Overview of Obesity in Cats
Obesity is defined as the excessive accumulation of body fat. At least 25 percent of all cats are considered obese or are likely to become obese. It is the most common nutrition-related health condition in cats in our society.
The primary causes of obesity are overeating and lack of exercise. When regular caloric intake exceeds the energy burned, the excess is stored as fat. As little as an extra 1 percent caloric intake can result in 25 percent increase over ideal body weight by middle age.
Most owners don’t recognize that their cats are overweight until they take them to the veterinarian for another reason. Most pets begin slowly gaining weight and only a historical review of body weight reveals the insidious nature of this condition.
Cats that are overweight may experience difficulty breathing or walking or they may be unable to tolerate heat or exercise.
Diagnosis of Obesity in Cats
Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine overall health and to provide recommendations for weight loss.
Diagnostic tests may include:
Treatment of Obesity in Cats
Treatment of any concurrent or underlying disease that affects obesity is recommended.
Weight loss should be a family effort. All members of the family must admit the animal is overweight and commit to a weight loss program. It may be helpful to maintain a log of intake (food and treats) and weight to monitor progress. It might be most effective if one person takes charge of feeding your cat, but all members can help exercise her.
To achieve significant weight loss, the diet must be changed to a therapeutic veterinary diet specifically designed for weight loss. Simply feeding less of your cat’s regular food is rarely, if ever, successful. Owners must be willing to measure exactly the amount of food offered and minimize treats. If treats are necessary, offer low calorie snacks such as air popped popcorn or a piece of vegetable (such as a carrot).
Re-check visits are essential every 4-6 weeks to monitor the weight loss since adjustments to the feeding plan are often needed. As your cat approaches ideal body weight, caloric intake must be reduced further to maintain weight loss.
Most cats require an 8-12 month weight loss plan to reach their ideal weight. Most cats do achieve ideal or near ideal body weight when the owner and family members are committed to improving the pet’s health. Most owners continue feeding the weight loss diet, only at a higher food dose, to maintain their pet’s ideal weight.
Specific recommendations depend upon the underlying disease. For obesity due to:
Diet Recommendations for Obese Cats
In-Depth Information on Obesity in Cats
There are several causes of feline obesity, but whether your cat is overweight because of overfeeding or because of a disease process, she is still taking in more calories than she is using.
Obesity in pets is more commonly due to over-eating (excessive caloric consumption) than disease. The most common cause of obesity is a chronic consumption of calories greater than actual daily energy requirement. Excessive dietary calories are stored as body fat.
Other causes of obesity are due to an altered energy metabolism. Some diseases and conditions can contribute to obesity. The most common is diabetes.
Call your veterinarian if you suspect that your cat is overweight, or if your pet begins experiencing difficulty breathing or exercising or appears unable to get comfortable. Also, have a veterinarian examine your pet to determine if these abnormalities are present before instituting a weight loss program.
Your veterinarian will want to determine the cause of your cat’s obesity before deciding upon treatment. Diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:
Additional diagnostic tests may include:
Therapy recommendations are dependent upon the underlying cause of the obesity. Take your cat to your veterinarian for a complete work-up before beginning a weight loss program to rule out major diseases.
Recommendations for obesity due to:
Excessive caloric consumption
– less than 360 kcal per 100 grams of food on a dry matter basis.
– between 7-12 percent fat.
– between 10-30 percent crude fiber.
– greater than 35 percent crude protein.