It's clear that your cat has gained weight, and you can already imagine your veterinarian's complaints. However, managing your cat's appetite and weight is not easy: she gets little exercise during the day and spends her time meowing for food. How can you get your cat to lose weight under these conditions? A veterinarian offers advice and tips in this article on managing overweight and obesity in cats.
Obesity in felines
A cat is considered overweight or obese when it has excess fat under the skin or between the internal organs. The greater the excess, the more dangerous the overweight is for the animal's health.
A cat that is between 10 and 20 % overweight compared to its ideal weight is considered overweight. If it exceeds 20 % of its ideal weight, it is considered obese.
Overweight and obesity can be quickly reached in cats. For example, if a cat's ideal weight is 4 kg:
- If he weighs 4.5 kg, he is already considered overweight (10 % overweight)
- If they weigh more than 4.8-5 kg, they are considered obese.
How do I know if my cat is too fat?
Many cat owners are in denial and refuse to admit that their cat is overweight. This is due to what many consider to be the norm. A plump cat is not the norm, and cats that are considered too thin are often the ones that have the right body shape. The advice of the veterinarian will have no effect if you do not accept that "your cat is too fat".
To find out if your pet is overweight, there are two solutions:
- Weigh him and ask your veterinarian for advice.
- Assess your cat's body condition score (BCS) using the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) scale. This scale is based on several morphological criteria and allows you to give your cat a score out of 9. If the score is 5/9, your pet's weight is optimal. If the score exceeds 6/9, it means that the cat is overweight.
To do this, you must:
- Feel your cat's ribs. You should be able to feel the ribs without seeing them and without pressing down with your hands. If you have to press to feel them, there is too much fat on the chest.
- Observe your cat in profile. The line of her belly should rise slightly above the groin. If your cat's belly is straight or hanging, this is again a sign of excess weight.
- Examine your cat from above. Between the chest and the pelvis, your pet's sides should be slightly indented. If your cat is rectangular or bulging, it's another sign of excess weight.
As soon as you detect signs of overweight in your cat, take immediate action. The earlier the overweight is managed, the easier it will be to eliminate, unlike morbidly obese cats.
Overweight and obesity in cats: what impact on health?
If your veterinarian insists on putting your cat on a diet if he or she is overweight, it's because it can have serious health consequences. Studies have shown that obese dogs and cats have a 2-year shorter life expectancy than those of ideal weight.
Excess fat in the body is responsible for a generalized inflammatory phenomenon and disrupts the regulation of many molecules in the body. Excess weight can also cause a lack of flexibility, mobility and increased tension on the joints.
Therefore, overweight and obesity in cats can favor the appearance of many diseases: osteoarthritis, cystitis, pancreatitis, skin problems with difficulty in grooming, gingivo-stomatitis, diabetes, hepatic lipidosis...
Setting up a diet for an obese cat
You've just come from your veterinarian appointment and you now know that your cat is overweight or obese. After talking with your veterinarian, you've decided to put your cat on a diet to help him lose weight and get back into shape. Here are all the tips and tricks you need to set up the safest and most effective diet possible for your pet.
Objectives of the plan
Putting your cat on a diet is not simply a matter of drastically reducing his food intake. Doing so can lead to deficiencies and eating disorders caused by stress and anxiety.
A well-conducted diet should allow your cat to lose weight, and therefore fat, while maintaining its muscle mass. In addition, the new diet should allow the animal to be as full as possible to avoid counterproductive stress.
Be careful, a cat on a diet should not lose more than 0.5 to 1 % of weight per week! For a cat weighing 6 kg, this corresponds to a maximum weight loss of 60 grams per week. This may not seem like much to you, but losing weight too quickly can have serious health consequences (especially at the liver level) and can increase the risk of developing undesirable behaviors due to stress (bulimia, destructions, vocalizations, food theft, uncleanliness...).
A diet for an obese cat can therefore be spread out over a fairly long period of time, from several months to a year.
Choosing a diet cat food
To put your obese cat on a diet, it is essential to feed him a therapeutic food adapted to weight loss. Simply reducing the dose of his basic food does not make sense because it will lead to deficiencies and the volume of the rations will be so low that he will not be satisfied and may become stressed!
It's best to give your cat diet kibble. Not all foods are created equal. Give preference to veterinary or high-end kibbles, whose diet indication has been verified.
To be effective, diet cat food must :
- Be rich in protein to promote satiety, weight loss and maintenance of muscle mass. The protein level must be higher than 30 % and the PCR (protido-caloric ratio) must be greater than or equal to 100.
- Be low in fat (lipids). The rate must be lower than 12-14 %.
- Be rich in fiber to stimulate intestinal transit and promote a feeling of satiety. The higher the level, the better! The best is to have a minimum fiber content, also called crude cellulose, of 7-10 %.
Ask your veterinarian for advice on which diet is best for your cat.
When a cat is on a diet, it's important to make sure she feels full so she doesn't constantly ask for food or steal food. Here are some tips to help your dieting cat feel full:
- Spread meals throughout the day: ideally, offer your cat 3 to 6 small meals a day to help her feel full.
- Adopt a mixed diet: alternating kibble and cat food helps fill the stomach without providing too many calories. The food also hydrates the animal and reduces the risk of cystitis.
- Adding vegetables to the ration: low-calorie, high-fiber, water-rich greens, such as green beans and zucchini, can increase the volume of the ration without providing too much energy.
- Use dietary supplements: psyllium, for example, can help your pet feel full. Ask your veterinarian for advice before using this type of supplement.
Keeping your cat busy helps reduce stress and unwanted meowing due to hunger. You can use playful bowls that make the kibble harder to reach, stimulating the cat's natural instincts.
Limit treats and extras
Avoid feeding rich, fatty, sweet or salty treats or table scraps. If you want to give treats, choose low-calorie options and adjust the kibble ration accordingly.
Encouraging your cat to exercise
Exercise is essential for burning calories and building muscle. Stimulate your cat regularly with games and toys appropriate to his activity level.
In conclusion, it is best to prevent overweight cats by adjusting their diet after sterilization and by following your veterinarian's advice. If your cat does not lose weight despite your efforts, consult your veterinarian to evaluate the possible presence of diseases.