By Terri Heck
We all want our feline friends to be happy and healthy. By taking an active role in their weight management we can achieve that goal. Overweight cats can be predisposed to diabetes, heart and joint disease among other health issues. Discuss a weight loss program with your veterinarian to determine the best approach for your cat. Age, current condition and other medical factors need to be assessed in order to have a comprehensive, successful and safe weight loss plan. Weight loss in cats must be accomplished very slowly – 1-2% per week is recommended. Too rapid weight loss can result in severe liver disease in the cat.
In natural surroundings a feral cat has to hunt for its food. Food acquired is accompanied by physical exertion. There is rarely too much input in that setting. Import can be regulated for our house dwelling cats.
- Drop the amount of food fed 10-15%, at most, to start.
- Feed a measured amount twice daily. Avoid free feeding.
- Change to a less caloric dense food.
- Discuss prescription diets available for overweight cats with your veterinarian.
- Toss measured kibble one at a time–have the cat work for the food.
- Alternate the location of the bowl throughout the house–have the cat hunt for the food.
- Food dispensing toys are available for the cat. This is another way for them to work for the food.
Increasing output or exercise in conjunction with a healthy diet change can not only aid in weight loss but in the actual physical condition of the cat as well.
- Supervised play with cat safe toys.
- Rotate toys so there is always “something new”.
- Wind-up toys.
- Interactive toys, i.e. fishing rod type toys.
- Tunnels, obstacle course, etc.
- Climbing posts.
- Add a playmate.
- Pick sedentary cat up and move to another area of the house.
- Leash walking for the trainable type.
Monitor your program and progress by weighing your cat every 3-4 weeks. Adjust diet and exercise to regulate and continue safe and effective weight loss. Remember 1-2% weight loss per week is the maximum recommended. As the pounds go down you may have the added advantage of your feline friend becoming more active. Achieving your weight loss goal for your cat will be instrumental in improving his/her quality of life. Remember to start with an exam for your cat and discussion with your veterinarian. Certain medical conditions can lead to obesity and lethargy. Annual exams continue to be very important for the overall health of the cat. Above all enjoy your cat and your relationship!