Contents of Article
- The Dangers of Obesity in Cats
- What are the Contributing Factors for Obesity?
- Tips for Helping Your Cat Lose Weight
- Best Weight Loss Cat Foods For Overweight Cats
- Final Thoughts
Obesity has become something of an epidemic in the United States and it is a problem that affects not just humans but animals as well.
Unhealthy habits and lack of exercise can contribute to weight gain in cats and dogs which, if left untreated, can lead to obesity. Obesity is no laughing matter – not only can it limit your cat’s mobility but it can have a devastatingly negative impact on his health and longevity. If your cat is carrying around a few extra pounds, do yourself and your cat a favor by taking the necessary steps to help him lose weight. Not only will your cat be healthier at a normal weight but he will be happier as well.
Quick Look : Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Weight Loss
The Dangers of Obesity in Cats
Obesity in cats is defined as a bodyweight that is 20% or more above the normal weight. While different breeds of cat have different “normal” weights, it is easy to tell when a cat is obese. Aside from the actual numbers on the scale, you can tell whether a cat is overweight or obese by judging his body condition. To do so, you will need to view your cat’s body from the side and from above while he is standing at rest. When looking at your cat’s profile from the side you should be able to see a clear waistline and a visible tummy tuck – the ribs may or may not be visible but you should be able to feel them under a thin layer of fat.
If your cat does not have a clear waistline and his stomach bulges outward and sags downward he may be overweight. If there is a noticeable pad of fat that wobbles when the cat walks, he is likely to be very overweight. If you view your cat’s profile from the side and the waistline is absent, he may be obese. Obese cats also typically exhibit a bulging stomach that sags downward with pads of fat over the lower back and an additional pad on the stomach which sways or wobbles as the c at walks. The ribs will be covered in a very thick layer of fat and you will not be able to feel them. If your cat meets the qualification for overweight, very overweight, or obese you should see a veterinarian.
Not only can obesity affect your cat’s mobility, but it can have a very serious impact on his health as well. Cats that carry around excess weight have a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and arthritis – they are also more likely to suffer from joint pain, reduced liver function, and a decreased tolerance for anesthesia. Overweight and obese cats may also have lower life expectancies. As serious as obesity can be in affecting your cat’s health, a recent study revealed that more than 50% of cats surveyed were either overweight or obese.
What are the Contributing Factors for Obesity?
In many cases, obesity in cats is simply the result of overfeeding. As is true for humans, however, it is rarely the result of any one factor – it usually comes about as the result of several things. The simple truth of the matter is that any animal will gain weight if it consumes more calories per day than its body burns for fuel. Extra unburned calories may be the result of overfeeding, but they could also be due to lack of exercise. The calorie content of the food you offer your cat also comes into play because he could be eating a normal amount of food but the calories could be too high.
Some cats simply eat more than others and some are more active than others. Many cat owners follow the practice of “free feeding” – keeping the food bowl full and allowing the cat to eat at his discretion. While this works for some cats, other cats will eat as long as food is available. Free feeding is a good practice for kittens because they need extra protein and energy to fuel their growth and development. For adult and senior cats, however, the metabolism slows down once the cat reaches its adult size so its needs for calories decrease as well. If your cat likes to eat and you continue to practice free feeding, it is your fault and not his if he becomes overweight.
The type and amount of food you offer your cat plays a key role in maintaining a healthy weight, as does his activity level. It is important to note, however, that there are some other things which can contribute to your cat becoming overweight and obese. For example, many studies have shown that having a cat neutered or spayed actually lowers their metabolic rate to some degree – intact cats have higher needs for energy than altered cats. Spaying or neutering a cat can also change its behavior and activity habits which may also contribute to weight gain. It is estimated that altered cats require 20% to 25% less food than intact cats and they are twice as likely to become overweight as intact cats.
Though obesity has been linked to certain races and ethnicities in humans, the distinctions between different breeds of cat are not so clear. There is some evidence to suggest that mixed breed cats have a higher risk for obesity than purebred cats, though there are a number of genetic factors at play here. There are also certain medical problems and diseases that can lower your cat’s metabolism or affect his ability to digest and absorb nutrients. For example, hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body’s ability to produce thyroid hormone becomes impaired – this leads to a lower metabolic rate and an increased risk for weight gain even with normal feeding. Other diseases that can contribute to weight gain in cats include insulinoma, Cushing’s disease, pituitary gland disease, and brain disease.
Not only can your cat’s metabolism be affected by disease and the medications used to treat those diseases, but the environment in which your cat lives can play a role in determining his weight. For example, cats that live in multi-cat and multi-pet households may develop a tendency to eat more quickly because competition for food may be an issue – this can sometimes lead to overfeeding. There is also some heft to the idea that stress in cats can lead to overeating. The actual physical environment in which your cat lives can also be a factor. If the environment is too cold, your cat will need extra calories to burn for body heat. Cats that only live indoors in a controlled temperature environment tend to burn fewer calories than outdoor cats.
Tips for Helping Your Cat Lose Weight
Helping your overweight cat lose weight can be challenging for a number of reasons. For one thing, an overweight or obese cat may experience reduced mobility or reduced exercise intolerance which means that it will be hard for him to get the exercise he needs to burn extra calories. Another challenge you may find yourself facing is that some low-calorie or healthy weight cat food formulas are less palatable to cats than traditional formulas. If your cat is a picky eater you may find it difficult to switch your cat over to a healthy weight formula. There is also the challenge of slowly transitioning your cat onto the new product to avoid gastrointestinal upset.
If you are having trouble getting your cat to eat a new cat food product that is designed to help him lose weight there are a few tricks you can try. One option is to use a 50/50 ratio of the cat’s old food and the new low-calorie formula. If you choose this option, be sure to mix the two together well so your cat gets the familiar flavor of the old formula along with the low-calorie benefits of the new one. Another option is to drizzle your cat’s food with something flavorful but low in calories like chicken broth or beef broth. If you feed your cat a mixture of wet and dry food, try actually stirring the wet food into the dry food to make it more palatable for your cat.
Before you start any weight loss program for your cat, be sure to have him checked out by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you how much weight your cat needs to lose and he will perform any necessary tests to rule out medical causes for his obesity. The vet will also be able to tell you if your cat is healthy enough for exercise. If you have the support of your veterinarian you should plan to aim for a weight loss of no more than 1% to 2% of your cat’s body weight per week. If your cat loses weight too quickly it could put a strain on his body and there is a high risk that he will simply gain the weight back later. It is better for your cat to lose a little bit each week over a longer period of time than to drop a lot of weight at once.
When you start a weight loss program for your cat you need to consider not just the calorie content of his food but also the amount you are feeding him. Most veterinarians recommend feeding overweight and obese cats about 75% of what they would eat at their ideal weight. This can be difficult to judge because the actual energy needs of cats vary depending on activity level. The best thing you can do is to make small changes to your cat’s diet and to monitor his response. If your cat responds well to the changes you can maintain them or increase them for improved results.
There are two main ways to go about helping your cat lose weight:
1. Controlled Portions
Reducing the amount he eats of his normal food or switching to a low-calorie diet. With the first option, all you really have to do is limit your cat’s access to his current food. For example, if your cat currently eats ¾ cup of dry food on a daily basis, you would cut back to about ½ cup for 3 to 4 weeks, monitoring your cat’s progress. If your cat has lost an average of 1% to 2% bodyweight per week, maintain the current level of feeding. If your cat does not lose any weight, you may need to cut back his portions a little bit more. It is always a good idea to divide your cat’s daily portion into two feedings.
If you choose to switch your cat to a reduced calorie diet you may be able to keep feeding him the same amount but he will still be getting fewer calories. When feeding your cat a low-calorie diet you may want to divide his daily portion into 3 or more feedings to help control his hunger throughout the day. Whether you choose the reduced calorie option or the reduced portion option, you also need to be careful about limiting your cat’s consumption of table scraps and treats. Most of the table scraps people feed their cats are high in calories and fat but there are some healthier options you can try like unbuttered popcorn and cooked green beans. You can offer some low-calorie treats but keep in mind that treats should never be more than 10% of your cat’s daily intake.
2. Increased Activity
In addition to making changes to your cat’s diet, you should also consider increasing his daily calorie burn through exercise. Do not try to force your overweight or obese cat to run around the house, but there are some simple ways to boost your cat’s daily activity level to help him burn calories. Some cats will accept a harness and can be trained to walk on a leash, but many cats will not. For cats that do not want to be walked on a leash, active play time is the best way to burn calories. Try playing with your cat using a ball, a toy on a string, or even a laser pointer. Any way that you can encourage your cat to move is a good option for exercise.
Best Weight Loss Cat Foods For Overweight Cats
If you walk down the cat food aisle at your local pet store you will likely come across a number of low-calorie or healthy weight formulas. While these formulas may all be low in calories, they are not equal in terms of nutrition and quality. When choosing a healthy weight formula for your cat it is very important to make sure that he still gets the nutrients he needs – you may be decreasing his calorie consumption but you still want the calories he does consume to come from quality ingredients. To help you get started in choosing a weight loss formula for your cat, consider some of the top-rated cat food brands below which offer low-calorie or healthy weight formulas:
The Nature’s Variety Pet Food Company encompasses two different brands of pet food brands. The Prairie line of dog and cat food products are designed with holistic principles of nutrition in mind, formulated especially for picky pets to ensure quality nutrition with plenty of natural flavor. The Instinct brand of pet food products includes several different product lines for raw, freeze-dried, and dry foods as well as special formulas for high protein, limited ingredient diets, and healthy weight. Every product in the Instinct line of natural cat food products is made with real protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a healthy blend of nutrients to ensure quality nutrition.
The Instinct line of cat food products includes one dry food formula for healthy weight. This formula is both grain-free and gluten-free, designed to satisfy your cat’s hunger and cravings for natural flavor while also helping him to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. This healthy weight formula features chicken meal and fresh chicken as the main protein sources followed by digestible carbohydrates like chickpeas and peas. This formula contains 17% less fat than the standard Instinct Raw Boost adult formula, plus it has plenty of natural fibers to keep your cat feeling full for longer. As an added bonus, this formula is supplemented with chelated minerals for maximum absorption as well as dried fermentation products for healthy digestion. There are also plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
Though Solid Gold may not be one of the more common pet food brands, this company is dedicated to producing high-quality and holistic diets for both dogs and cats. The Solid Gold Pet Food Company was founded in 1974 and it remains one of the top developers of natural and holistic dry foods, wet foods, and treats. Every one of Solid Gold’s formulas are complete and balanced, made with more than 20 different superfoods as well as clean animal proteins. Each formula is designed to meet your cat’s nutritional needs while also supporting the health of his mind and spirit as well. In addition to offering a number of standard adult cat food formulas, Solid Gold also offers several gluten-free and grain-free formulas as well as a dedicated weight control formula.
The Solid Gold Fit as a Fiddle Holistic Weight Control formula is not only low in fat and calories, but it is also gluten-free and grain-free so it won’t trigger food allergies or intolerances. This formula features fresh-caught Alaskan Pollock which is rich in omega fatty acids as well as lean protein. In addition to supplemental sources of protein like turkey meal and chicken meal, this formula also contains digestible carbohydrates like peas, tapioca, and chickpeas. This formula is supplemented with chelated minerals for maximum absorption as well as dried fermentation products for healthy digestion. Overall, this formula is a great option for cats that needs to lose weight.
The Blue Buffalo Company is widely known as one of the best pet food brands out there. Not only do they use high-quality ingredients in all of their products, but their foods are formulated without the use of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Blue Buffalo actually offers four different product lines for both dog and cat foods. The Freedom line of pet foods is a grain-free, all-natural line of products while the Wilderness line is rich in meat and protein. The Basics line includes Limited Ingredient Diets and the BLUE line of products is all-natural.
Within the BLUE line of Blue Buffalo cat foods there are two weight control formulas. The standard BLUE Weight Control Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is made with protein-rich chicken and wholesome grains and fresh vegetables. This formula is lower in calories than the standard cat food but it is still perfectly balanced with nutrients to support total body health in all life stages. The BLUE Indoor Hairball & Weight Control formula is also made with chicken and brown rice but it is specially formulated to support the nutritional needs of indoor cats. Both of these formulas are made with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits which contain a proprietary blend of 7 powerful ingredients that are rich in antioxidants as well as natural vitamins and minerals.
The Nutro Company produces high-quality, all-natural diets for both dogs and cats. This company offers two different lines of cat foods – the Nutro line of natural cat foods and the MAX CAT line of affordable cat foods. The Nutro line of cat foods is designed for taste as well as nutrition, made with natural ingredients and supplemented with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support your cat’s whole body health and wellness. The products belonging to this line are all made with real proteins and natural flavors and textures for maximum palatability. Nutro offers a wide variety of products for cats in all life stages (kitten, adult, and senior) as well as specialized formulas for certain needs such as weight loss, hairball control, and food sensitivity.
The Nutro Weight Management formula is specially designed to help overweight and obese cats achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This formula contains 28% less fat and 14% fewer calories than the standard Nutro adult formula, made with real chicken and whole grain fiber. The Nutro Weight Management formula is supplemented with antioxidants as well as plenty of calcium to support bone and joint health, plus it has plenty of natural texture and flavor. This formula also contains chelated minerals which have been chemically bonded to protein molecules, making them easier for your cat’s body to digest and absorb.
The Natural Balance Pet Food Company is known for producing high-quality formulas that are designed to meet specific dietary needs. All of Natural Balance’s products are made with natural ingredients in recipes that are formulated based on sound scientific principles and nutritional truths to ensure that your cat gets the nutrients he needs. Natural Balance offers more than a dozen different dry food formulas as well as plenty of wet food options in flavors made with quality animal proteins like salmon, chicken, duck, and venison. These formulas are also made with digestible carbohydrates like whole grains, green peas, and tapioca.
The Natural Balance Pet Food Company offers several different product lines including the Fat Cats line of reduced calorie formula. This formula is designed to meet your cat’s nutritional needs with fewer calories. It is high in protein and fiber to help keep your cat full while also maintaining lean muscle mass. The Fat Cats formula is made with chicken meal and salmon meal as the top two ingredients followed by digestible carbohydrates like garbanzo beans and dried peas. This formula is supplemented with plenty of natural fibers as well as essential vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure maximum absorption. This formula also contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support healthy skin and coat.
When shopping around for a reduced calorie diet for your cat you will probably come across a number of low-calorie formulas from major pet food brands like Purina, Hill’s, and Royal Canin. While these brands may be more affordable and easier to find than the brands listed above you need to take a careful look at the ingredients lists for these products to determine their quality. Many inexpensive cat food brands use low-quality ingredients and fillers which may reduce the calorie content of the product but they will not provide your cat with the high-quality diet he needs. It is always better in the long run to spend a little bit more on a quality cat food to prevent expensive health problems down the line.
Once you have successfully helped your cat reach a healthy weight your goal then is to help him maintain that weight. When your cat is ready to come off his diet, do not increase his intake immediately – slowly increase his portions over the course of a few weeks until you reach the recommended daily amount for weight maintenance. You can follow the feeding recommendations on the food label to determine the recommended feeding amount for your cat’s weight but you will still need to keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t gaining or losing too much. You should also keep in mind that your cat will still need daily exercise to maintain his new weight.