Pet ownership has steadily grown in recent decades, which is great news for the 6.5 million animals who enter American shelters each year. But while adoption continues to help homeless animals, our inclination to pamper our pets has led to another dangerous crisis, feline obesity, which now affects millions of American cats.
Obese Cats Face Health Risks
Chonky cats leave us with more to cuddle, but the extra weight spells trouble for our feline friends. Obese and overweight cats are prone to joint problems, arthritis, lethargy, dandruff, and serious health issues, including cancer. They also have trouble walking, grooming, and moving around.
Fortunately, it’s possible to combat obesity in cats by following the steps below. Read on for everything you need to know about helping obese and overweight cats trim down.
Is My Cat Overweight?
Cats gain weight for all sorts of reasons – just like their owners. Some cat breeds are more susceptible to weight gain. In other cases, underlying illness can add extra pounds. But the usual culprit is poor diet, overeating, and lack of exercise. If you can’t feel Fluffy’s ribs or see his waistline when you’re standing above him, your cat can probably stand to lose a few pounds.
How Do I Help My Fat Cat Lose Weight?
Like with any weight loss plan, decreasing your cat’s daily calories while increasing his exercise can help your fat cat lose weight. Be prepared for some increased begging (and/or angry meows) in the early days of your pet’s weight loss journey, but be strong. Remember, you’re doing this for your obese cat’s long-term health and well-being.
But don’t be too much of a taskmaster, because losing weight too quickly can also be dangerous for cats. When a 30-pound-cat, Zack, lost 1/3 of his body weight in just a few months, the obese cat got fatty liver disease and died.
1. Reconsider Your Cat’s Diet
Many pet owners don’t feed their cats correctly, which helps explain America’s pet obesity epidemic. Serve your cat nutrient-rich cat food high in protein and minerals, which lets her eat less without skimping on vital nutrition. Read the labels to make sure your cat’s food is healthy and safe.
2. Think Small (Meals)
Don’t make the mistake of leaving your cat’s food in his bowl all day, which encourages overeating. Instead, portion out your cat’s food using a measuring scoop and divide your cat’s daily food intake into 5 or more smaller meals served throughout the day. Not only will this give your pet’s metabolism a boost, grazing will help your cat feel less hungry on his new diet. (Pouring water over his food may also help him feel fuller.) You can even try hiding the food bowl to make your cat “hunt” for his next meal.
3. Exercise More
Most indoor cats don’t get enough exercise, but you don’t have to risk your cat’s safety by putting her outside. Instead, encourage your cat to move more by scheduling play time with toys that encourage her hunting instincts, like feather wands or interactive puzzle toys. Kitties love our Spin About Laser Treat Dispenser, which keeps cats entertained and encourage them to stay active. Check out the Animal Rescue Site store for more feather wands and other toys that make exercise fun!
4. Take A Walk
Taking your cat for a walk – on a harness, of course – is another way to help fat cats shed excess pounds. Some cats can be trained to walk on a leash, although other felines firmly reject the idea from the start. But if your cat is open to this adventure, taking your cat for a walk outside is a great way to help cats get more exercise. If your cat doesn’t like walking outside, don’t fret. Consider putting his litter box at the top of the stairs or even a different floor to encourage more walking inside the house.
5. Embrace Catnip
It’s natural to want to reward your cat for all her hard work, but too many treats will torpedo your cat’s weight loss plan. Fortunately, catnip is a calorie-free reward that cats love. Stock up on catnip in the Animal Rescue Site Store!
6. Visit the Vet
If you still don’t see any progress after following the steps above, you should take your cat to the vet. Feline obesity is usually caused by lifestyle factors, but stubborn weight gain can also be a sign of underlying illness.
Medical conditions that cause weight gain in cats
Healthy cats aren’t just happier. They also live longer lives, and we want to keep our cats around as long as possible. Help your chonky cat trim down and live her best cat life by following the steps above. As we mentioned before, there will likely be some complaining in the early days — but stay strong. Your cat’s health is worth it.
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