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Caring for Your Overweight Cat

Just like in humans, obesity in cats can lead to many health complications and diseases. Yet today, there are many overweight cats out there that need to shed a few pounds. Many owners might not even know that their cats are carrying too much weight because fur can cover some of that chubbiness.

But obesity is not cute and is the cause of many problems for domesticated cats.There are diseases and disorders that can be linked to diet and obesity. Organs get stressed when the body is carrying too much fat. Bones and joints also come under stress.

Common ailments linked with cat obesity include diabetes mellitus, hepaticlipidosis, and arthritis. Diabetes has become more common in today’s cats, especially in those that are obese. The disease is caused by the body being unable to secrete enough insulin to convert sugars or glucose into energy (type 1), or the body’s cells not responding adequately to insulin (type 2).

A typical symptom of diabetes is excessive thirst and urination. Basically, the body is trying to rid itself of the excess  glucose in the urine by flushing it out via urination. Another symptom is weight loss as the body cannot covert glucose into energy, causing hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels. Your overweight cat may also become lethargic, have an increase in appetite, exhibit weakness in the rear legs, and have poor fur condition.

Diabetes is a serious condition and can cause death, so if you suspect your cat is suffering from this disease, act quickly to have him diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian.

Another complication that could affect your cat because of obesity is hepaticlipidosis, or fatty liver. This condition is usually caused when a cat stops eating for three or more days and in some cases is a side effect of hyperthyroidism or diabetes.

When you put your cat on a decreased food diet, you have to be careful not to overdo it so your cat doesn’t develop this complication. Nature never intended for cats to store huge amounts of fat, so when our spoiled, domesticated cats get overweight, then we try to get them slimmed down too quickly, the liver can’t properly convert the stored fat into energy and the liver fails.

This is something you’ll want to discuss with your vet so you feed the right amount of food to your cat when undergoing a weight-loss program.

Although there are several different types of arthritis that cats can suffer, this condition, which is generally known as an inflammation of the joints, tends to be a bigger problem for an obese cat. They are more prone to suffering from arthritis, and if they have it, will suffer more when carrying around excess fat.

If you see that your cat seems to have pain and stiffness when moving around, it’s time for a vet visit to diagnose the problem to see if it is arthritis so you can start begin treatments to alleviate pain and prolong the health of the joints.

And what causes obesity? You can probably guess correctly that it’s pretty much caused by the same things that hurt humans –poor diet and lack of exercise. Just like in humans, if your cat takes in more calories than it burns, the excess will turn into fat.

Our pampered pets at home, especially those that are strictly indoor cats, don’t usually exercise like their wild ancestors. In those times, a meal was never a sure thing. They had to work hard to put food in their bellies, so they were expending a lot of energy and calories to catch a meal so they could survive another day.

Our cats mainly eat and sleep in our comfortable homes that have no challenges, no threats, and readily available food that doesn’t need to be chased down. Food is usually abundant, and sometimes cats are even fed table scraps.

When considering your cat’s diet, remember that he is an obligate carnivore, or a meat-eater. Cats are designed to eat and thrive on a meat-based diet. They are not able to process and utilize carbohydrates like humans. But if you look at the bags or boxes of commercial dry cat foods available, you will see that most have grains such as corn or wheat as their number one ingredient. Dry cat foods also contain flour and sugar as binding ingredients.

To keep your cat’s diet well-balanced for the natural meat-eater he is, the food should contain about 35% to 45% protein (dry weight, meaning calculation is based percent of diet after water is removed), about 40% fat, and very little carbohydrates. Although we treat our cats like our babies, they are not human and they do much better when eating a high-protein, high-
fat diet.

To check if your cat is overweight for its size and breed, you should talk to your veterinarian. They can give you guidelines about how much your cat should weigh and how they should look.

Have the vet give your cat a full physical checkup, including blood and urine tests, before you do anything. It’s important to make sure your pet is generally healthy and doesn’t have any underlying disease or problem that is causing his obesity, such as a thyroid or metabolic disorder. Remember that age, which brings on decreased activity and a slower metabolism, can also lead to excess weight.

If your cat happens to be overweight, he will need help from you. You control his food and to some extent, his activity level. Consult with your vet about what kind of diet your cat should be consuming so that he gets proper nutrition, while at the same time cutting calories. Ask about the proper amount and frequency of feedings, and about any supplements that
your cat may need.

As for activity, it’s usually fairly simple to get a cat up and moving. They are natural predators, so you can tap into their instincts and have them chase after toys such as a toy mouse on a string or the light from a laser pointer.

Buy or build a structure, like a tall cat condo so your cat will have something to jump up onto or climb up onto. If your cat is the only pet, consider adopting another cat as a playmate. This will take a little discipline and dedication from you so that your cat gets a good amount of running and jumping around every day. Just like for us humans, start out slow and build up your cat’s exercise routine. Don’t overdo it at the beginning. You don’t want to injure your cat!

As with humans, rapid weight loss is not desirable. Slow and steady weight loss is the best for your cat and it’s all up to you to help him achieve that goal. Once your cat is at optimum weight, you can be happy that you’ve helped him add quality and probably quantity to his life.


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