Being overweight can cause all sorts of problems including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. Carrying too much weight also puts a strain on the joints leading to osteoarthritis.
It’s safe to say it’s best not to be overweight.
So why are so many cats overweight?
In the wild, food can often be in short supply and a lot of energy would be needed to get that food. The modern domestic cat has a much easier time of it, food on tap with no more effort required than walking over to the bowl. But that brings with it the risk of gaining weight.
How can you tell if your cat is overweight?
There is some evidence to suggest that owners often underestimate their cat’s weight with many owners of overweight cats describing their cat as normal weight and owners of seriously overweight cats describing their cat as being a little bit overweight.
Your vet is ideally placed to help. They will be able to tell you whether your cat is the right weight and if needed help you work out a plan.
You may also want to do this at home.
Use the SPECIFIC™ body condition scoring guide for cats.
OK so your cat needs to lose a few pounds – now what?
The first thing to say is take it easy – no crash diets. A sudden reduction in the amount of food can bring on a condition called hepatic lipidosis. This is a fat infiltration into the liver sometimes called fatty liver.
The good news is that there are diets specifically designed to help your cat lose weight without going hungry and without reducing the amount of food eaten.
Weight loss diets are carefully designed to be low in fat and high in fibre, meaning your cat can still enjoy full portions, giving them a feeling of fullness, whilst losing weight.
These diets are also high in protein to maintain muscle mass. This actually increases the weight loss by causing the loss to come from fat rather than lean body mass.
Steps to ideal bodyweight
Weight check: Get your cat body condition checked and weighed.
Planning: Work with your vet to decide what is the target weight; to choose a weight control food and then calculate the daily feeding amount.
Weight reduction phase: Implement the feeding. It’s important that during this phase you measure out the food so, if you need to you can easily and accurately adjust it.
Regularly weigh your cat – top tip a simple way to do this is weigh yourself, then weigh yourself while holding your cat then subtract the two numbers.
Remember be careful not to spoil the good work with treats, especially table scraps, and make sure everyone knows what you are doing.
Be patient – it’s not going to happen overnight but if you stick with it your cat will lose weight and it will all be worth it with a happier healthy cat.
Maintain weight: Once you have reached target weight you need to make sure they stay there – you may want to look at weight control diets that are lower in energy.