Feline Obesity—Fun Facts
Did you know…..approximately 50% of U.S. cats are overweight or obese.
Do you have a flabby feline? If you notice she cleans the floors with her stomach—there is a problem! All joking aside, health risks of obesity are real. It contributes to many medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, compromised immune function and can even predispose to certain types of cancer. It has been well documented that cats maintaining an ideal body weight live longer, and with less disease, than overweight cats. It is a fact that cats will live shorter lives if obesity is not addressed.
While most owners realize that their cat may be “a little heavy”, they often don’t recognize when their cat is truly obese. When a vet says “Sylvester” should lose 2 or 3 pounds, it often goes in one ear and right out the other. Really…who doesn’t have a few pounds to lose? But this is us thinking in human weight terms.
Most domestic cats should weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Some breeds have larger ranges. For example, Persian cats can be smaller at 6 or 7 pounds and up to 12 pounds. Siamese are similar. Maine Coon cats, Norwegian Forest Cats and some others can be normal up to 23 to 25 pounds. But…these are the exceptions. Most cats should weigh 8 to 10 pounds. As a veterinarian, I commonly see 13 to 18 pound cats…that indeed should weigh 8 to 10 pounds. Did you know….
12 pound cat: these extra 2 pounds on a (should-be) 10 pound cat is like 28 pounds on a 140 pound woman.
13 pound cat: these extra 3 pounds on a (should-be) 10 pound cat is like 42 extra pounds on a 140 pound woman.
15 pound cat: these extra 5 pounds on a (should-be) 10 pound cat is like 70 extra pounds on a 140 pound woman.
18 pound cat: these extra 8 pounds on a (should-be) 10 pound cat is like 112 pounds on a 140 pound woman.
All cats in this example are obese….meaning they are 20% or greater over their ideal body weight. These are weights that veterinarians see every day. This kind of weight problem is responsible for many preventable illnesses in our cats.
What causes obesity?
While some cat’s do indeed have a medical condition that predisposes them to obesity, most often it is a result of simple overfeeding. Cats are typically overfed their cat food as well as “over-treated”.
An average lazy 10 pound house cat usually needs only 180 and 200 calories each day! As a person eating a 2000 calorie diet, those number are hard to imagine. That would be like us eating only 1 cup of chicken breast each day…but it is accurate for our small feline friends.
What kind of food and treats are best for cats to lose weight?
As many commercial dry cat foods are very calorie-dense with 400 to 500 calories per cup, it is very easy to overfeed your cat. Many owners are in the bad habit of “free-feeding” their cats by placing the food bowl down and filling it up as the level gets low. It is impossible to know how many calories this is…but usually represents gross overfeeding. It is best to meal-feed your cat with a precise measuring cup to get the calories just right.
As strict carnivores, it is easiest for cats to lose weight on a high-protein, low carbohydrate natural canned food. Treats must be chosen wisely and high-carbohydrate, high-calorie treats must be avoided. Go natural with baked treats like Halo’s Healthsome cat treats with real chicken and only 1.5 calories per treat or freeze-dried meat treats like Halo’s Liv-a-Littles to help kitty lose that chub. Avoid the little cubes of cheese out of the refrigerator or other high-calorie treats as you can easily provide 50% or more of your cat’s calorie requirements with this type of treating.
What can you do?
- The first step is to admit there is a problem. Get motivated on your cat’s behalf!
- Talk to your vet. Get your cat a full medical checkup. Find out just how overweight or obese your cat is. Find out what their ideal body weight is. Find out how many calories they should eat each day.
- Choose the best food for weight loss in your cat. Talk to your vet about a natural high protein canned food like Halo to aid in weight loss while still maintaining lean body mass and strength. Consider Halo’s Liv-a-Littles as a perfect protein treat for your cat—ask your vet how many treats your cat can have every day.
- Exercise your cat! Play laser tag—something to get your cat moving for at least 20 minutes each day.
- Monitor your cat’s progress and stay on track.
Check out this great website about pet obesity prevention for more tips on weight loss:
Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM, ,is a renowned, board-certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and other leading institutions. She is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Donna has written and lectured extensively on topics including nutrition, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, kidney failure and respiratory disease. She is widely recognized for her role as consulting veterinarian to HALO, Purely for Pets, her TV appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and her widely-quoted pet health advice in print and on radio. Dr. Donna performs medical, nutrition and weight loss consultations for dogs and cats through her web-based veterinary consulting service, www.SpectorDVM.com.