Overweight and obese cats are at risk of developing serious health problems, just as you and I would under the same circumstances. Feline obesity is a more serious condition than most owners realize.
If your cat is more than 20% heavier than what is considered to be the normal weight for its breed and age, and if that excess weight is due to an buildup of fat, then that cat will be classed as obese.
Just like humans, different breeds of cats can have different body structure. Some are light framed and some are naturally heavier. If you have a purebred cat, you should research that breed to determine an average weight based on age. Some purebred cats are less likely to become overweight or obese than a mixed breed cat.
How to tell if your cat is obese
An obese cat will develop an abdominal bulge. This bulge, sometimes called a ‘skirt’, is a visual indicator of the cat being classed as obese. You might notice the belly of your cat scraping the ground. The difference between a cat being overweight or obese may also be established by using the measurement of fat on the body of the cat. If a cat has a thick layer of fat that covers all bony areas of the body the cat is said to be obese. A simple check you can make at home is to feel your cat’s rib cage. If you have trouble doing this, then you cat is overweight or obese.
Your cat is obese so what does that mean for its health
Unfortunately it doesn’t matter much when it comes to health as an overweight cat can have some of the same health concerns as an obese cat. Your cat can develop joint stress including osteoarthritis, feline diabetes, increased risk of urinary tract disease, breathing problems, hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver which can become life threatening, a decreased immune function, decreased stamina when exercising which leads to lethargy and its associated problems, and possible difficulty during the birth of kittens.
An obese or overweight cat will have greater stress put on all of its bodily systems and skeletal system. The heart will be beating too fast as it tries to carry that weight around, arteries start to clog up and heart attacks can become a real risk.
An overweight or obese cat will also have trouble grooming itself and is at increased risk of non-allergic skin problems. This means more work for you as you will have to groom your cat to keep the fur in good condition and check for parasites such as fleas.
It is a fact that when a cat is neutered or spayed, it has an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese as the metabolic rate of a neutered cat is said to decrease by as much as 20%. This can also contribute to weight gain. Older cats, especially those over the age of ten, can also start gaining weight due to a decrease in metabolism. There are certain medications which can also cause weight gain in cats such as amytripyline, cortisosteroids and cyperoheptidines.
Your vet can give you further information regarding cat obesity so that you can be well informed about the associated health problems. You vet will be able to access your cat’s weight and health, and advise you of the best way to help your cat to lead a healthy life. Weight management is possible in animals just as it is in humans. Maintaining ideal weight takes conscious effort and determination.
What you can do to help your obese cat lose weight
Indoor cats are over 50% more at risk of being overweight than outdoor cats. If your cat is kept indoors, it is vital that it exercises daily. This can be easily done through playing games.
Correct diet and exercise are essential for the overweight or obese cat, just like in humans. Your cat should be on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Remember, your cat is counting on you to make good decisions about the proper food and the amount of exercise that it receives each day. I’m sure that none of us want the cats we cherish to become overweight or obese. We would all prefer that they live long and healthy, happy lives.