Obesity is the No. 1 health issue among American pets with an estimated 58 percent of cats deemed overweight or obese. A cat carrying 1 extra pound of body weight is equivalent to a human being 20 pounds overweight. Cats who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, respiratory conditions, kidney disease and osteoarthritis.
Observe Your Cat
One of the easiest ways to determine if your cat is overweight is to observe him. A healthy cat should have a tightly tucked tummy that does not sag. Face and neck should be clearly distinct from one another. You should be able to feel your cat’s ribs and spine. When looking down at him, a waist should be visible. In overweight cats the stomach is sagging, ribs are difficult to feel and his waist may have a pear shape or be undetectable. Fat deposits can be seen or felt around the chest, base of tail and hindquarters.
Use a Scale
Weighing your pet at home can give you a general idea whether or not he is overweight. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a bathroom scale. First, weigh yourself. Next, hold your cat and weigh the two of you together. Deduct your weight from the equation to determine how much your cat weighs. An ideal weight range varies from breed to breed and is often based on your pet’s age or gender. The average domestic cat should weigh 8 to 10 pounds. Persian cats should be 7 to 12 pounds; Siamese cats 5 to 10 pounds and Maine coons 10 to 25 pounds.
Visit the Vet
If you are unsure about examining your pet yourself, take your cat to your local veterinarian for an evaluation. Most veterinarians classify pets with more than 20 percent body fat as overweight. The primary causes of feline obesity are lack of exercise and excessive calorie intake. However, in some cases, weight gain is caused by an illness such as hypothyroidism, heart disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease or internal parasites. Your vet will be able to determine if any of these conditions are a concern for your cat. He also will be able to advise you on how to address these issues. Contrary to popular opinion, spaying or neutering your cat does not cause obesity.
Weight Loss Tips
Never attempt to put your pet on a diet without first consulting your veterinarian. Feeding too little can cause a serious form of liver disease and overfeeding will cause increased weight gain. Your veterinarian can help you develop a proper feeding regime and set appropriate weight loss goals. Cats should lose no more than 0.5 to 2 percent of their body weight weekly. Provide plenty of water as this can help to reduce the urge to eat. Replace high-calorie treats with other alternatives such as diet treats. You can cut treats into smaller pieces to feed fewer calories. Feed multiple cats separately to avoid one cat swiping food from his pals. Encourage your cat to exercise. Play with your feline friend for 15 to 20 minutes each day. Provide climbing structures that encourage movement. Consider leash training your cat so you can take him for a short walk.