Overweight Cat? Six Tips To Help Your Fat Cat Lose Weight
Your fat cat may look cute and cuddly, but inside that roly-poly exterior is a disaster waiting to happen. Obesity is the most common nutritional problem seen in pets, says veterinarian Susan Little of the Winn Feline Foundation. In an article in Pets Magazine, she says studies show that 40 to 50 percent of cats are overweight. And those extra pounds can cause all kinds of health problems, from heart disease and diabetes to arthritis and difficulty grooming and using the litter box.
How can you help your overweight cat shed some pounds? Here are six weight-loss secrets to help your overweight cat slim down.
1. Weigh Your Cat It's a good idea to weigh your cat before he starts his diet, so you'll have a baseline and can set goals and measure his progress. Your cat should lose no more than one or two percent of his body weight per week.
How do you know if you're living with an overweight cat? The average weight for a cat is between seven and 10 pounds. But a large-boned cat will weigh slightly more. A better guide than a scale is your cat's overall body condition. If you have to press against your cat's sides to feel his ribs, he's probably overweight. You should also be able to see his waist. Looking down at him, his body should be slimmer as you look from the end of his ribs to his hindquarters.
2. Count Calories Like they do in humans, extra calories can pack on the pounds in cats. An average size adult cat needs 20 to 30 calories per pound of body weight a day. About 90 of those calories (approximately 12.5 grams) should come from meat. About 70 calories (5.5 grams) should be fat.
While your cat's dieting, read the labels on his bags and cans of food. Calories on pet food labels are expressed as kilocalories, which are the same as the calories listed on human food packaging.
3. Serve An All-Wet-Food Diet Cats are obligate carnivores and need protein and fat from animal sources, not grains. Wet food is mostly meat and moisture and most closely resembles a cat's natural diet, says veterinary endocrinologist Deborah Greco. She says overweight cats will lose weight on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, all-wet-food diet. In fact, she calls it the Catkins Diet.
What's so fattening about dry food? Most brands include corn, rice and barley as sources of protein. And even grain-free dry foods need some kind of starch, usually potatoes, to keep the pieces of kibble from falling apart. The problem, says Dr. Little, is that cats don't use the high amounts of carbohydrates in these ingredients efficiently and store them as fat.
Some favorite brands of wet food at my house are Against the Grain, Almo Nature, Cats in the Kitchen, Tiki Cat and Avoderm Chicken Chunks. And then there are the family members who refuse "health food" and demand Fancy Feast. Try to stick to the "classic" flavors. The ones with "gravy" and "sauce" are very high-carb.
4. Feed Several Small Meals A Day Cats evolved eating small prey several times a day. Although most no longer need to catch their food, instinct still tells them they need several small meals a day. Free feeding wet food or offering your cat three or four meals a day will make his weight-loss program stress free. If you're not home during the day, a timed feeder will keep his wet food fresh and appetizing.
5. Exercise For Fun And Fitness Interesting toys that provide a mental and physical workout don't just burn up calories, they relieve boredom and depression, especially in strictly indoor cats. And playing with interactive "wand" or "fishing pole" toys together can be as much fun for you as it is for the cat.
When you play with your cat, make the toy hop and zigzag just like a real mouse or bird would do. And when you're both getting tired of "hunting," let him catch his "prey" and carry it off to a safe place if he wants to.
I've never met a cat who doesn't love Da Bird with it's whooshing Guinea feathers that mimic the motions and sounds of a flying bird. For cats who insist on dry food, the Egg-Cersizer treat ball gives them the challenge of working for their food and encourages them to eat less.
6. No 'Diet' Food Most brands of "light" cat food contain less fat and fewer calories than regular cat food but have high amounts of fiber. But cats need meat and moderate amounts of fat in their diets, not ingredients like beet pulp and powdered cellulose.
"Animals overeat if they can't digest their food properly or if the food is lacking in some nutrients or some nutrients can't be assimilated properly," veterinarian Jean Hofve says on her website, Littlebigcat.com. Because they need to eat more to feel full, some cats actually gain weight on light food, Dr. Hofve says.
Helping an overweight cat slim down doesn't have to be a struggle for either of you. Just be mindful of his nutritional and emotional needs, and he will lose weight slowly but surely over time.
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