Putting your FAT cat on a diet
We hear more and more frequently about obesity in dogs and the effects it has on both pet and owner. However, our feline friends are just as prone to piling on the pounds and in cats, this can actually be harder to control. Recent research suggests that up to 50% of Britain’s pets are now overweight.
Excess weight gain in cats has many serious health implications. These include increased pressure on joints and a higher chance of developing arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and urinary tract infections.
Here’s a quick diet guide on how to help your cat lose those extra pounds and top tips to keep them nice and slim in the future.
Whatever diet you decide to feed it’s important to know that domesticated cats are ‘obligate carnivores’. Simply put this means they must eat meat in order to survive so make sure the food you are giving is high quality and is specifically for cats. There are some good diets on the market that are specifically for weight loss.
The way cats generally eat falls into two categories, what I call the ‘grazer’ and the ‘scoffer’. Grazer’s are typically not over-weight, as they eat little and often and feel satiated quicker. You can recognise a grazer by the fact they will often leave some of their food and come back to it intermittently. The ‘scoffers’ are perpetually hungry and bolt their entire meals quickly and usually immediately ask for more. Generally it’s these guys that are the most likely to put on weight.
What can be challenging is when you have a grazer and a scoffer in the same household. What invariably happens is the grazer leaves some food for later, and the scoffer will jump in and finish it all off. Before you start to implement any diet changes, you will probably have to consider separating these cats during meal times.
First things first you need to calculate the exact amount of food you should be giving to your cat according to its IDEAL weight, NOT its current weight. You can get help from your vet or local vet nurse in working this out and it’s great to have their expertise on hand, especially if there is the possibility of any underlying health conditions. If you are currently overfeeding then you should reduce the portion size gradually to bring it in line. I’d recommend to cut portions down by 10% per week until you are giving the right amount.
Indoor cats are slightly easier to diet because the only food these guys get are what you put in the bowls. If you have more than one cat then it’s slightly trickier. Here are some top tips to use in this scenario:
• At meal times feed your cats in separate places. Putting food bowls close together may mean a dominant fat cat is taking more than their fair share, which will make cutting portions even more complicated.
• Consider a slow feeder for your overweight cat. By putting their food portion into these alternative food bowls it will encourage your cat to work for their food and will take them longer to eat. This encourages satiation and is also effective for single indoor cat households.
• Do not leave biscuits down all day-even if you have another cat who is a grazer this will only encourage them to eat their set meals each time and will not hurt them by doing so.
Outdoor cats can be more tricky. They are often getting food from multiple households already or may start to look for food elsewhere if feeling hungry. Here are some tips for outdoor cats:
• Use a slow feeder instead of a food bowl. This encourages your cat to eat slowly and feel full and should prevent them scoffing their meal and then going out to look for more.
• Put a tag on their collar requesting that neighbours do not feed.
It’s really important that all members of the household are on board and understand the necessity of why this is important. Implementing a feeding chart is a good way of ensuring they are not fed twice as believe you me they will try to tell you otherwise even if they have just eaten!
Of course, don’t forget the importance of exercise. Encourage your cat to play with toys as much as possible. Fat cats do become quite lazy but you should see them becoming more interested in playing when they start to lose the weight. Grooming is also a good way to boost circulation and encourage movement.
Finally NO treats!! As tempting as it is… each extra calorie you give to your cat will threaten their ability to lose weight and become a much healthier and happier feline!
Paul Manktelow regularly appears in the media as one of the UKs leading veterinary surgeons. His accomplished career as a vet allows him to talk on a number of key animal subjects and he regularly provides valuable advice to pet owners across the UK. Appearing on TV shows such as Junior Vets, Animal Madhouse and This Morning, he also writes columns for the Times, Dogs Monthly and blogs on his popular website Vital Pet Health.