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Feline fitness: How to prevent obesity for a healthier, happier kitty

Feline fitness: How to prevent obesity for a healthier, happier kitty

As loving cat owners, it’s easy to want to pamper our kitties’ with treats and extra helpings of food. However, this can quickly contribute to pet cats becoming overweight. A cat's weight plays a significant role in its overall health and wellbeing, and a healthy weight can also help save you from costly medical bills down the road. We want to prevent obesity before it occurs because weight loss is more complicated and difficult to achieve than taking steps to prevent it. 

Recognizing cat obesity

Over 60% of cats will develop obesity. Key indicators of whether a cat is in good body condition or not, are how difficult it is to palpate their ribs with light pressure, as well as certain visual markers. Overweight cats often exhibit an abundance of abdominal fat, leading to a distended abdomen and ribs that are tricky to locate. Cats should have a discernible waist visible when viewed from above, and an abdominal tuck when observed from the side. Regular monitoring and awareness of these physical cues can help cat owners assess their feline friends’ weight status.

Health risks associated with cat obesity

Obesity in cats is linked to various serious health conditions. Respiratory compromise, urinary tract diseases, increased risk of certain cancers, orthopedic problems such as arthritis, and diabetes are among the issues associated with feline obesity. Fatty liver disease is a dangerous condition that develops rapidly in overweight cats who stop eating, or decrease their caloric intake for several days, and it can be fatal without medical intervention. Additionally, anesthesia and surgery are more challenging in overweight cats, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy weight for overall wellbeing and reducing the risk of complications.

Preventing and managing cat obesity

A simple yet effective approach is meal feeding measured amounts of food, and working with a veterinarian to ensure your cat’s daily caloric intake isn’t excessive. Feeding guidelines on food packaging are broad estimates rarely appropriate for individual cats, since metabolisms and activity levels vary significantly. Cats that graze freely, particularly on dry food, are more likely to become overweight, making portion control a crucial aspect of their diet. Kitties also benefit significantly from eating at least two portions of canned food every day. The extra moisture in the diet can help cats feel full with less calories, and the higher protein and fat content in wet food along with lower carbohydrates, are also key for keeping cats lean. Additionally, it’s important to remember that treats can contribute to obesity as well. They should be limited to well under 10% of daily caloric intake.

Exercise is another essential component of preventing obesity in cats. Leashed walks around the neighborhood, outdoor catios, playtime with toys, and interactive feeding methods are effective ways to keep your cat moving, and help reduce overeating. Ensuring that cats have to work (ie. ‘hunt’) for their calories by using food puzzles such as kibble dispensing toys and wet food mats, rather than presenting food passively in a dish goes a long way in satisfying cats’ predatory behavioural needs and keeping them mentally and physically stimulated. 

Maintaining a healthy weight in your feline companion can significantly improve their health outcomes and lifespan. By recognizing the signs of obesity, understanding the associated health risks, and implementing preventive measures you can ensure a longer, healthier, and happier life for your cat. If in doubt or if obesity is already a concern, consulting with your veterinarian or a TELUS Health MyPet veterinarian can provide a personalized plan for your cat's specific needs.

Download the TELUS Health MyPet app and speak with a pet expert about your cat’s weight today. 

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