Yeah, that’s not going to happen…
You get to be your cat’s conscience. And if your cat is packing a few extra pounds, here is why you should make the resolution to do something about it.
Why Extra Weight is So Problematic for Cats:
- Liver: Cats are predisposed to a condition called Fatty Liver Syndrome. If they have a lot of extra weight, they are in danger if they stop eating. It doesn’t matter what stops them from eating – whether they get sick with something, or go out and get lost for a few days. If they are not eating, they are going to mobilize their body fat, and in cats with a lot of fat, they will do it too fast for their liver to process. The fat backs up in the liver cells, and effectively shuts them down, putting the cat into liver failure.
- Diabetes: Cats get Type II diabetes, which is generally a direct result of being overweight. Fat cells are inherently insulin resistant; having a lot of fat cells means that the insulin producing cells have to work extra hard, just to overcome the effect of the fat. These hard-working cells build up too much of a by-product protein called amyloid, that plugs them up and stops them working.
- Inflammation: We don’t think of fat as an organ, but it is. And it is an organ that busily produces hormones and chemicals that amplify the inflammatory process. This means that any condition involving inflammation, such as arthritis or asthma, is made worse by excess weight.
How Do You Tell If Your Cat Is Overweight?
- Ribs: Right where the elbows meet the rib-cage, you should be able to feel the ribs just by stroking with light pressure. Try it out feeling for the bones on the back of your hand – it is about the same pressure to feel them as you should need to feel a cat’s ribs. This tip is especially useful for long-haired cats, who have outlines that are harder to see.
- Waist: looking from above, a cat should indent between the back of the ribs and the front of the hips.
- Tuck: looking from the side, a cat’s abdominal wall should tuck up towards the pelvis. It should not be parallel to the floor, and it should certainly not hang down towards the floor. Don’t be fooled by the dangly skin flap – perfectly slim cats can still have extra skin between their hind legs. What we are looking at is the muscular wall of the belly.
Tricks for Getting Weight Off Cats:
- Feed the cat, not the bowl: Free-choice feeding can work for some cats; but most cats that are overweight are on free-choice feeding and are NOT self-limiting feeders. Do NOT just top up the bowl whenever it looks empty. Use a measuring cup to portion out the day’s ration, then dispense the food for the day from that. When the cup is empty, you are all done kitty.
- Diet foods: There are two approaches to weight loss diets for cats:
- Calorie-restricted – these are often bulked up with fibre, to dilute the calories and keep the guts feeling more full.
- Metabolism-boosting – some cats just slow their metabolism right down if you try to restrict their calories. A more recent approach to weight loss diets is to give a balance of protein and fat that effectively “re-sets” the metabolism back to lean-mean hunter mode.
- Canned food: it seems counter-intuitive that canned food would have less calories than dry, as it seems “richer” to our tastes. However, canned food has a couple of big advantages over dry food:
- Less calories per mouthful – canned food’s calories are diluted by the water content.
- No starch – starch is the “glue” that lets you bake a food into a kibble. It is also something that cats are not well-equipped to use – carbohydrates slip under the “radar” of the insulin system. In a canned food, the calories are from fat and protein, which is better for a cat.
- Break up the “Triangle”: a lot of slowed-down, overweight cats limit their mobility to a simple triangle, whose points are bed, food, litter box. To get a heavy cat to move more, you can start placing his food at different places around the house.
- Work for it: Instead of just munching out of a bowl, let your mighty hunter “stalk” his own dinner. Food-dispensing toys not only slow down intake, they offer a psychological boost to cats – a sense of purpose, as they “hunt” to get their dinner. Food toys include mazes, where the cat bats the pieces of kibble to get them to where they are available, or rolling or wobble toys that spill out a piece of food as the cats plays with it.