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Blog October 2020
The Importance of Pet Obesity and Optimal Weight
October 14th 2020 Pet Obesity Awareness Day
Is your cat a little on the chubby side? Many cats in the United States could stand to lose a little weight, and it’s important that we get them back on the right track. This day reminds us to make a few changes for the good of our kitty. And the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention would love for you to take part in its 13thAnnual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey. Find it at petobesityprevention.org.
Weight loss can be challenging for anyone – two- or four-legged! However, losing weight and getting in shape can add not only years to you or your pet’s life; it can also make those extra years more enjoyable. Helping your cat attain a healthy weight may be easier than you think. It simply requires understanding the need for weight loss and fitness, attention to details, and guidance and assistance from your veterinary healthcare team.
Why a Healthy Weight is Important for your Cat
As little as two pounds above your cat’s ideal weight can put it at risk for developing some serious medical conditions. Unfortunately, when a cat is overweight or has obesity, it is at great risk for developing a secondary condition. Some of the common feline weight-related disorders include:
Further, overweight felines and cats with obesity are expected to live shorter lives than their normal weight counterparts. Cats with obesity tend to physically interact less with their families and are often less energetic and playful. We are just beginning to understand how serious and threatening extra adipose tissue can be for both humans and pets. There is a body of emerging evidence that links obesity with cancer due to severe systemic inflammation.
Start with Calories
For weight loss, the formulas seem simple enough: fewer calories in minus more calories out equal weight loss. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. For starters, cats that are overweight or diagnosed with obesity must eat. We always go slowly with dietary change because if a cat becomes completely anorexic, they can develop a life-threatening form of liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis. Humans with obesity starting a diet program are also vulnerable to this serious condition. It is for this reason that you should never put your cat on a diet without the assistance of your veterinary healthcare team.
At Brick City Cat Hospital, we use two scoring systems to help determine the ideal body weight for your kitty- The body condition scoring system BCS, and the muscle condition scoring system MCS. https://petnutritionalliance.org/site/pnatool/patient-assessment/
We pair this information with your cats’ comprehensive health exam, taking into account all the medical and dietary history to come up with a plan.
Based on this assessment, we will calculate the ideal body weight for your kitty and come up with calories recommendation.
For many cats, the best way to manage their hunger will be by offering a canned diet food fed several times per day. It is vital that you closely monitor and record calories when starting a weight reduction program. Feeding too much will result in no weight loss and feeding too little can result in serious consequences such as hepatic lipidosis
The Art of Changing Diets
When you are introducing a new brand of food to your cat, allow several days for the transition. In general, we recommend gradually adding the new food over a one to two-week period. Start by substituting one-quarter of the new brand for two to three days, then increase to one-half total volume of food for another two to four days, then three-quarter new food for a final three to five days before completely switching to the new menu. Sometimes, it can take up to 3 weeks to make a diet transition.
The reason why we go slowly in food transition is to avoid gastrointestinal upset. This could result in vomiting, diarrhea, or reduced appetite in your cat. Never starve your cat into accepting a new food.
In an ideal world, we’d take a jog with our cats or enjoy a mile swim in the morning to stay fit. We certainly don’t live in that world! Getting cats to engage in slow, long-duration aerobic activity isn’t just difficult – it goes against their biology. Cats weren’t designed to function as scavengers and persistence hunters the way humans and dogs evolved. Instead, cats evolved as predators and stalkers who expended very little energy seeking their prey and seldom strayed far from their territory. When they came across prey, they burst into an intensely anaerobic and short-duration hunt. Most wild cats would pursue their prey at top speed for less than a minute. Once this activity was complete, they required hours to physiologically recover before their next hunt. If they missed several consecutive prey opportunities, they could be in serious danger of lacking the energy necessary to successfully hunt.
Our domestic cats are very similar to these wild felines. While our dogs may enjoy a brisk walk or jog, our cats aren’t designed for that sort of activity. Our cats prefer the hundred-yard dash to the marathon. Even more complicating is the fact that cats evolved on a diet based on protein as opposed to humans and dogs that can eat a wide variety of vegetables, proteins, and fats. Since cats are obligate carnivores, the same dietary rules don’t apply. Many cats will do better on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet for weight loss for this reason.
Just because cats aren’t good endurance athletes doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage physical activity. Some simple tips for getting your cat to move more are:
Use food puzzle to create a hunt for cats- here are some links from our website to use this method for feeding:
Rechecks and Weigh-Ins
After you and your veterinarian have put your cat on a weight loss program, it’s critical that you determine if it’s working for your cat. Each cat is an individual and may require many changes in diet or routine before finding the ideal approach. In general, your cat should be weighed every month until the ideal weight is achieved. If there is no significant weight loss in one month, then a new approach should be considered. Change daily calories, diet formulations, or physical activity routines. There is nothing more frustrating than persisting in a protocol that fails to achieve results, when a slight change could deliver significant improvements. Work closely with your veterinary healthcare team to reach your goals faster and more safely.
What about the cat that wakes you at four in the morning to be fed, or the cat that meows incessantly or head bumps you until you feed them? Our cats have often trained us well and know exactly which buttons to press when it comes to getting their way. Here are some tips for handling a pesky kitty:
Using a toy like the Egg-cersizer which we keep in stock here at Brick City will allow you to put small amounts of kibble in a toy your cat has to interact with to get the food out.
Offer fresh water instead of food. Many cats love fresh water so when they are eyeing an empty food bowl, trying filling up the water bowl instead.
What do you do if one cat is normal weight and the other is diagnosed with obesity? While there are countless creative solutions to this problem, here are a few we’ve found successful:
Most cats will achieve their ideal weight within six to nine months. If the process is taking longer than this, some aspect of the weight reduction program needs to be changed.
Typical minimum weight loss per month for a healthy adult act is about 0.5-lbs. Ideally, your cat will lose close to one pound per month. Some cats may need to lose weight slower while others may reach their weight loss goals more quickly.
If you're not seeing desired weight loss within 30 to 90 days, consider changing daily calories, pet food formulation, protein or fiber levels, or physical activity.
BE SURE ALL POTENTIAL UNDERLYING MEDICAL CAUSES FOR OBESITY HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED BEFORE BEGINNING ANY WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM.
Always remember the reason for your efforts is to help your cat live a longer, healthier life. For most cats, the secret to weight loss is a dedicated, committed and concerned family member. It’s up to us as good stewards to protect them from harm and not inadvertently contribute to their premature death or development of debilitating diseases. Together – Brick City Cat Hospital Doctors and Technicians, you and your cat – we can help your cat achieve its weight loss and health goals safely and successfully.