March is National Nutrition Month so we thought we’d dive into a topic that most cat owners will deal with at some point: cat weight gain and obesity. Now, I’m not a veterinarian but I have done my research and consulted with Petcurean’s Senior Nutritionist, Dr. Jennifer Adolphe. However, if you believe your cat is overweight or obese please consult your veterinarian. Also I just wanted to mention that according to our vet, both Fish and Chips could lose a couple pounds (which comes from us spoiling them) so don’t feel bad if your cat falls into this category. We’re constantly learning about our feline friends and how to keep them healthy too.
In the US, 55% of cats are obese or overweight. Unfortunately a lot of this comes from not knowing exactly what a proper weight for your cat looks like. As a general guideline, a small to medium cat should be between 7-13lbs and a large cat 13-24lbs. However, every cat is slightly different and it’s more important to evaluate their individual body shape. Dr. Adolphe provided me with some tips you can use:
“Look for a proportioned, slightly hourglass body shape when viewed from above, a slight tummy tuck, and a thin covering of body fat over the ribs and spine. When running your hands along your cat’s body, you should be able to feel the ribs and hips without pressing hard.”
If you prefer a visual, Petcurean has a super helpful body score chart which can be downloaded at https://www.petcurean.com/blog/body-score-chart-for-cats/.
So what do you do if you think your cat is overweight? Well that depends. According to Dr. Adolphe, if your cat only needs to lose a little bit of weight, you may decide to continue feeding the same food and just reduce the amount. If more weight needs to be lost, a specific weight loss recipe can help to keep your cat feeling satisfied while reducing calories.
She also mentioned that weight loss should be gradual and that portioning is key:
“Ideally, your pet’s food should be weighed as this is more accurate than using a measuring cup and allows you to monitor exactly how much you are feeding. A slow and steady weight loss of 1-2% body weight per week is ideal. Weekly weigh-ins are important as a rapid decline in weight can be harmful to your cat and can cause a severe liver disease call hepatic lipidosis.”
When portioning your cat’s food it’s also important to consider that the guidelines on the bag are exactly that, just guidelines. Dr. Adolphe says that “they should be used as a starting place only, and adjust as needed to maintain an ideal body weight. Energy requirements can vary greatly from cat to cat. Just like there is not a one-size fits all food for every cat, the amount fed also needs to be individualized.”
Dr. Adolphe also brought up that “quality of life and lifespan are likely to decrease as a result of being overweight. Overweight cats are more susceptible to developing diabetes. Extra body weight also contributes to the development of osteoarthritis and can impair cardiovascular health.”
For us, we just try to keep a good balance of exercise and food consumption. Having two cats makes it a little more difficult to keep track of how much they’re eating. Luckily for us they’re around the same age and they get similar amounts of physical activity. If your cat is getting a little chunky it might be time to purchase a harness and get them outside! Even 20 minutes in the backyard can really help. And who knows, they might surprise you and become a great adventure cat!