It's clear that your cat has put on weight and you can already imagine your vet blaming you. 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 vet gives you tips and advice 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 the cat is over 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 they weigh 4.5 kg, they are already considered overweight (10 % overweight)
- If it weighs more than 4.8-5 kg, it is considered obese.
How can I tell 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 those that have a suitable body shape. Advice from the vet will have no effect if you do not accept that "your cat is too fat".
There are two ways to find out if your pet is overweight:
- Weigh your dog and ask your vet for advice.
- Assess her 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 is higher than 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 with your hands. If you have to press to feel them, the fat layer in the chest is too thick.
- Look at 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 another sign of overweight.
- Examine your cat from above. Between the chest and the pelvis, your pet's flanks should be slightly hollowed out. If your cat is rectangular or bulging, this is 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 vet insists on putting your cat on a diet if he is overweight, it is because it can have serious consequences for his health. 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 widespread inflammation and disrupts the regulation of many molecules in the body. Excess weight can also cause a lack of flexibility, mobility and increased stress on the joints.
As a result, overweight and obesity in cats can lead to the onset of numerous diseases: arthritis, cystitis, pancreatitis, skin problems with difficulty in grooming, gingivostomatitis, diabetes, hepatic lipidosis, etc.
Setting up a diet for obese cats
You've just come from your vet's appointment and you now know that your cat is overweight or obese. After discussion with your vet, you have 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 make the diet as safe and effective as possible for your pet.
Objectives of the scheme
Dieting your cat is not simply a matter of drastically reducing its food intake. Doing so can lead to deficiencies and eating disorders caused by stress and anxiety.
A well-conducted diet should enable 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 satiated as possible to avoid counterproductive stress.
Please note that 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 for the liver) and can increase the risk of developing undesirable behaviours due to stress (bulimia, destructiveness, vocalisations, food theft, uncleanliness, etc.).
A diet for an obese cat can therefore be spread 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 doses of his basic food makes no sense as this will lead to deficiencies and the volume of rations will be so low that he will not be satisfied and may become stressed!
It's best to give your cat a diet food. Not all foods are created equal. Give preference to veterinary or top-of-the-range 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. Protein levels should be greater than 30 % and the protein-to-calorie ratio (PCR) should be greater than or equal to 100.
- Be low in fat (lipids). The level should be less than 12-14 %.
- Be rich in fibre to stimulate intestinal transit and promote a feeling of satiety. The higher the level, the better! It is best to have a minimum fibre content, also known as crude cellulose, of 7-10 %.
Ask your vet for advice on which diet is best for your cat.
When a cat is on a diet, it's essential to ensure that she feels full to prevent her from constantly asking for food or stealing food. Here are some tips on how to keep your dieting cat full:
- Spread meals throughout the day: ideally, give your cat 3-6 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-fibre, water-rich green vegetables such as green beans and courgettes can increase the volume of the ration without providing too much energy.
- Use dietary supplements: psyllium, for example, can make your dog feel fuller. Ask your vet for advice before using this type of supplement.
Keeping your cat occupied 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 wish 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 that are appropriate for her activity level.
In conclusion, it is best to prevent cats from becoming overweight by adjusting their diet after sterilisation and following your vet's advice. If your cat does not lose weight despite your efforts, consult your vet to assess the possible presence of disease.