A great majority of cats seen in veterinary practices are overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to many serious, sometimes life-threatening, health conditions for your pet including joint disease, back pain, diabetes mellitus, increased risk of pancreatitis, hepatic lipidosis, cholangitis, chronic diarrhea, urinary blockages and interstitial cystitis.
Cats are obligate carnivores meaning they must have protein for an energy source. Unfortunately, they have limited ability to process carbohydrates for energy and therefore are more likely to store them as fats. House cats are often bored and eat to relieve boredom and stress. Ways to prevent obesity and other health problems down the road include restricted carbohydrate diets and frequent, measured feedings. In addition, cats should be provided with adequate stimulation to prevent boredom and encourage physical activity. This can take the form of toys, interaction with your pet using laser pointers or throwing toys to chase, implementation of towers for climbing and allowing your pet access to high places to encourage jumping and exploration.
Another important component of the feline diet is water. Cats often don’t drink enough water and therefore must obtain it from their food source. For this reason, canned/wet foods are often encouraged. Chronic dehydration can lead to kidney disease and urinary issues such as crystals and infections. You can encourage your pet to drink more by implementing the use of a fountain type water system or adding water to your pet’s dry food.
There are charts illustrating body condition scores that can help you determine if your cat is overweight or obese. Most veterinary offices have these charts displayed and are happy to help you determine where your cat falls on the scale.