A study done in 2011 found that over 50 percent of cats were either obese or overweight. Obesity can predispose cats to diabetes, hepatic lipidosis and arthritis.
So what is causing our pets to become obese? Simply put any animal that consumes more calories than it burns for energy is going to gain weight.
In nature, food acquisition was never a sure thing and always accompanied by physical exertion to capture. Domestic cats no longer have the need to hunt for their food and as pet owners we are in complete control over what our pets eat and how much.
Any cat that is overweight should have a physical exam performed by a qualified veterinarian, weight taken and blood and urine tests run. It is important to determine if thyroid levels are normal and if there are any other physical or metabolic dysfunctions. After that, a proper weight control plan can be implemented.
Causes of obesity
Free feeding. Many pet owners have food available for their cats all the time so the cat can eat whenever it wants. Free feeding is probably the single biggest factor contributing to feline obesity.
Feed two to four small portions daily and control the amounts fed so that over time the cat does not gain weight. Cat owners must stop thinking in terms of “cups of food” and start thinking in terms of ounces of food.
Carbohydrates: Unlike most mammals, cats have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme (amylase) in their saliva. In the intestine, amylase breaks down large carbohydrate molecules into smaller absorbable units of glucose. Cats have measurably less amylase activity than humans or dogs and their metabolic biochemistry converts these carbohydrates into stored fat.
Most commercial dry cat food contains higher levels of flour, sugar, grains and preservatives than canned foods. An ideal diet for a carnivore like a cat should have high levels of protein, moderate fat content and a low percentage of carbohydrates.
Cat treats: Many pet owners feel the need to reward their cats with treats. When a cat has begun to vocalize, roam restlessly and seems to “need something” they provide a treat. This is normal interactive behavior for a cat and has no relationship to the cat being hungry. However, if you teat a cat every time it vocalizes you will be training the cat to vocalize more.
The biggest problem with store bought treats is the high carbohydrate content and lots of flavor enhancers to entice the cat to eat even when it is not hungry. Stop feeding treats to an overweight cat. IF you think your cat NEEDS a treat, give them little bits of cooked chicken or fish as a natural protein treat.
Label recommendations: All pet foods come with Recommended Feeding instructions. The problem is that these recommendations are NOT absolute requirements. Feeding the “Recommended” daily portions indicated on pet food labels will nearly always result in feeding more calories than the animal needs for an average day’s energy requirements. Unneeded calories translate into weight gain.
Exercise: Most cats spend the majority of their time sleeping on the couch, are left alone for long periods of time and really have nothing happening in the home that would trigger a carnivorous hunter’s interest levels. Increasing their activity is not as easy as taking your dog for a jog. You can add some interactive play toys to the cat’s environment or toys that simulate an escaping prey. Cats can be exercised but you may need some imaginative toys and ideas to get the job done.
Horizon Animal Hospital offers veterinary services to help all pet owners keep their pets as healthy as possible! Contact us at (480) 800-4559 to learn about our Scottsdale veterinarians and schedule an appointment for your cat.
This is part of our series on The Best Animal Videos on the Internet. Visit the link to see more great pet videos!