The indoor lifestyle our feline companions live is safe, but it is not often a very active one. Cats are predators and are built to expend energy through their daily hunt for food. Most do not need to hunt for food, and end up consuming far more energy than they expend. Fat cats are at risk of a number of disease processes, the most concerning of which is diabetes.
Diabetes may require twice daily administration of insulin injections, and is quite a process to manage. Diabetes if left untreated leaves your cat at risk of infections, neuropathies, and life-threatening ketoacidosis.
Joint disease is another risk of obesity, and joints will wear much faster when required to move heavy loads. This could make your cat’s senior years very painful for them and it is not the future they deserve. Rupture of their cruciate ligaments (stabilisers of the knee joints) is an elevated risk in overweight kitties, and requires surgery to fix.
Liver disease is another possibility. With an increase in body fat, the risk of fat accumulating in the liver becomes increased. If your cat experiences any period of inappetance or starvation, there is a big risk of hepatic lipidosis as the fat reserves are mobilised as energy sources. Once the liver is clogged with fat, it will start shutting down with often fatal results.
Encouraging at least 20mins of rigorous play daily (estimated as the average amount of time a wild cat would spend hunting for food each day) may help prevent feline obesity. You can encourage this by using interactive toys. Laser pointers, feather wands (such as Da Bird by Go-Cat), catnip toys, cardboard boxes, and ball games all will help a cat burn their extra energy before it is deposited as fat.
Another way weight gain can be prevented is by restricting the number of calories your cat receives each meal. The stomach of the average cat is about the size of a golf ball, which means providing a huge bowl of food is only going to encourage overeating. Cats love routine, and love making new habits for themselves. If you encourage overeating and snacking, your cat is going to turn this into a habitual behaviour, even when not hungry. These types of behaviours are very hard to break and you will be creating a huge task for yourself should you then choose to restrict their diet. Changing the volume of the food rather than the frequency of meals is less likely to be noticed by your cat. Stick to regular mealtimes, but reduce the quantities of each if you want to see weight loss but without the whinging.
There are also foods available that encourage a cat’s metabolism to become more effective and can encourage the burning of extra calories. These diets are not low fat or restricted calorie diets per se, so should be tasty enough that the cats enjoy eating them. Please ask us if you think your cat is a good candidate for one of these metabolic diets.