Did you know that more than 40% of cats in the US are considered obese? That's a staggering number. According to thePetCenter.com, "only 5 to 10 percent of all cats can be classified as only slightly overweight."
Obese cats are at much higher risk than cats of normal weight to have diabetes, arthritis and Hepatic Lipidosis, a very serious disorder. The cause of obesity is very similar to that in humans. The rule of the thumb is that if an animal consumes more calories than it burns, the body will store the excess energy (in a form of fat). The more excess calories it accumulates, the bigger the body will expand. A cat's diet as well as its active level are the main reasons why some cats are exceptionally larger than others. [Is My Cat in Good Shape?]
Any cat that is overweight should have a physical exam performed, exact weight measured and blood and urine tests run. - Obesity in Cats... and What to Do About an Overweight Cat
Many cat owners doubt that their cat's obesity has anything to do with their food intake because they think their cat "hardly eats a thing." They blame it on lack of exercise or sitting on the couch too much. The truth is that "THE main reason for feline obesity (as well as obesity in other mammals) is the consumption of too much food." - Obesity in Cats... and What to Do About an Overweight Cat
I was watching a TV show the other day. A cat owner was puzzled by her cat's heavy, wobbly shape. She followed the feeding directions religiously and only fed her cat twice a day. Not only did her cat show no sign of improvement, to make matter worse, he managed to add a few more pounds. She took the cat to the veterinarians several times to have his thyroid checked out. Everything turned out negative. She even went for a second opinion to see if there was anything else that had not been discovered. All the efforts were to no avail. Finally, her regular veterinarian suggested to cut down the food consumption by 1/3 and come back in a few weeks. To her and her vet's surprise, the cat's weight finally came down.
There are a lot of questions about how accurate feeding directions are. The feeding directions are merely provided as a recommended guide. Every cat is different in some way. They may need more or less of the amount suggested depending on the cat's physical shape and health condition. There are many products out there claim to provide weight control. They are usually tagged with the word "light" which indicates a light, low calorie diet. However, be careful with it because if light means lower protein and other nutrients, it can make your kitty more hungry and crave for more food. Cats' digestive system is designed for dense, energy packed foods. They require a meat based diet that does not have to come in a large quantity. In fact, if you feed them a high quality cat food, they do not seem to eat much at all.
There are many wet canned food choices out there that cost quiet a lot per can, but each serving is small, so in fact you are spending about the same, but your cat is getting adequate nutrients without overeating. Dry food can be a good snack, but it is one of the biggest contributors to feline obesity today. The reason that cats may overeat if fed only dry food is because dry food contains less high quality protein than most wet food. Cats desire many vital nutrients they need and may continue eating until they have obtained those nutrients. Often that results in overeating. With high quality wet food, this type of problem can largely be avoided.
No matter how well a brand of dry food is made, it has to be processed, dried and mixed with some type of carbohydrates or low grade protein. Those are not the primary nutritional needs for cats. It is not uncommon to see cats keep nibbling on their dry food and not able to stop eating. [Does Your Cat Food Contain Corn as a Primary Ingredient?]
We all know how cats crave mice and birds as a food source. A natural source of nutrition for carnivores, mice and birds are a perfect diet for a cat. Did you know that a mouse or a bird is composed of only 3 to 8 percent carbohydrate? And most of that is actually from what the prey was eating and is in the prey's digestive tract. The rest is water, a few minerals, and mostly protein and fat. - Obesity in Cats... and What to Do About an Overweight Cat
Carbohydrate is harder for cats to digest because they do not have the enzyme which helps break down the carbs in the mouth, unlike humans and dogs, we have saliva to help digest carbohydrates. A meat based diet with high quality protein and fatty acids is important for cats to maintain healthy weight.
Most of overweight cats have the tendency to lie around all day without getting any physical activity. Like humans, if we do not exercise, we lose our muscle mass. With extra calories we put into our body, we begin to gain weight. Over a period of time, our metabolism goes down and the body fat percentage shoots up. Obesity is also one of the main causes of depression in humans. That can happen in cats too.
Getting an obese cat to lose weight needs to be done gradually… no crash diets allowed! Cats have a unique metabolic response to fasting and whenever a feline’s food intake is rapidly and markedly depressed, a serious and potentially fatal disorder can occur called Hepatic Lipidosis. - Obesity in Cats... and What to Do About an Overweight Cat
Exercise is especially necessary for kittens. It helps build up their immune system and develop a strong, healthy body. Your interaction with your cats in a physical activity is an excellent way to bond with your cats while getting them in shape. In order to improve your cats' physical level, you can purchase toys that allow you to play together. If you have a tight schedule which keeps you away from your cats, you could "consider adopting a friendly and playful cat from the local shelter so the solitary cat has 'someone' to interact and play with."
I feed my cat a combination of dry and wet food with 80% wet and 20% dry. My kitties' daily activities are fetch, feather wands and various jumping and running playing sessions.
Obesity in Cats... and What to Do About an Overweight Cat has a lot of great tips about what we should feed our cats and what we can do to help a big furry to lose weight in a healthy and effective way.