Beyond 9 Lives: Fat Cat is an Unhealthy Cat

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Obesity is a common problem among cats and can negatively affect their long-term health. Excess weight puts additional strain on a cat’s body and increases the risk of developing diabetes, joint pain, liver and heart problems, or other issues as it gets older.

The cause of obesity is typically very straightforward. It usually develops when your cat’s food intake exceeds its energy requirements. Typically, this means overfeeding coupled with an overly sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that obesity can easily be prevented by feeding your cat a nutritious diet, portion control, and ensuring that it gets regular exercise.

What is obesity?

Obesity is determined by percentage of body fat. If a cat has accumulated enough fat that it weighs 10 to 20 percent more than its ideal body weight, then it is considered “overweight.” Medical obesity occurs when the kitty’s weight swells to more than 20 percent of the normal weight.

Is there an easy way to check if your cat is obese? Obesity is determined by more than body weight alone. When touching your cat, you should be able to feel its backbone and palpate its ribs. If you cannot feel your kitty’s ribs without pressing, then it is potentially carrying too much fat. Always consult your veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis. You should also be able to see a “waist” between the back of your cat’s rib cage and hips when looking down. There should be a “tuck” in its tummy when viewed from the side, meaning the abdomen should go from the bottom of the rib cage to the inside of your kitty’s thighs.

What can you do if your cat is obese?

If you believe that your cat is too heavy, please visit your veterinarian. Once your vet has determined that your feline friend is indeed overweight, the first step is to help your cat with weight loss. Depending on your kitty’s specific case, your vet might prescribe a different diet either over the counter or prescription or may even have you switch to more wet food as opposed to dry food. Typically, diets lower in calories and fat, but higher in fiber can help your cat feel full without all the unnecessary extra calories.

In other instances, your veterinarian might suggest that your cat stay on its regular food, but that you limit it to specific portions or frequencies. Whatever food you and your veterinarian decide on make sure it is nutritionally balanced and a high quality food to keep your feline friend feeling great all around.

It is critical that you consult your veterinarian before making any dietary changes designed to reduce weight. Shedding pounds too quickly can cause a cat to develop serious and potentially fatal liver diseases in the short term and to become malnourished in the long term. Simply reducing the volume of food your cat consumes is not recommended without consulting your veterinarian.

Once your cat is on the new food plan determined by its vet, it is up to you, the cat parent, to resist the temptation to give your feline friend snacks. And just like for humans who are on a weight loss plan, regular weigh-ins are essential. Those usually take place every two to three weeks at your veterinary clinic. If your cat prefers weigh ins at home, purchase a digital baby scale for maximum accuracy.

Are there other things that you can do at home to help? Increased physical activity is also very important for both weight loss and maintenance. Talk to your vet about exercises that burn more calories and help to enrich your feline’s well-being.

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