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Fat Cat Solutions

February 11, 2009 By: Dr. K Category: General

I’m the first to admit I find chubby cat bellies irresistible.  Magical, squishy, gooey. As a veterinarian, however, I see a dangerous epidemic. Obesity in our pets runs rampant. Among other diseases, overweight/obese cats are predisposed to diabetes, heart disease, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), and osteoarthritis. Maintaining your cat’s weight in the ideal range can potentially add years to his life. I grade both dogs and cats using a Body Condition Score system on a scale of 1 to 9: 1 is emaciated, 5 is healthy, 9 is morbidly obese. Cats with a healthy weight have a tucked in waist and easily palpable ribs covered by a thin layer of fat. The area over the ribs should feel like the back of your hand. Your cat should be able to groom easily.

Your cat has a body condition score ranging from 6 to 9. Now what? First, consult your veterinarian prior to instituting a weight loss plan. Too little food can cause big problems for big cats. Your veterinarian can suggest changes right for your cat and will prescribe the appropriate rate and amount of weight loss. The most important thing to remember is you control your cat’s diet.

Diet

The basics to weight loss are always diet and exercise.  These are never easy feats. Here are some general guidelines for dietary change:

  • Eliminate table scraps. Small pieces of cheese and meat seem like a treat but can provide a large percentage of your cat’s daily caloric need.
  • Feed your cat set meals with exactly measured volumes of food. Free choice feeding, where a full bowl of food is left out and allows cats to graze, allows overeaters to pack on the pounds.
  • Know exactly how much you are feeding your cat. A cup can mean many things to many people: a coffee cup, a measuring cup, a styrofoam cup. I recommend scoops/cups with volume markers.
  • In most cases it is acceptable to simply decrease the volume of food you feed your cat.  A reasonable start is decreasing the total volume of food by 1/4. Example: You feed your cat 1 cup of dry food daily. Decrease that to 3/4 cup and watch for changes in body condition over the next couple of months.
  • Remember: Dry food has many more calories than wet food. If you change the ratio of wet to dry food, be sure you are NOT removing too many calories.
  • Ask your veterinarian if a prescription weight loss food is right for your cat.
  • Monitor your cat’s weight AND body condition.
  • Be strong! You control your cat’s food consumption. Tolerate begging. Don’t give in.

Exercise

Now I know what you’re thinking: Dr. K, you want me to take my cat for a walk? Not exactly.

  • Give your cat plenty of toys to promote physical activity.
  • Play with your cat! It will certainly benefit both of you.
  • Try a laser pointer. Some cats can’t get enough of the little red light.
  • Incite their predatory instinct. Take a small amount of dry food from a meal. Throw one piece at a time in different directions across the floor. Your cat loves chasing food and you secretly enjoy watching him exercise.

Work closely with your veterinarian and remember an ideal weight is attainable!

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