Your adorable little kitten is a full-grown cat, and she’s getting ‘fluffy’. A bit too ‘fluffy’. She’s having trouble moving as well as she used to, and she may even be experiencing joint pain. You have to face it, it’s time to investigate some weight management options.
Images of happy fat cats like Garfield notwithstanding, being overweight is no joke for a feline. It can seriously shorten their lives and give them severe health issues. Take a look at Vetstreet.com for a list of the negative effects of being overweight.
I feel awful about this. What do I do?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up. According to Pet Obesity Prevention, 58.3% of all US cats are obese. Being overweight is caused by taking in more calories than required by the organism for maintenance of the body’s natural processes and physical activity. There are therefore three ways to tackle weight management.
- Reduce the number of calories going into the system. Reduce the size of meals, cut out snacks and switch to lower-calorie versions of the food currently eaten.
- Increase the amount of calories burned by maintaining the natural processes of the body. Gaining muscle is one way to do this. The more muscle you have, the more energy you will burn, even when not exercising. That’s why bodybuilders can eat so much. Another way to burn calories is to reduce the temperature of your environment. Mammals in cold climates require more calories than animals in warm ones.
- Increase the amount of physical activity. Walks, games, perhaps even a play-date with the cat next door. This has the added benefit of increasing muscle size, which will speed up fat loss.
Weight management starts with your veterinarian
Do you know the healthy weight of a female Maine Coon? Your vet does. She also knows other ways to diagnose whether the cat is overweight, and will give you several strategies for dealing with it.
If you suddenly start cranking the aircon, making your cat work out an hour a day, and dropping the size of her meals, she could get very sick. There’s a condition called hepatic lipidosis which cats can develop if they get placed on a crash diet. It’s potentially fatal.
Find a low-calorie food, get expert advice on recommended portion size (don’t guess!) and don’t crack, no matter how much she begs. Try and space her meals throughout the day. Small, frequent meals aid weight loss more than one or two large ones. And stop with the treats already…
A weight management aid like the Catspad is purrrfect. It monitors water intake (the first sign of liver problems), and frequency of feeding. It dispenses a precise amount of food at specified intervals. By reading the RFID chip implanted in your cat, it can tell WHICH cat it’s feeding, which means it won’t give your cat’s kibble to that freeloader next door. It’s also ideal if you have to leave her alone for a weekend.
More muscle and more bustle
Gaining muscle helps your cat burn more calories, and using that muscle will help her burn off the calories she’s consumed, as well as stored fat. Your cat evolved from wild hunters. She’s going to be so much happier if she’s kept active. Any form of physical activity will help her put on muscle and burn fat. Again: start slow. If she’s used to lying around all day, five minutes of activity is sufficient to begin with. Increase slowly.
There are thousands of toys available for getting your cat up and moving, from the classic ‘piece of string’ to LED pointers and robotic mice. Take a look at some of the best cat toys to suit your kitty’s tastes and your and pocket.
There’s also the old favourite of taking your cat on a walk. Some cats tolerate leashes quite well. Others will simply sit there, plotting your death. It’s up to you which option you choose, but get that cat moving!
Remember, your cat didn’t get fat in week. She’s not going to turn into the svelte kitty she was genetically programmed to be in a week, either. Be patient – it can be a weighting game but she could still be a catwalk model. Enjoy the extra time you’re getting with her (both the time spent exercising and the added years to her life) and try and be calm about this. You’re doing what you can about the problem and showing her you love her by adding to her quality and quantity of life. Try and enjoy the process as well as the final results.