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Anyone who shares their house with a cat, knows the lonely meows that are made when their food dish is not empty, but just empty enough. Many times, it is when you are rushing out the door or are trying to get your full eight hours of sleep. So what do you do? Throw some more food in their dish and go about your business. However, a constantly full food dish may be putting your cat’s health in danger.

According to Dr. Katarina Luther of the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, statistics show 60 percent of cats are obese, and are at risk of serious medical conditions including arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more.fat cat

“Skin dermatitis is even a problem, as they decline in grooming behavior when it becomes too challenging due to their size,” she says.

One of the biggest causes of feline obesity is the food dish that is constantly full of kibble.

“Cats that are left with a bowl of calorie-dense kibble to munch on free-choice often overeat due to boredom or stress,” says Dr. Luther. “A few extra teaspoons of dry kibble over a few months can easily tack on extra weight.”

If you are unsure if your cat is overweight, you can use the visible Body Condition Score (BCS) system. Due to the wide range of cat sizes and structure, this is the best way to assess a cat’s condition.

“Some veterinarians prefer to use a 5-point system, where 3 is ideal and some use a 9-point system, where 5 is ideal,” says Dr. Luther. “Some large cats may be a BCS 5/9 while weighing 12 pounds, while others may be an 8/9 at 12 pounds. BCS considers the fat over their ribs, waist, and their abdominal fat to judge if that weight is appropriate for their stature.

Other factors that may indicate your cat is overweight include them being lethargic, not eager to play, not grooming as they should, or not as social as usual. However other medical problems should always be ruled out as well.

“It is the veterinarian’s job to advocate for cats and educate owners about the importance of weight control to avoid health conditions in overweight cats,” says Dr. Luther.

If your cat is overweight, it’s vital that their weight loss plan include a veterinarian.

“Cats have very specific caloric needs, protein requirements, and other nutritional needs,” Dr. Luther explains. “If they lose weight too quickly, they can become very ill. Weight loss should be regulated and done with a healthy nutritional plan.”

If you have recently added a kitten to your family, take the time to talk with your veterinarian on how much they should be eating and how often. According to Dr. Luther, your kitten should be seeing their veterinarian several times throughout their first year to gauge their growth and determine their nutritional needs.

If your cat is overweight, don’t feel discouraged or embarrassed.

“It’s difficult to get cats to lose weight as adults, but it’s still possible,” says Dr. Luther. “Regular veterinary visits and discussion of their feeding routines, home environments, and lifestyle are all pieces of the puzzle to keeping cats happy and healthy.”

To kickstart a healthy feline lifestyle, find ways to incorporate interactive play into your cat’s daily life. Games that mimic hunting and spark that natural desire are best. Other possibilities include having a companion cat, and according to Dr. Luther many cats enjoy interacting with a feline friend. Feeding toys that get cats moving and “hunting” are also available. Some of these toys hide the kibble in hidden mice-like dispensers.

Another option is maybe one you haven’t considered; taking your cat outside.

“Slowly getting cats used to being outdoors on leash and harness is an excellent safe way to not only get them physical activity, but also stimulate their senses with natural smells, sounds, and sights that indoor-only cats often lack,” says Dr. Luther.

Before letting your cat outside, be sure to work with your veterinarian to make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations, flea and tick control, and are dewormed.

If you are concerned about your cat’s weight, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

“Follow up, support, and assistance is a part of any thorough health-care plan,” says Dr. Luther. “The reward of seeing a cat play more, socialize more, and just have a new happier personality as they lose weight is worth the effort.”

To find a veterinary clinic near you, visit www.wvma.org/findaclinic.

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4610 S. Biltmore Lane, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: (608) 257-3665
Fax: (608) 257-8989
Email: wvma@wvma.org

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