Thursday 24 May 2012

Cat Obesity Effects and Management

Some more notes on cat obesity. The first point to notice is that cat obesity is defined as being greater than 15% over the ideal weight (9-12 lbs for a male and 7-10 lbs for a female cat - but cats vary considerably from breed to breed and from individual to individual). I am surprised because 16% over normal weight is not a lot overweight and yet a cat will be classified as obese.

Cat obesity is the biggest problem regarding the feeding of cats in the USA and Western Europe. Apparently, up to 20% of cats in these regions are obese. My late lady cat Binnie was obese at one time so I have first hand experience of cat obesity.

Nearly all cat obesity problems are because the cat eats too much in relation to the lifestyle that he or she leads. By eating too much I mean that the calorie intake is too high. By lifestyle I am particularly referring to the level of exercise the cat partakes in. As usual it is all about how much goes in and how much is burnt off.

There are a lot of charts on assessing cat weight but we don't really need them because anybody can assess whether there cat is overweight. We simply need to use a common sense method. Essentially use common sense and you can feel your cat's shoulder blades and their spine when they are within a good weight range. You should be able to feel your cat's ribs under a layer of fat when they are of the correct weight.

Obese grey cat
Obese gray cat. Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay


Problems that can be associated with an obese cat:
  • breathing difficulties - the recent, well circulated story of Meow the 39 lb cat sadly illustrates this problem.
  • FLUTD - feline lower urinary tract disease.
  • higher risks of failure during veterinary surgery.
  • response to infectious diseases is poorer.
  • resistance to insulin - development of diabetes.
  • the inability of the heart to work harder when called upon (reduced cardiac reserve).
  • the accumulation of fat in the liver cells.

Reducing weight

It can difficult to reduce the weight of your cat. I think we all know that. This because:
  • we don't see the effect of a diet quickly
  • we lose discipline
  • our cat pesters us successfully
  • cats have specialist diets being obligate carnivores
  • cats are less food orientated than dogs
  • cats sometimes have a strong preference for a particular food type.

There are various ways to feed a cat. For weight loss there is no secret that the method is lower calorie intake and/or more exercise. The former is probably easier to achieve than the latter. How many calories does a cat need?

The reduction in food intake should not be more than 30% lower than normal (or 70% of normal). It can be dangerous from a health standpoint to try and force a cat to eat a food that he or she does not like. However, feeding a food that he is less keen on, especially at night when you are asleep so don't have to deal with the emotional problems can be successful in my experience. Weight loss should be managed otherwise it can cause fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) which is linked to sustained loss of appetite. Weight loss should be no more than 1.5% of body weight her week. This is to avoid the possibility of a cat developing fatty liver disease which can happen when a cat becomes anorexic.

Bearing in mind that cat caretakers may, and often do, struggle to diet their cat, it is probably sensible to get your veterinarian involved from both the standpoint of advice on a feeding regime and the type of food that is suitable together with the motivation that this may bring to the task at hand.

Apparently as a cat's calorie intake is reduced the cat's calorie requirements are reduced (the basal metabolic rate falls). This would seem to work against the diet being successful. The answer to this problem is to try and encourage your cat to exercise more.

Cats are very persuasive companions. It is difficult to resist their demands for a meal. We need to bite the bullet and to a certain extent be cruel to be kind.

Night time dieting as mentioned above works for me as my cat accepts the fact that I am asleep and won't pester me for food.

Source: Myself and The Welfare of Cats ISBN 978-1-4020-6143-1

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