2001-Tue May 23 06:53:52 EDT 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved. Powered by Brightspot.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Carl Sandburg’s fog may have come on little cat feet, soft and silent, but in my practice I’ve seen a number of cats big enough that their tread is more like rolls of thunder. And these felines aren't just big-boned, as their owners often describe them — they’re downright fat.
Obesity is a big problem in cats — literally. So many cats are overweight or obese that it’s a national scandal. (And yes, there's a difference between overweight and obese: Overweight cats are 10 to 29 percent over ideal weight while obese cats are 30 percent or more over ideal weight.) More than half of our feline friends — nearly 58 percent — could stand to shed a few pounds. That’s not something to take lightly.
It’s not easy to put your cat on a diet and exercise plan, especially if he lives a sedentary indoor life. And the answer isn’t to let him roam outdoors — unless you have a safely enclosed area for him. But you can work with your veterinarian to develop a feline weight-loss program designed to improve your cat’s health and activity level. And that will leave both of you purring.
Start by taking a cue from Weight Watchers: Schedule your cat for an official weigh-in at the vet's office. This allows you and your veterinarian to figure out how much weight he needs to lose as well as how much he can safely be expected to lose each month.
Along with the weigh-in, your veterinarian should give your cat a good once-over. A veterinary exam can help to ensure that your cat doesn’t have any underlying health problems that could interfere with or be worsened by weight loss.
If he gets a clean bill of health, you can proceed, with the guidance of your veterinarian. My colleague, feline expert Margie Scherk, DVM, says that any successful cat weight-loss program has three components: diet, exercise and recheck visits.
Any diet starts with decreasing the number of calories your cat takes in and increasing the number of calories he burns through activity. Dr. Scherk recommends keeping a feline food journal for one or two weeks. Log everything your cat eats, from food to treats to nibbles the kids and your spouse sneak him when they think you’re not looking. It should include the brand of food or treats as well as amounts.
With that information, your veterinarian can determine how much your cat needs to eat to lose weight. Most cats can safely lose ¼ to ½ pound per month.
That may mean reducing the amount of food he gets or switching his diet to a different food. A higher protein diet — sometimes nicknamed the “Catkins” plan — may help, but according to Dr. Scherk, the scientific evidence isn't conclusive: While some studies have connected increased protein consumption with feline weight loss, the finding is not consistent across all studies.
If you switch to a new food, your veterinarian will recommend introducing it over a seven- to 10-day period. Take that advice. Gradually mix in a small amount of the new food with your cat’s regular food. This helps reduce the risk of stomach upset and lets your cat slowly adjust to the taste of the new food. You probably know as well as anyone that most cats hate change and like it to be on their own terms, so give him time to adapt.
If it’s necessary to change your cat's diet and he doesn’t like the food, it’s essential that you not employ the “take it or leave it” approach. Not eating is not an option for felines: Cats who don’t eat for as little as two days can develop a serious and sometimes fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. You may have also heard it called fatty liver syndrome. Either way, it's bad news. If your cat won't eat his new food, talk to your vet about other options.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Bartonella is a type bacteria that can be transmitted to cats, dogs and humans from exposure to infected fleas and…
Want to give your pup yummy, low-calorie treats? We’ve got the skinny on which foods are OK to feed him.
Not sure about food puzzles? Our veterinarian reveals why the payoff for your pet is well worth any extra work.
With these simple dental care tips, you can help keep your canine’s adorable smile shiny and healthy for life.
The friendly and inquisitive LaPerm has an easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.