karin Krisher
At one time, we would have dropped the phrase “Fat Cat” with our minds on the money. But this is not that time, and our minds are on something much more widespread, anyhow: Obesity.
We know that in the United States, obesity is an epidemic among humans. Our pets often inherit our health problems, and obesity is no exception. Today, it’s estimated (by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention) that 55% of cats are obese. The Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2012 report notes a 90% increase in overweight or obese cats since 2007. That’s 90% in just five years!
We want to solve the problem—or at least help you solve the problem. But first, we need to discuss perception. It can be really difficult to know when your cat is getting fat. You see him every day, and both weight gain and loss are more obvious when you have some perspective. Most cat owners think their cats are perfectly healthy, but given the statistics, we know that belief to be misinformed.
Step one, then, in helping your cat lose the pounds and gain his health (or in simply preventing his weight gain) is to be keenly aware. Know the risk factors, which include spaying and neutering, owners’ longer hours away from the home (constant food access), and lack of attention and play. The next step is to take an objective look at your cat’s current state. That can (and should) involve seeing a veterinarian.
During that visit, you may also want to speak with your vet about the potential health issues associated with cat obesity. Excess weight can contribute to diabetes, arthritis, skin allergies or pruritis, behavior problems and cognitive impairment.
How You Can Create A Healthy Lifestyle For Your Cat
Before you get overwhelmed with the prospect of change in your home (I know I do!), consider this: Even a small change can make a big difference to your cat. Your targets, of course, should be diet and exercise.
If your cat is spayed or neutered, you can look to spayed/neutered specific diets for assistance in trimming that tummy bulge. If your cat simply eats too much or is a free feeder (a cat that eats whenever he wants without your supervision), invest in an automatic feeder that allows you to program portion control and timing.
But be warned—while changing food or feeding schedules is a good idea for tubby kitties, crash diets can produce fatty liver, a potentially fatal condition. Discuss diet changes with your veterinarian.
Exercise is also a great option. Ideally, you could combine both for a general program to keep your cat healthy. But if you want to forgo a diet, or think your cat’s real problem is lack of movement, consider building shelves all around the house, or creating scavenger-type food hunts for their pleasure. See this post for more ideas!
Is your cat one of the 55%? What are you doing to help him or her adopt a healthier lifestyle? Share your ideas on our Facebook page!