Okay, so a collar won't make your cat look fat. However, are you making your cat fat? A timely question, as we all — our pets included — move toward the holiday season when food becomes the centerpiece of gatherings and table scraps abound.
I’ve had many a vet comment that my Mack, now 16-year-old Tabby, was a little, well, on the large side. You see, when he was younger, he did tip the scales at 16 pounds. I totally attributed it to him being a big cat. Really. He’s got a long, tall cat body!
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP, a veterinarian association dedicated to raising awareness of obesity in pets) reports that more than 50 percent of owned cats are overweight or obese, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. That means there are around 50 million chubby cats, and 43 million pudgy pups, in the United States. Humans are in control of what pets eat, and too many of us are making our pets fat by indulging in too much wet food, too many treats, table scraps, lower-quality dry food, and not enough activity.
Your overweight cat could be at risk for developing diabetes, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver), and/or arthritis. Other issues could develop as well, such as:
• Reduced life span
• Impaired heart, liver and/or breathing functions
• Digestive disturbances
• Increased surgical risk
• Skin problems
• Heat stress
• Increased diabetes risk
The APOP website (http://www.petobesityprevention.com/) has information on how to check whether your pet is overweight and what his or her ideal weight is, and the caloric content of pet food. Click on the “pet weight translator.” I was shocked to learn that a fluffy 15-pound feline is equal to a 218-pound 5’ 4” woman, or a 254-pound 5’ 9” man. Of course, the chart does not take into consideration whether your cat has a small or large frame.
Helping your cat drop a pound or two may seem simple. Just switch to a reduced-calorie cat food, right? A high-carbohydrate diet could be one piece of the overweight puzzle, since cats really do need more protein than carbs (so yes, read the labels). Check recommended portion sizes while you’re at it. If your cat is significantly overweight, keep in mind that it could be a matter of thyroid issues, which is something your cat’s veterinarian can detect.
During your cat’s next check up, ask what your cat's healthy weight should be and what steps to take to get him or her to that weight. Why? Just go back up to that list of risks.
Kathy is PR Manager for the Cat Adoption Team, author of the Cat's Meow Blog on OregonLive.com, and member of the Cat Writer's Association. She's worked for the Humane Society of the United States and the Oregon Humane Society. Kathy and her hubby live with two 'adopted from a shelter' cats - Mack and Clio.