Today, many domesticated cats are overweight or obese. Most people believe cats are impossibly active due to their hunting and adventuring through the day and night. However, cats are small animals. They don’t partake in strenuous activity. And more often than not, the amount of food they need is often overestimated by their owners.
Overfeeding has many adverse effects other than weight gain. It can lead to loss of appetite, fussiness or ‘picky eating’ habits and build up of toxins in the body.
Obesity in cats can cause many physical problems such as an increased risk of diabetes, urinary tract infections, issues with the bladder and joint problems.
You should be able to easily feel your cat’s ribs and they should have a nice, tucked in waistline. If you are unable to feel their ribs, it is likely they are overweight and you should investigate a change of diet.
Burns Original Cat Chicken & Brown Rice is low in fat and ideal for any cat needing to lose weight. This is due to the controlled levels of fat and protein in the recipe. When making changes to your cat’s diet, make the changes gradual. Take 10-14 days to wean them onto their new diet and reduce feeding amounts gradually by a few grams each day.
When looking at the feeding guide, make sure to feed the goal weight rather than the current weight, or you will keep maintaining the cat’s weight rather than reducing it.
It is not advisable to free feed a dieting cat unless they are a known grazer only picking at their food throughout the day. If they are a notorious food guzzler, then you are best off creating a definite feeding schedule and evenly spreading out daily food allowance across breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Another way to help slow down a fast eater is to try a feeding puzzle or mat, to help make them work for their food, stimulate them, and help them eat slowly. You could also try a moving feed ball to help link in extra movement while feeding.
Also, treats do count as part of the daily food allowance, and so for every extra treat given to your cat, deduct the amount from their daily feed weight.
For example, if each treat weighs 2g, then for every treat given you must reduce their feed by 2g, so 5 treats throughout the day means reducing the food by 10g for the day, but make sure any treats are low fat and low calorie, so they don’t take you backwards on your cat’s weight loss.
Physical exercise is also beneficial and will help to help burn off excess calories. Most cats get their exercise from going outside, however, indoor or lazier cats need to find other means to burn some calories. This is mainly down to you, the owner, to provide more ways to encourage them to move around.
This can be done in many ways, for example the use of various types of toys, such as small catnip-infused balls, lasers, cat scratchers, cat towers and remote controlled or battery-operated toys. These toys will support prolonged feline movement and stimulate play.
This is a process that will take time and you must make sure it is a sustainable method of weight loss for your cat. Regularly weigh them to track their progress. Set a schedule and goal that suits both your lifestyles so your cat’s needs can be easily satisfied.
Contributors: Annabel Holliday on work experience at Burns and Laura Crotch-Harvey.