According to recent statistics, a whopping 59% of domestic cats are either overweight or obese. From the mighty, lean, outdoor hunter to the tubby meowing for food, here are some of the reasons why your cat might be too fat…
Let’s get genetics out of the way as soon as possible. Yes, cats with certain genes tend to be more obese than cats without those genes – if they have those genes in the first place. However, of the cats with ‘fat genes’, genes only contribute to about 20% of the total outcome of their function, e.g. in this case, obesity. In other words, about 80% of the outcome of obesity is caused by factors other than genes (i.e. those mentioned below).
Today, many domestic cats live sedentary lifestyles. It is a matter of fact that cats sleep about two thirds of each day (estimated to be more than 65% of their lives). We mostly want our cats to be indoors all the time and mourn each time they bring us a ‘prey present’, and both of these discourage active cats.
Getting our feline pets spayed and neutered doesn’t help much for activity either. Although beneficial in many other ways, sterilisation removes the urge of mate seeking, generally making cats less active.
As cats gets older their activity is reduced even more up to a point where they become couch potatoes.
One of the best ways to exercise a cat is by stimulating playing and using activity toys. Also, make them ‘work’ for their food. “Hungry kitty? I’ll take your food with me; then you can take a walk with me to go and look at the flowers in the garden.” Even scratch posts and rolling in catnip are better than doing nothing all day.
We are what we eat. In my opinion, food is the biggest culprit contributing to obesity, but yet the most ignored and/or denied factor.
In contrast with dogs, cats are obligatory carnivores. This means more meat and fewer carbohydrates and sugars. Grain is the main carbohydrate ingredient in cat (and dog) food. Together with a low activity, carbs and sugars almost immediately get converted into fat. This is why good quality, premium cat food is so important. When looking at the ingredient list of cat food, a meat source should always be listed first. At Vet Hospital Port Shepstone, we recommend an appropriate stage-specific diet, such as Hill’s Science Plan for cats.
Apart from the quality of cat food, the amount of food we feed our feline friends is also an important contributing factor to obesity. Many cats are given free rein to their food bowls during the day, which is wrong. Although not always possible, and frequent meals are very important, the concept of removing uneaten food after each meal is very important. A well balanced premium cat food will also give exact indications of the daily quantity your cat needs to eat.
Treating our pets has become an integral part of their (and our) lives. Not spending enough time with a cat prompts owners to treat their pet, and a vocalising kitty is often rewarded with treats. Treats should be kept to a minimum and good quality treats are better than home-made ones.
Another reason why cats might get obese is due to medical conditions. Common medical conditions leading to obesity in cats include diabetes (yes, cats can get diabetes too – and it is fairly common), hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. It is also a matter of fact that obesity can even increase the chances of some medical conditions (e.g. constipation, bladder and kidney diseases, liver disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart failure, gall bladder disorder and spinal problems to name but a few).
* This month only. By appointment. Excluding any non-obesity related problems.
For this reason, it is important to have obese cats checked out by your family veterinarian on a regular basis. After medical conditions have been excluded, veterinarians can also help with selecting the best diet suited for your cat’s specific needs.