We all know that being over our ideal weight isn’t good for us. Television and media focuses on health for humans but less so for pets. It is highly important for cats to maintain an optimum weight and this article addresses how pet owners can help.
Cats aren't keen on diets. Understandably, some enjoy their food more than others. I struggle to maintain my ideal weight yet I know what I should do. I can’t resist the lure of cake and chips. I’m rather partial to a junk food fix.
Pet owners often show their love by giving treats to pets. In fact, my favourite vet, gives my cat a few treats after her vaccinations. I can’t always resist when my cat asks for treats. Sometimes I use treats to get her out of the living room so we can get the mice out.
Personal Experience of Norwegian Forest Cats (NFC)
My cat Ginger is a NFC which is know for being a larger breed. An adult female NFC weight is said to be between 9lbs to 12lbs. Ginger is 10lbs.
A few years ago the vet said she could do with loosing weight but I said it was natural for her breed to be big. He then replied that cats ribs should be able to be felt through the fur. I told him that I could feel them. He disputed this – quite rightly so. We’d had Ginger a few years by then and I hadn’t noticed the weight increase. So I took the vets advice on board.
Over the last three years Ginger has had a a consistent (but small) weight loss. It has become harder as she has got older. She is more likely to sleep and doesn’t run up the stairs like she used to. In fact, she is very slow on stairs; I anthropomorphise and think she has dodgy knees like me. I am proud that at aged 17 she can climb up the bunk bed ladder still (even if it is only to wake a human up for food).
The problem is that as she moves less, she gets heavier which means it is more difficult to move.
The weather doesn’t help at all with her feeding either. As a family we have noticed that she eats less when it is hot, and always seems hungry when it is cold.
When is a Cat Overweight?
A cats ideal weight varies depending on the cat, its breed and its genetics. Their ideal weight and size is individual to them. The PDSA has a fantastic chart that can help assess your cats condition. At cat with an ideal weight has a waist, you can feel ribs and backbone without pressing too hard. There will be some stomach fat but not much. An overweight cat won't have a waist and it will be difficult to feel the ribs as fat will be present.
Weight Loss Basics
Weight loss in animals is hard! The principle is the same as humans – weight loss happens if calorie intake decreases and energy used increases. So eat less and exercise more. This is definitely easier said than done.
How can I make a cat exercise?
Even with the use of toys, my cat will just move one paw if it comes near her. She has favourite toys that she will chase and others that bounce off walls randomly which means she moves further. I recently wrote a blog on different types of toys so have a read of it to see if there are toys you haven’t tried. Basically, any pet shop will have a range of toys.
Toys where cats have to work for a treat probably aren’t worth while for weight loss. If the puzzle is too hard, they won’t bother; too easy and they will eat more calories than they will use.
Allow cats to roam as much as they can. If they go out, talk to your neighbours and check they aren’t feeding your cat as well. When looking after a cat recently, she ate a bit of food and then was sick a large amount of wet food. As she was mostly fed dry food, I know she must have had a meal elsewhere since the morning.
When to Exercise?
Look for signals from your cat as to when they want to play. I’ve found being self employed has helped as I am around when Ginger has her mad moment about 10am. I can take advantage of this and get the feather fishing rod out, keep her interest and encourage her to move more.
Use food suitable for you cat’s life stage. There is so much food choice now - here is one example. I feed my cat food for seniors as it is lower calorie but filling for her.
Diet food is available in wet and dry food. It is possible to find something similar to what you cat currently eats. Cats may take a while to get used to new food so introduce it slowly. Always make sure there is water available.
Refrain from giving food outside of meal times. It is easy to loose track of what has been given and how much. No, the odd treat doesn’t matter but these can soon add up. (I’m speaking from my own personal experience and diet problems.)
We found that splitting the food into more meals helped. Ginger has three meals a day to give interest in her day and so she doesn’t have to wait so long between meals. She does enjoy her food and also prefers fresh food so this is best for her.
If you are concerned about your pet please contact your vet. If unsure, tell them on the phone what you are concerned about and ask for their advice. Some veterinary practices have weight loss clinics run by vet nurses. They can keep a close eye on your pets weight and offer advice on a one to one basis.
Keep trying! It isn’t easy and it is a slow process. It is as hard for the owners as well as the pets. Pet owners want their loved pets to be happy and it isn’t easy when pets are hungry. Ginger bites either me or my husband when she wants food. We make her wait until her meal times otherwise the time between would get shorter. If she wakes us up at 5am for food, we shut her in the kitchen until 7am.
*** Weight gain can be due to an underlying reason. Please get your pet checked by a vet especially if there are any other changes in their behaviour, health or physical condition.