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Last week we examined the growing problem of feline obesity in modern society. This week we look at the steps we can implement to take control of our cat’s weight and improve their overall health and wellbeing. The two biggest factors that need to be monitored and adjusted are diet and exercise.
Many modern cat foods contain a lot of carbohydrates. A cat’s body is not naturally equipped to handle a high carbohydrate diet and this type of food is not burned off easily through exercise, instead it will result in weight gain.
Protein is the essential nutrient in a cat’s diet. Cats are carnivores by nature and it is vital that they get a sufficient amount of protein with a high quality meat-based diet.
You may choose to discuss weight loss or ‘light’ cat foods with your vet, these are special formulations with a lower calorie content but which contain all the essential minerals and vitamins that your cat needs in their diet.
Cut out treats and snacks. If you are in the habit of feeding your cat tidbits from the table or whilst you’re in the kitchen preparing a meal – you need to stop. Modifying your and your family’s behaviour is key to ensuring weight loss success for your cat. To avoid temptation you may want to remove your cat from the room when you eat.
Never attempt to put your cat on a ‘crash diet’. You need to ensure that your cat is getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals in their diet at all times. Restricting or reducing your cat’s food intake too quickly can lead to potentially serious health conditions.
Exercise for Your Cat
Unlike dogs, it isn’t easy to take your cat for a walk on a leash (unless you have trained them to do this) so to encourage your cat to be more active and burn up more calories you need to be imaginative. Don’t just place food right in front of them. Put the bowl at the top of the stairs to get those muscles moving. Alternatively, purchase a special feeding ball and place some of the cat’s daily allowance inside, your cat will need to roll and play with the ball to release the food.
Try adding some interactive toys to your cat’s home to encourage more physical activity. Have them chasing a ball or use a “fishing toy” to simulate hunting for prey. In our household we have dedicated kitty playtime each evening which is hugely popular.
Cat towers which can be climbed and scratched also encourage your cat to exercise and are good for building up muscle and strength.
Adopting another cat from your local cat rescue organisation can also help. Two cats are likely to spend time playing together and chasing each other, gaining much needed exercise.
If you have an indoor cat consider installing a purpose built outside enclosure to give them access to some open space and encourage more physical activity.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best choice of food for my cat?
Cats are carnivores by nature. A wild cat catches its prey and eats it whole. In modern society we frown upon cats which catch birds or mice and opening a tin of cat food is preferable.
The key point to remember when deciding what to feed your cat is to ensure they receive an adequate and balanced diet. Make sure you are providing a healthy mixture of canned food, dried protein, biscuits, semi-moist nuggets, and of course fresh food.
How often and how much should I feed my cat?
The exact amount of food a cat needs depends on a variety of factors including size, age, metabolism, how much exercise they get, and if they are a pregnant or nursing mother. A good rule of thumb to follow is that an average adult, neutered cat will need two meals a day. In terms of the amount, roughly 250 grams of canned cat food per meal or 100 grams of a freshly cooked meat such as chicken or fish should be adequate.
Should I consult with my vet before putting my cat on a diet?
YES, absolutely. Before starting any weight-loss program you must get advice from your vet. Your cat should be weighed and examined for any underlying health issues or medical causes of obesity (eg. underactive thyroid) before you change its diet.
Successful weight loss is a slow and gradual process but be patient, stick with it and continue to follow your vet’s advice to ensure the optimal health and wellbeing of your feline friend.
Images: Yukari / Wayne Noffsinger / Randi Deuro via Flickr
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