One of the most frequent issues cat owners are faced with in today’s life is obesity in their cats and various health issues as a result thereof. According to a study in the USA, 57% of their cats are overweight. Even if your cat is as little as 20% overweight, it can lead to health issues such as Diabetes Mellitus, Arthritis, heart problems, urinary tract infection, breathing problems and hepatic lipidosis.
The primary reason why cats become obese is quite obvious: they consume more calories than they burn.
Often cats are kept indoors due to safety hazards outside; therefore, being confined, they are exposed to less exercise as when they would be free to roam to their heart’s desire outside.
Because they are mainly or exclusively indoors, they tend to eat larger amounts or more often out of boredom, especially if they have permanent access to food. Sterilization and castration reduce the cat’s metabolism and it’s vital that the kilojoule intake is decreased otherwise they will rapidly gain weight.
Many owners are uncertain about portion size and how many times per day a cat needs to be fed. Cats are also very manipulative creatures, and they will try their luck for a little more food! As cats age, they also need fewer kilojoules as they are less active.
The ideal weight of a cat
The ideal weight of a fully grown adult cat (approximately 12 months) will depend on the gender and breed. Male cats are bigger than females and mixed breed cats tend to gain weight more easily than thoroughbred cats.
You should always be able to feel the cat’s hip and ribs and not see it. The waist should be clearly visible and the belly, from the rib cage to the pelvis, must be slimmer. A veterinarian will confirm if your cat is overweight after a thorough examination and being weighed. Blood and urine tests will also be done to confirm if the cat’s hormone levels are normal and no physical or metabolic imbalances present.
What a weight loss diet should consist of?
Follow a diet plan where the cat will lose weight gradually. If there is a drastic reduction in food intake it can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition, hepatic lipidosis. It is essential that the cat does not lose more than 2% of her body weight per week.
The diet must be specifically formulated for active weight loss, otherwise essential nutrients can be lost in the process. Remember that cats are carnivores and need a diet rich in proteins and fats with little carbohydrates. That is why you should avoid giving your cat treats as these snacks are usually high in carbohydrates, which actually encourages cats to eat even more.
The diet should consist of 35-45% protein, 20% fat and a small percentage of carbohydrates to be able to reach her ideal weight and to maintain it. More fiber in her diet helps her to feel fuller for longer as it provides volume and takes longer to digest.
Healthy weight loss program for your cat
Cats do not adapt easily to change, so when you switch over to a new diet, you should introduce her to the new food by mixing the old diet with the new one and gradually increasing the new diet, whilst lessening the old one.
Read the feeding instructions on the label as you need to ensure you give the correct amount. It’s best to give two to four small portions throughout the day and remove the bowl after eating so that no food is available continuously.
Take note of the amount of food (kilojoules) she consumes correspondingly with her energy levels. Weigh your cat once per month; if there isn’t any difference, she is still consuming more than she should. The ideal, healthy weight loss program will help her to lose excess weight gradually over a period of time to reach and maintain her ideal weight.
When she reaches her ideal weight, adapt her food so that her weight will remain stable. Always remember that your cat needs a good quality cat food – do not settle for less.
Exercises for your overweight cat
Along with her newly adapted diet, she needs adequate, regular exercise (especially if she is only indoors) to shed the excess weight. An excellent way to encourage her to exercise is with interactive toys that mimic prey, like a laser light, feathery toys or balls. Try to get her to interact with you by playing games.
In nature, cats are supposed to catch ten mice per day to be able to survive; therefore it remains important for them to express their natural skill, and in this instance, to lose weight too.
In order for the cat to partake in a successful weight loss program and achieve positive results, you as her owner will have to be dedicated and well enlightened to assist in giving her exercise and the correct food portions.
Continuous monitoring of her weight is essential; it will also not always be easy to persuade her to participate in activities, as cats prefer to mostly sleep during the day. She may also express very finicky behavior whilst adapting to a new diet.
Keep focusing on the end result where she reaches her ideal weight and can lead a healthy, active life.