The Shocking Reality of Obesity in Cats, and What You Can Do to Help
Obesity has always been a cause of concern in society, but the fact of the matter is that humans are not the only ones who can suffer from it. According to USA Today, 59.5% of cats in the United States are considered obese, a statistic that has been unfortunately holding steady in the more recent years. Though this is a shocking number, the upside is that it is very preventable and can be remediated with the proper vet supervised steps.
What Causes Obesity in Cats?
First are foremost, diet is the most common culprit as to why there are so many obese felines today. Oftentimes, cats are being fed the wrong kind of nutrition, are being overfed during mealtime, or are getting too many extra snacks throughout the day. The reality is that many commercial branded cat foods are not as healthy as they proclaim, focusing more on taste rather than quality.
For reference, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must consume muscle meat to grow and maintain proper health. Cat foods that are limited in this and contain more harmful ingredients such as high-carbohydrates and corn-laden can offset your cat’s system, making them still hungry and crave more even after they have already eaten. It is very similar to humans when they eat junk food. Even if you eat a whole bag of chips, your body still wants more because it did not get enough nutrients, despite the calories already consumed.
Some other reasons that can cause obesity in cats include:
- Lack of exercise and play (perhaps you have an indoor cat who does not have the ability to free-range outside)
- Medical reasons such as hypothyroid disease
- Arthritis (causing your cat less mobility)
What are the Risks with Obesity?
Obese felines are not immune to the risks that come with obesity. For example, they can obtain high blood pressure, diabetes, and even develop fatty liver disease if left untreated. In more severe cases, your cat may also cultivate an array of cat cancers, heart disease, osteoarthritis, skin problems, and frequent urinary bladder stones.
In summary, no matter what risk your cat may or may not become victim to, obesity is more than likely going to shorten their life span in the grand aggregate. So, if your cat is overweight, then now is no better time to act.
Though there may be obvious visual signs that your cat is obese, take them to the vet anyways to have a professional assess and determine the underlying cause. Remember, obesity might not be just due to their diet. During diagnosis, you can expect your vet to perform a physical examination and use a body condition scoring system scale to measure body fat. A score of 1 means your cat is too thin, whereas a 5-9 means they are obese. If your vet suspects that diet and exercise are not the key factors, they may recommend a diagnostic test such as blood work to rule out any medical conditions like an underactive thyroid.
Common Treatment Options
Once you and your vet know the root cause of your cat’s obesity, your vet will then create a custom plan to help treat it. If diet-related, you may be given a weight management program to follow with specific nutrient products and directions on feeding. They will also indicate to enter into this new routine slowly, so you do not inadvertently cause your cat malnutrition or shocking their system with a drastic reduction in food. They may also provide you with an exercise program to help you with getting your cat more active each day. It could be with some new interactive toys, going for a leashed walk, or ways you can encourage them to get up and moving.
If the prognosis comes back that your cat’s obesity is due to medical reasons, then your vet will likely prescribe medication as part of the treatment plan.
Obesity in cats is a real, raw illness, and if it is prevalent in your own pet, then understand that there are ways you can combat it. But the longer you wait, the more likely they can develop severe risks like mentioned above. So, set up an appointment with your vet, come up with the best treatment plan for your cat’s needs, and follow it diligently. Over time, you will begin noticing your cat losing pounds, and eventually getting to their goal weight. Once you reach that, your vet will then help you with taking the right steps to keep them there so they can live the life they deserve: happy and healthy.