Obesity and our cats

Obesity and our cats

Obesity is a national epidemic but not just among adults and children.  Our pets are becoming obese too.  Over 50% of the cats we see are overweight or obese.  And if adjusted for age, cats between 4 and 12 years are 70% more likely to be overweight or obese.

There are several factors that come together to cause this unfortunate disease.  They include: life style changes, feeding patterns, diet.

As we have changed to a more urban society, our cats have come indoors to become members of our families.  More households have all the adults in the workforce so that noone is home for much of the day. Fewer pet cats these days are let out in the morning to roam the neighborhood unsupervised.  More likely they stay indoors all the time or only go out for short periods of time supervised on or off a leash.  All these things mean there is a lot of time spent sleeping, not moving.  Compare that with the life of a feral or outdoor cat that is stalking, hunting, watching, thinking or guarding territory all day or night.  The indoor cat needs many fewer calories to get through the day.

Feeding patterns can also influence whether a cat becomes obese.  Cats that have free access to food are more likely to gain weight.  Feral or outdoor cats get frequent small meals throughout the day but have to work for each one.  Rarely do they have access to all-you-can-eat buffets.  Indoor cats need to be fed individual meals with portion and calorie control.

We have also learned that where calories come from matters.  Just like the main character in the movie “Super Size Me” found out, eating unhealthy foods will cause unhealthy weight gain.  Cats are carnivores.  50% of their calories should come from meat protein.  Not plant protein, not corn, not carbohydrates.  Only Meat Protein.  40% of calories should come from animal fat.  Not vegetable oil.  The remaining 10% of calories are supplied by carbohydrates.  This food profile, along with portion control, will allow cats to maintain a healthy lean body weight and prevent ballooning fat deposits.

Obesity in cats is linked to many serious diseases, all of which are preventable.  Furthermore the obese cat is not a happy cat.  They are unable to move freely or play easily.  They frequently have matted dirty coats or soiled bottoms which they cannot clean, making them very uncomfortable.

Allowing your cat to become obese is a form of pet abuse.  A responsible owner does not allow their cat to overeat just because it is more convenient for the owner.  If you or someone you know has an overweight or obese cat, encourage them to seek the advice of a veterinarian who can create a plan for safe weight loss.  Always follow the recommendations of your veterinarian.  Inappropriate weight loss diets or rapid weight loss can cause dangerous and even fatal complications.   Cats are not small people and need very careful monitoring to safely lose weight.

Owners are frequently amazed at the positive changes they see in their formerly obese cats as they lose weight and become more beautiful and playful.  Obesity is a preventable disease.  Awareness of the risk factors can help owners keep their beloved pets happy and playful for many years.