Obesity is a problem we see very frequently in feline patients. Obesity is not a disease in and of itself, but it can often lead to various diseases. Cats gaining weight are invariably ingesting more calories than they are burning. Chronically overweight feline patients become predisposed to developing diabetes and arthritis. Overweight cats who stop eating for even shorts periods may start to “digest” their liver’s fat, a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis. In the following article, we will review obesity in cats and discuss strategies to keep those extra pounds off your feline friend.
Obesity in cats is almost always caused by an imbalance between physical activity and food/caloric intake, meaning your cat eats more calories than he or she can burn. An unhealthy diet high in calories, giving your cat lots of treats or “human” food, as well as a lack of exercise may all contribute to weight gain. While hypothyroid disease may sometimes contribute to weight gain in a dog, this condition is very uncommon in feline populations.
Your Veterinarian will be able to determine your cat’s nutritional disease once she is brought in for a physical exam. The BCS (Body Conditions Score), is on an objective set of standards used to help determine if your pet is the appropriate weight. An ideal BCS score of 5 (out of 9) means that you can visualize your cat’s waist behind their ribs, you can easily feel your cat’s ribs with only a small amount of fat covering them, and that there is a very small “pat pad” on their underside.
This contrasts with cats who are higher on the BCS scale who score a 6,7,8, or 9 (out of 9). These cats will have excess amounts of fat covering their ribs, with higher-scored patients having the most amount of fat. These cats may also have an observable waist, excess fat on their faces and limbs, and a large fat pad noted on their bellies that hangs down.
Fortunately for overweight cats, there are treatments convenient to help shed those excess pounds. Increasing your cat’s activity using a laser pen, a favorite toy, or even going for a walk on a leash can all help to burn those excess calories. Additionally, feeding your cat at set times, rather than free feeding will help reduce caloric intake. Lower calorie prescription foods are also available to help reduce weight, and eliminating excess treats and “table scraps” can also help.
If you suspect that your cat is overweight, a consultation with our veterinary team can help by providing an accurate starting weight, conducting a thorough Physical Examination, and discussing more strategies to help get your pet fit, and shed those extra pounds.