Just like people with overactive appetites, pets that eat too much can get fat. And, just like overweight people, overweight cats can develop serious illnesses like diabetes, which can result in you as their parent having to give them twice daily insulin injections and manage their food intake. Our Caesar is the largest of all of our cats and no matter what we do in terms of reducing the amount of food we give him, or feeding him less times every day, he has always been a big boy, but we think that may be due to the sheer lack of exercise – or, in fact, any movement at all – from Caesar, on a day to day basis.
So just how many UK pets are overweight?
The number of overweight pet dogs and cats is on the rise. In 2014, White Cross Vets practices held more than 4,000 free weight clinics. PDSA research shows that 80% of vets believe there will be more overweight pets than healthy pets within 5 years, and that 81% of vets have seen a rise in pet obesity in the last twenty years.
It’s important to take action immediate if you think that your cat is overweight, as the extra fat can lead to a range of health problems including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And sadly, it can reduce life expectancy.
Maybe your vet has a weight loss clinic, where nurses will weigh your cat and advise you on the best nutrition and exercise plan for them as an individual.
If your cat’s case is extreme, you can even be put onto a specialist weight loss programme where your cat is made to exercise whether s/he likes it or not.
Common cat exercises are:
- The trusted laser pointer – whenever I pick up my keys, all four of my cats stand to attention. Now I know what it is – it’s the laser pointer keyring I have attached to my keyring! For whatever reason, cats love chasing lights so moving the laser pointer’s red dot light around – up and down walls, over furniture, etc – has them running around like the Serengeti predators that they will always be no matter how domesticated we encourage them to be.
- Off-floor feeding platforms – platforms for your cats to jump up and onto are a great way to get them moving…especially if you place their food bowl with their favourite dish or treat on the highest one. Making kitties jump from the floor all the way up to reach their dinner is a simple and effective method as no cat will refuse to exercise if it means reaching food in the process. Having water bowl on another platform separate to the food one will also mean s/he has to move and burn calories to have a well-earned drink after eating.
- Play prey for hunting – when you get home from work, make time to play with your cat. No matter how tired you are, your cat will undoubtedly have an abundance of energy so playing with him or her is the best way to get rid of that by tiring them out. Buy toys such as a stick and string that you can use to dangle in front of them like real prey so they are enticed into chasing and jumping on.
Diet cat food
Specialist foods like Hills Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution claims to have helped 88 per cent of cats and dogs using the weight loss system lose weight in two months while at home. Just like Weightwatchers, your cat will attend check-ups and weigh-ins to help keep on track until they have reached their target weight.
In terms of cost, some clinics will charge a small fortune for helping your cat to maintain an optimum weight, but you can also find free clinics like White Cross Vets.
If your cat is a regular treat eater – and you’re a naughty regular treat giver – that doesn’t have to stop. It just needs to be done in moderation. You don’t have to worry that if you stop over-treating your cat, s/he will feel unloved. In fact, your cat is not like a kid – it doesn’t see food as being a treat like we do. A kitty is pleased to accept the treats we offer when they are given but s/he is not going to feel rejected if you don’t offer them a treat. Instead, give him or her more time, attention and affection as a treat and s/he will feel even more loved than when you were offering them kibble and treats.
Like all successful diets, a cat’s weight loss is a team effort involving everyone in the house. As the parent, you are responsible for seeing that your cat eats well, but less, and plays more.