You’re sure to have heard reports about the growing rates of overweight pets, and Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner agrees that it’s an important issue. ‘Obesity is a serious medical concern, not just about how a pet looks. So, ensuring your cat is a healthy weight is a vital part of caring for her wellbeing,’ he says. Find the facts on feline obesity here, and how you can help your pet to avoid it.
Vets and vet nurses who took part in research about pet obesity for the PDSA’s 2018 PAW Report estimated that 34% of cats that came in to their practices every week were overweight or obese. What’s more, 56% of cat owners who took part in the research didn’t know whether their cat was a healthy weight. Read on to find out what you can do if you think that your cat might be overweight.
It can be difficult to make sure we eat right and exercise regularly, especially in the winter. And that goes for cats too. You may not even have noticed that your cat has put on a few pounds. However, if they’ve been less active during the colder months, and their food intake has also increased, it’s no surprise that your cat isn’t as svelte as they were in the summer.
A weighty issue
While your cat’s optimum weight varies depending on their age, breed and gender, if you’re struggling to see or feel your cat's ribs or waistline, they may be carrying more body fat than they should be. Have a go at body condition scoring in order to check whether your cat is a healthy weight.
As with humans, cats that are obese are more likely to develop conditions including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. They may also have difficulty breathing, particularly brachycephalic breeds, such as Persians and Himalayans.
Counting the calories
If you think your cat could benefit from losing a few centimetres from their waistline, it’s important to firstly monitor what they’re eating. The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association recommends feeding to your cat’s ideal body weight, not their actual body weight.
Check the feeding guide on your cat’s food (you’ll also be able to find more information on how much you should be feeding your cat on the manufacturer’s website), but remember to subtract any other sources of food on offer.
Petplan vet, Brian Faulkner says, “Weighing out the recommended amount in the morning each day, as opposed to ad lib feeding, avoids over-eating throughout the day. Many pet owners guess the recommended volume of food and it is easy to be 10% over. 10% more food than required means 10% more body fat.”
If you have more than one cat, make sure that you feed them in separate rooms, so you can keep track of how much each cat is eating. Why not try putting your cat’s food bowl at the top of the stairs or at heights to encourage them to get climbing?
It’s also important to make sure that your cat doesn’t miss out on regular exercise. During the winter months, your cat may not be able to go outside as often as usual. Here are a few indoor games you can play with your cat to help keep them active:
Foraging for food
Getting your cat to work for their food doesn’t just help with weight loss, it stimulates their brain too. Start by scattering your cat’s dry kibble across the kitchen floor for them to sniff out.
If your cat shows an interest in foraging for their food, try using a puzzle feeder, such as the Catit Senses 2.0 Digger, or make the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors’ easy at-home version by using an empty, clean yoghurt pot.
Punch two holes (just large enough for treats to fall through when shaken) in the bottom of the pot. Then attach string to the top, and tie it in a spot that’s easily accessible to your cat. They’ll need to hit the feeder with their paws to make the treats drop through.
Don’t forget to ensure that any treats you give your cat are low in calories and that you subtract them from their daily calorie intake.
As predators, cats will hide and jump out to surprise their prey. Make a place for them to hide by cutting a hole in an up-turned, empty cardboard box or draping a sheet over your coffee table. You could also try a play tunnel for your cat, like one of these from Pets at Home. When your cat is inside, you can encourage them to play by dangling a feather toy at the entrance to their hide out and watch them try to trap their ‘prey’.
Bring the outside indoors with an app that’s designed to satisfy your cat’s instinct to hunt.
Mouse for Cats (free for iOS and Android) allows your cat to ‘catch’ an on-screen rodent by tapping at it with their paw. So they don’t lose interest, play alongside your cat and benefit from one-on-one interaction.
If you’re concerned about your cat’s weight, especially if they have suddenly lost or gained weight, make sure that you speak to your vet.
What games do you play with your cat to keep active? Share your stories and photos with us on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #PethoodStories.
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