Is My Cat Fat or Overweight?
Perhaps the most common malnutrition problem with cats is obesity. To be considered obese, a cat has to be at least 20% heavier than what is considered to be its optimal weight, and the excess weight is due to fat accumulation. A cat that is 1-19% over its ideal body weight is considered to be overweight. To maintain health and to ensure a long and happy life, cats should be neither obese nor overweight.
Determining if a Cat is Overweight or Obese
There is no magical body weight that is appropriate for all cats. The breed, general size, and age of the cat all have a factor in how much it should weigh. To determine the optimal weight of a specific cat, it is best to consult a veterinarian. In general, however, a cat whose ribs are hard to feel because they are covered with a layer of fat is overweight or obese, depending on how thick the layer of fat is.
A cat is also considered to be obese if it has a moderate or thick layer of fat that covers all of its bony areas. Some obese cats even develop a bulge under the abdomen, which is sometimes referred to as a “skirt.” If the cat doesn’t have a visible waist and if the back appears broad when viewed from above, the cat is obese.
Risks of Obesity
A cat that is overweight or obese runs the risk of developing a variety of health disorders. Some disorders that are common for obese cats to develop include: diabetes mellitus, lower urinary tract disease, joint stress, aggravation of osteoarthritis, non-allergic skin diseases, decreased stamina, and Hepatic lipidosis, which is fat deposited in the liver.
In addition, a cat that is overweight or obese has develops a decrease in immune function, can have difficulty giving birth, and can develop breathing problems.
Obesity Risk Factors
Some cats are more likely to become overweight or obese than others. In general, however, cats are just like humans. If a cat takes in more calories than it uses, it will gain weight. The excess energy it gains from the calories becomes stored as fat.
Purebred cats, however, are less likely to become obese than mixed breeds. In addition, cats that are neutered have a tendency to gain weight more easily than those who are not, probably in part due to the fact that non-neutered cats have the tendency to roam in search of a mate. In addition, the metabolic rate of a neutered cat decreases by about 20%. Therefore, a neutered cat needs less food in order to maintain its ideal body weight.
Cats under two years of age are less likely to be overweight or obese than cats that are between the ages of two and ten. This is because cats between these ages require less energy. On the other hand, geriatric cats, which are older than ten, have a tendency to be underweight. In addition, certain medications can make a cat more likely to gain weight, as some medications will cause an increase in appetite and other medications cause a decrease in metabolic rate. Some medications that commonly lead to weight gain in cats are corticosteroids, cyperoheptidine, and amitriptyline.
Treating Obesity in the Cat
It is not healthy for an overweight or obese cat to lose weight too quickly. In fact, rapid weight loss increases a cat’s likelihood of developing hepatic lipidosis, which is a fatal liver disease that causes fat to be deposited in the liver. Instead, an overweight or obese cat should lose weight steadily and gradually. In fact, it can take up to a year for a severely overweight cat to reach its ideal body weight in a healthy manner.
To best help a cat lose weight in a healthy manner, a veterinarian should be consulted. He or she can help create a healthy eating plan. It is important to note that cats are carnivores, which means they must have meat in their diets in order to survive. Therefore, cutting out meat in an attempt to lose weight is not a good idea. In fact, it can prove to be fatal to the cat. Furthermore, since a cat’s natural diet consists of meat, which provides high protein and low carbohydrates, the diet should contain similar foods. This type of diet actually helps the cat lose fat and still maintain lean body mass, such as muscle.
To help an overweight or obese cat lose weight, it also should be encouraged to get plenty of exercise. This is particularly true for older cats with slower metabolisms, neutered cats, indoor cats with restricted activity, and cats on medication that affects weight. Pet owners can encourage exercise by playing with the cat often. For more direct exercise, a cat harness can be purchased to walk the cat around the house or up and down stairs. Feeding bowls can even be moved to areas that require more walking and, of course, cut down on the portions of food an overweight cat receives.
Once the cat is down to its optimal weight, its weight can be maintained by purchasing special “light” or low calorie formulas of food. These formulas are specifically created for cats who are less active or who have decreased metabolism.