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Obesity in Cats

Obesity in Cats

Is feline obesity a problem?

 YES –   obesity, defined as an excess of body weight of 20% or more, is the most common nutritional disease of domestic cats.  Although the frequency varies from one country to the next, we know in some  countr1ies that up to 40% of adult cats are obese!  Despite these alarming figures, very little is known about the detrimental effects of obesity on feline health.  What we do know is that cats that are neutered and live indoors are more likely to be obese.  Obesity in the cat is a known risk factor for:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Lower urinary tract disease
  • Arthritis
  • Liver and pancreatic diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart problems.

In humans, obesity causes an increase in morbidity and mortality at all ages and is associated with diabetes mellitus, certain types of cancer, impaired mobility and arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other illnesses.

What specifically causes obesity in cats and how should it be treated?2

Many factors work together to cause obesity in cats, and as mentioned earlier not all of them are clearly understood.  Some are probably genetic, while others are clearly related to diet and environment.  Also, neutering increases the risk for obesity in cats.  It is important for the cat owner and veterinary surgeon to keep all these factors in mind when treating the obese individual.  Prevention is better than treatment but not always easy.  Your vet should check your pet to make sure they don’t have health problems such as fluid or liver diease.  Cats living indoors are more prone to obesity, perhaps because they eat more out of boredom, but also because they have less opportunity to stay trim through exercise.  Remember, everybody should run and play, including cats!

Once a cat becomes obese, the challenge for owner and vet is to promote weight loss safely and then to maintain the optimum weight.  In the long run it is better to set realistic goals for weight reduction rather than attempting to force the cat down to a “normal” weight.  Usually a 15-20% reduction in weight is a good target that can easily be achieved!  Rapid weight loss should be avoided , since it puts the cat at risk for development of severe liver disease.  Weight that is lost slowly is more likely to stay lost!  There are no drugs or magic pills which can be used safely or effectively.  Commercial “low-calorie” diets are available from veterinary surgeons and provide the basis for effective weight loss.  However, they are more effectiv3e when combined with additional exercise.  This also has the advantage of providing more time for interaction between the cat and the human, which we know provides enjoyment and is beneficial for the health of both. With some patience and extra care obese cats can be treated safely and effectively, with the ultimate goal of prolonging a healthy happy life!

A cheaper alternative to commercial low calorie diet is a 20 to 33% reduction in food intake.  This should be accompanied by regular weighing of the cat.  If the cat fails to lose weight, then the amount of food should be again reduced by 20%.  If weigh-ins are every 1-2 weeks, the cat is invariably safely losing weight within a month.  In cats with access to outdoors it is vital to ensure that the cat does not have access to alternative food sources such as friendly neighbours!

 Click here for an easy to read Obesity chart