The MyStetho blog

A Healthy Weight for Your Cat

Would you know if your cat needed to lose weight? Fat cats are so common that you might not even realize yours is on the corpulent side. But overweight and obese cats now outnumber those at a healthy weight, and vets are also seeing more super-obese cats.
"The problem for us is that we like to spoil our cats, and cats like to eat, so it's easy to overfeed a bit," says Philip J. Shanker, DVM, owner of Cat Hospital in Campbell, Calif.
It is something to be taken seriously. Even a few extra pounds can make your pet more susceptible to health problems like type 2 diabetes and worsen others like arthritis. It may even prevent them from grooming properly. Keeping the excess weight off should lead to a healthier, happier cat.
Ideal weight for cats
Most domestic cats should weigh around 10 pounds, although this can vary by breed and frame. A Siamese cat can weigh as little as 5 pounds, while a Maine Coon can be 25 pounds and healthy.
Your vet can let you know if your cat is overweight, but there are signs you can look for on your own, says Melissa Mustillo, DVM, veterinarian at a cat clinic in Maryland.
"Cats should have that hourglass figure when you look at them, they shouldn't have a saggy belly that hangs down, and you should be able to feel their ribs," she says.
How to keep the pounds off
Veterinarians say weight gain in cats usually comes down to the type and amount of food they are fed, as well as old boredom.
"When they're bored, they think, 'Might as well go eat. ... Oh look, there's no food in my bowl, I'm going to bother mom for more food,” Mustillo says.
And when they whine, many owners keep their pets happy.
But it is possible to prevent or reduce weight gain:
Replace dry foods with canned foods, which tend to be higher in protein and lower in carbs. Canned food is also a good way to set separate meal times for your pet. Many cats gain weight when owners leave out a bowl of dry kibble so they can eat all day.
Cut back on milking. Cats also do well with other rewards, like playing time with you.
Make your cat work for its food. Veterinarians have found that cats are healthier and calmer when their owners use "food puzzles", which the cat must roll or manipulate to get treats. You can hide some in the compartments of a wine box or cut one or more small holes in a plastic bottle and fill it with croquettes. Puzzles slow down their feeding while tapping into their natural instincts to hunt and forage.
If you have more than one cat, you may need to feed the overweight cat in a separate room or put the healthy weight cat food high where the fat cat cannot go.
Before you put your cat on a diet, take him for a physical exam to make sure he doesn't have any underlying medical issues. It might be enough to replace all-day grazing on kibble with defined meals. But a heavier cat may need to switch to canned diet food or a special prescription diet with more protein, vitamins and minerals per calorie.
Be patient, Mustillo says. “If your goal is to [your cat] lose a pound, it could take a good 6 months, maybe up to a year. It is very slow."
And don't panic if your kitten is on the windy side, Shanker says. Your veterinarian can help you.
“If the cat is a little full, that doesn't mean it's going to die of heart disease,” he says.
One thing to remember don't ever starve your cat. Cats, especially larger ones, can suffer from liver failure if they don't eat for even a few days.
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