What is Obesity?
Excessive fat can have serious negative effects on both a cat's everyday health as well as its longevity. Life expectancy is reduced and serious disorders can arise as a result of obesity, so it is important that you consult with your veterinarian if your cat has gained an excessive amount of weight.
Generally, feline obesity is seen in cats that have a body weight that exceeds the normal weight range by 20 percent or more. Most overweight cats tend to have excessive fat accumulation. This is perhaps one of the easiest things to observe and notice as it is the most frequent nutritional disorder found in domestic cats. In North America alone, roughly 25-35 percent of the general feline population is found to suffer with obesity.
Symptoms of Obesity in Cats
To first deal with a cat's obesity, it is important to detect the signs that indicate your cat is actually significantly overweight. This can be a tough task as cats come in different sizes and shapes, and weight alone may not be a comprehensive measure of obesity. Your vet can assist in determining if your cat has any of the following signs that are typically associated with obesity:
- A noticeable bulge on either side of the base of the tail
- No discernible waist when looking at the cat from overhead
- Ribs or spine cannot be felt with the palms
Causes of Obesity in Cats
There are quite a few things that cause or contribute to obesity in cats. Some cats are at a higher risk than others, but common causes and factors include:
- Neutered cats (may develop a decreased metabolic rate)
- Decreased or restricted activity
- Free feeding
- Medication side effects
- Medical condition
Diagnosis of Obesity in Cats
To first diagnosis obesity, your vet will perform a complete physical examination to be sure that your cat is truly overweight . Cats of different breeds and ages are expected to have different standards concerning weight, so it is important that your cat is examined by a professional to decide if it is suffering from obesity. The vet will use a body condition scoring system scale. This scale measures the cat from 1-5 (3 being normal) or 1-9 (4.5 being normal). A score of 1 indicates a cat is extremely thin, while 5 or 9 (depending on the scale used) indicates obesity.
Your vet may also recommend your cat undergo diagnostic testing. This testing includes blood work that can rule out medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid that may be causing the weight gain. Also, it is important that you tell the vet of any medications your cat may be taking that can contribute to weight gain, as well as giving a detailed report of your cat's diet.
Treatment of Obesity in Cats
Once the nature of your cat's obesity has been discussed, your vet will draw up the proper plan to treat it. No matter what is discussed, it is important that your cat is monitored by a professional as there are health risks involved in dropping weight too quickly. For example, a life-threatening disease known as hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver) can occur. As such, be sure that your cat is under proper supervision before beginning any treatment plan.
Perhaps one of the most important treatments in dealing with obesity is diet. Your vet will place your cat under a weight loss program that will keep track of both weight and their food intake. There are specific nutritional products your vet can discuss with you that will help in this process. It is important to note, however, that the volume of food should not abruptly be reduced as it can cause malnutrition in the future. Everything should be done on a gradual, controlled basis.
Encourage your cat to become more active to help with weight loss. You can use interactive toys that will keep them on their feet and actually enjoying the activity. Also, further movement can be encouraged by making the cat walk more frequently through the house to get things (e.g. using the stairs more often), or even using a pet harness to walk them.
In the event that obesity is caused by certain medications, your vet will discuss means of either changing or ending its use. Also, if a medical condition has been discovered, such as hypothyroid, your vet may treat that with medication that can, in turn, help resolve the obesity.
Recovery of Obesity in Cats
Your vet will stress the importance of taking things slowly when treating obesity. As you see your cat daily, it may be difficult to notice real change, but the process of weight loss can take up to a year or more. If you want to be sure of the weight loss, always remember to have frequent check-ins with your vet.
Gradual is always best to ensure that your cat does not become susceptible to other serious illnesses. When an ideal weight range has been reached, be sure that it is maintained. A relapse can occur if portion control and activity are not properly managed, and this back-and-forth weight loss/gain can be very harmful to your cat.