Did you know that over 50% of indoor cats are overweight? Cats have evolved as solitary hunters, and their ability to stay active is hampered by the size of their in-home territory and lack of need to hunt for their food. Overweight cats are more likely to develop serious health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and difficulties with urination and constipation.
You can use a Body Condition Score tool at home to determine if you pet is overweight. The ideal score is 5/9. Look at your cat from above and the sides; the ideal cat has an hour-glass figure and tucked tummy. If you gently place your fingers against the rib cage, you can feel the ribs easily. Overweight and obese cats have lost the natural waistline, their tummies sag below their knees, and your fingers sink into the fat before you can feel the ribs.
How can I help my cat lose weight and maintain a healthy body condition score?
- Enrich your cat’s environment. Start with vertical space by using kitty condos, window hammocks, and shelving. Cats like to jump and climb – these activities burn calories! Every time you see your cat napping, pick him up and get him moving!
- Cats are obligate carnivores. They benefit from higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets. Canned diets are preferred to maximize optimum protein levels and decrease carbohydrates, whereas dry diets require higher carbs to bake the kibble. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best diet for weight management based on your pet’s individual needs.
- Measure your cat’s daily food requirements. Split the total amount into three to four meals per day. Include treats in your calorie count. Think outside of the kitchen and off the floor! Use food puzzles for kibble and place a tablespoon or two of canned food in small dishes in different rooms. Go up high and feed your cat from the top of her kitty condo or favourite perching book shelf.
- Let your cat play like their inner predator. Play with toys, foraging activities, and trick training provide both mental stimulation and opportunity for play.
- Stop killing your cat with kindness. Extra cat treats, bacon from your dinner plate, that little lick of ice cream or milk. Those extra calories don’t equal love if they contribute to your cat’s weight gain and poor health. Be strong and just say no to that little paw dipping into your cereal bowl.