Fat Cats: Is Your Pet Overweight?

Posted on: 4 April 2015


As human waistbands expand, veterinarians are seeing pets with the same issue -- a bit too much fat carried around the middle. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 57.9 percent of pet cats in the U.S. were overweight or obese in 2014.

Like with people, the extra weight can lead to associated health problems like diabetes and heart problems. But determining if your cat is carrying too many pounds isn't always easy. Here's how to figure out if your pet is overweight, and what to do about it.

Seeing If Your Cat Is Overweight

Really fat cats are easy to spot, but slightly pudgy cats are harder to see, especially for human owners who have gradually allowed the extra weight to accumulate. Make sure that you're getting regular healthy feline checkups from your vet -- it's recommended that your pet see the veterinarian once a year. As part of the annual checkup, ask your vet to evaluate your pet's weight and let you know if there are any issues.

You can do a general visual inspection of your cat to see if a problem is developing. Look at your cat from above; you should be able to see a noticeable "waist" where the shoulders and hindquarters are larger than the middle. You should also be able to feel the ribs, although they should have a layer of fat and fur over them. Can't do that? Your pet may need you to help it get to a healthy weight.

Putting Your Cat On A Diet

If your pet is overweight, it's pretty simply because you are overfeeding for the level of activity that your cat gets. After all, a cat can't sneak into the fridge while you're asleep and overindulge in tuna or salmon. Your pet only gets to eat what you provide.

There are reduced calorie cat foods available, but it's not advisable to start one without a specific recommendation from your vet. Instead, start measuring the amount of food you give your kitty. If you free-feed or eyeball the correct amount, it's very easy to give too much. Get a measuring cup and be precise.

Look for meat-based foods and avoid those with the primary ingredients of grain. Cats tend to do better with more protein and fewer carbohydrates, especially those that are processed and in commercial pet food.

Another issue is treats and table scraps. If your cat is overweight, toss the commercial cat treats and strictly track any human food that you give. It's perfectly all right to give a small daily treat of poultry, fish or another uncured meat that your human family is eating, but it should be no more than a teaspoon of food.

You should also make sure you're not overdoing it when the human family eats by giving your pet all treats in its own bowl rather than feeding by hand.

Increasing Your Cat's Activity Level

Besides being more careful to monitor your cat's intake, you want to be sure your pet is getting exercise. As more and more cats become primarily or only indoor cats -- that's safer for your kitty -- it can be more difficult to ensure your cat is encouraged to run, jump and play.

First, commit to playing with your cat for 15 minutes each day. Start with pouncing and chasing games, but remember that if a cat has been sedentary for a while that you should start slowly. A catnip mouse or scratching post can help a cat be more active, too.

Make sure you ask your vet to evaluate your pet's overall physical health during your annual checkup, and take any recommendations to heart. Cats are happier and live longer when they are at an ideal weight. For more information, talk to the professionals like those at the Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care.