CAT Stanley here again. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a very sensitive issue. It’s the issue of weight control, or more specifically the problem of being overweight or even obese.
Did you know that, according to our veterinarians, roughly 50% of us are considered to be either overweight or obese? Even worse, many of our human caretakers have difficulty telling when or if we’re overweight!
Our weight, of course, is an important thing to measure and it is useful in tracking whether we’re gaining or losing weight. But weight itself is not the sole determinate in deciding whether a cat is overweight. The ideal weight can vary considerably between different cats. Veterinarians use a body condition score which assesses each cat individually. By determining our body condition score, our veterinarian can determine whether we are overweight or obese. They can also determine whether we are underweight using the same body condition scoring technique.
Does it really matter that much if a cat is a little overweight? Yes, it does. Those of us who are overweight are more likely to get sick because of it. We’re more likely to suffer from pain caused by arthritis. We’re more likely to develop diabetes. We’re more likely to get liver disease. Being overweight really does have an effect on our lives.
Preventing obesity is the best strategy but if it’s already too late for that, implementing a weight loss program for us is the next best thing. But how does one go about doing that?
The reasons a cat becomes overweight are two-fold. We overeat and we don’t get enough exercise. So, a successful weight loss program, in most cases, will be geared toward decreasing our daily caloric intake (while still making sure we get all the important nutrients we need to stay healthy) and increasing our activity.
It may appear to you humans as though your cat isn’t eating that much. But many of the commercial cat foods you feed us are high in calories and are designed to be very tasty so we like eating it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it makes it easy for us to overeat and for you to underestimate how much we actually are eating.
Sometimes, simply cutting back on the amount of food you feed us is enough to help us lose weight. Sometimes, a special food designed to help us lose weight might be necessary. Our veterinarian is the best source of information about what type of food we should be eating and how much we should be eating. We’ll also need to have a physical exam performed by our veterinarian before we start on a weight loss program.
Okay, so cutting back on calories is the first step. What about the second? What is likely to encourage us to get off the couch and get more exercise?
Interactive play is a good starting point. Most of us like to chase things, especially things that imitate one of our natural prey items. Cat wands are great and often get us interested in playing. Laser pointers also are things that some of us love. Each of us is different so experiment a little bit with your own cat to find his/her favorites. Provide plenty of toys and don’t forget to switch them frequently so we don’t lose interest.
Making us work for our food is another way to help us exercise. Instead of piling all of our food in one dish, spread it around the house a little bit here and a little bit there.
Food puzzles are great too. These are little hollow balls that are filled with food. The food comes out as we roll the ball the ball around. These provide not only exercise but also entertainment.
Lastly, don’t forget to provide perches and scratching posts for us. These are other ways to encourage exercise and they provide enrichment for us as well. We cats like to sit up high and survey our kingdom. We especially appreciate it if some of our perches are near a window so we can see what’s happening outside too. And of course, we need to sharpen our claws so a scratching post is a must.