Millions of views online have been given to fat cat video or photo compilations. Let’s face it, overweight cats can be funny and adorable. Less humorous, however, are the real health risks associated with obesity in cats and dogs. In a recent PetMio blog post on pet obesity, we discussed how pet obesity is considered an epidemic. Currently “it now affects more than 92.4 million dogs and cats in the United States.”
Obesity in cats can lead to diabetes, major body function ailments, pain in later years, even loss of years of life. We know you want what is best for your feline friend. So read on to find out how to find the best cat food for overweight cats.
How You Can Tell If Your Cat Is Overweight
This will involve an inspection of the sides of your cat, called a rib check. Dr. Stobaeus recommends to feel either side of your cat, on their rib cage, and along the top of the spine. You want to be able to feel their ribs with your fingers like if you were playing a guitar. You should not, however, be able to see them from afar. Feeling the cat’s spine should be possible; it should be slightly more prominent than the muscle on either side of the spine. Your cat should have a defined waist immediately below their rib section.
If you feel a padding between your fingers and the ribs, or the sides of the spine are taller than the spine itself, you most likely have an obese cat.
Age Isn’t Just a Number
A very important factor in determining what to feed your cat is age. Kittens, for example, have differing nutritional needs than older cats. As a rule, Dr. Nobuki Stobaeus, member of the PetMio Veterinary Advisory Panel, suggests to avoid “one-size-fits-all” cat foods. These blends claim they are designed for all life stages. In order to do this, however, they need to be healthy for a kitten. A kitten’s needs are not healthy when given to an older, more obese cat.
We have further reading for you in the PetMio blog posts Best Cat Food for Kittens and Best Cat Food for Older Cats. Read these, do your own research, and talk with your vet to ensure your cat is on the right life stage food for their unique lifestyle and needs.
Best Cat Food for Overweight Cats: High Fiber, Low Calories
In looking for the best cat food for overweight cats, Dr. Stobaeus says “I expect it to have a high fiber content and a lower caloric content. This allows the cat to feel satiated and eat less overall as well as lose weight by the body digesting its fat stores for energy.”
Kasra Farsad, PetMio Chief Food Scientist, states that while looking for diet formulas, find foods that have fruits and vegetables listed early on the ingredient list. This will ensure that the fiber listed is quality fiber and makes up a majority of the promised fiber in the food.
Avoid Common Mistakes
One of the most common mistakes Dr. Stobaeus sees in his patients on a diet is their owners start to feel bad about the diet. In essence, the overweight cats’ owners cheat on the diet for the cat. An owner might start to give cat treats or, worse, human food treats.
“This completely defeats the purpose,” Stobaues says, “because now they are adding on extra calories to the diet as well as creating a taste aversion to the weight loss diet because the cat treats and human food tastes better.”
Another mistake pet parents make, according to Farsad, is to reduce their portion sizes of regular cat food.
“Although this quickly achieves the goal of reduced calorie intake,” Farsad says, “it creates two problems for your cat. The first issue is the food is formulated to have a set amount of vitamins and minerals to meet their daily needs and by reducing the quantity you may be preventing them from meeting their needs. The other issue is by reducing quantity, your cat will likely not feel full at the end of their meal and seek extra food on their own.”
So buy a high-quality diet formula – then stick with it!
Talking to Your Vet
The PetMio team believes strongly that you should have a consistent relationship with your vet. In considering a diet for your cat, Dr. Stobaeus recommends you ask your vet the following questions:
- Does my cat need to go on a weight loss diet in the first place? – Some breeds of cats are larger than others, or they have a higher amount of muscle than fat so while you may think they are overweight, they are actually in optimum shape.
- How much weight does my cat need to lose? – Sometimes cats need to lose a lot of weight and therefore, a weight loss diet would be needed. More often than not though, they just need to eat the right amount of their normal diet (rather than excessive amounts), and limit the amount of treats that they get.
With careful research and your vet, you will be able to find the best cat food for overweight cats in your unique situation.
Give the Diet Time
Ultimately if you and your vet decide a diet is necessary, discuss how long your cat should be on a diet for the desired weight loss. The time it takes for a cat to lose weight is really different for every cat.
“Generally though,” Dr. Stobaeus affirms, “the more overweight a cat is, the longer it is going to take to lose that weight. The main theme is that you want to lose the weight slowly so it stays off once it’s gone.”
Another big factor in time spent on diet is pet parent compliance; feeding the diet as directed and not adding in any extra treats. If you stick to the weight loss diet, and the cat is healthy otherwise, you should see progress within a month and hopefully reach your goal within a few months.
Don’t Forget Exercise and Lifestyle of Your Cat!
Not understanding your pet’s actual caloric need is the the primary cause for pet obesity. The recommendations provided on the back of a food package, Farsad asserts, should be a starting point for serving size and should be adjusted to your specific pet. For example, if your cat is an indoor cat and overall not very active, they will likely not need as many calories so the portion size should be reduced.
Weight loss in a cat isn’t just about the food, however. PetMio believes strongly in a holistic approach to pet health, including the lifestyle of the pet. We encourage you to find toys and games your cat will enjoy and get some cardio in there.
Cat towers, feather toys, teaser toys, or even balls with catnip can be helpful in getting your cat some exercise. You may even find success with stitching a few cardboard boxes together for your cat to run through, or using nontoxic glue to stick feathers onto an empty paper towel roll. Talk to your vet about which toys are healthiest for your cat.
With your help and a plan with your vet, your overweight cat will benefit from its weight loss plan. Their senior years will be less painful and more playful, so stick with it! Be sure to check out PetMio and what we’ll be doing very soon to ensure your cat gets what they need, when they need it, according to their lifestyle.