Cats are very susceptible to weight gain and maintaining a healthy weight for your cat falls on your shoulders. Humans have drastically altered their “natural” lifestyle and for various reasons, cats throughout the world are becoming indoor-only companions.
Cats are active animals that would normally cover large areas searching for food. They hunt, stalk, climb, and pounce.
Over the years cats have transitioned from wild animals, to outdoor work animals, to indoor lap warmers. In the process their level of activity has drastically dropped and weight has become a serious problem. It’s important to keep your cat at a healthy weight and these simple reminders can help you and your kitty.
Contrary to popular belief cats do not gain weight because they have been spayed or neutered. Cats become lazy and gain weight when their natural cat behaviours are not addressed in the home. The more we turn our little tigers into indoor-only animals, the more we need to ensure that their activity levels remain high.
The most current data shows that about 50% of all pet cats are fat, and about 24% are obese. Extra weight can cause many health issues – fatty liver disease, diabetes, urinary tract disorders, and even skin conditions. A fat cat can’t be a “real” cat so instead he eats, lounges, and sleeps. This can cause depressession, and depression can in turn lead to destructive and inappropriate behaviours.
Diet also plays a huge role in weight management, and a proper feline diet is a must. When choosing food, several factors such as their environment, activity level, age, and even their genetic disposition to weight gain, need to be taken into account.
How to maintain a healthy weight for your cat?
Keeping them Active
You buy a cat a toy and it plays with the box, so for the most part keep it simple. Plastic balls, little mice, cat nip anything, paper bags, plastic bottles are all great options. To keep them interested and active on their own you can purchase various toys that are motorized. Without a playmate a cat can easily become bored with their toy. So, either you need to plan for daily play time, or better yet, make sure you have more than one cat. And don’t forget to rotate their toys! Don’t have them all out at once – switching them up every couple of days will also help to keep the cat interested and entertained if they feel like they’re constantly getting “new” toys.
Many people enhance their cat’s environment by adding high shelves, scratch posts, and even enclosed outdoor areas (see our blog post about Catios!). Not only will these additional items inspire play, but they may also protect your furniture from becoming the toy. Another way to keep your cat active and stimulated is to hide their food throughout the house and make them hunt for it.
The more you can keep them moving the better. Cat can also be leashed trained and taken for a walk, or hike, or a boat ride. Make sure that this becomes a regular daily activity. Cats who are exposed to the outdoors tend to get restless if outdoor time is very limited.
Feeding a Healthy Diet
Diet is obviously a major factor in weight management for cats. Opinions on how, what, and when to feed your cat are numerous. Some argue that cats should be free fed, meaning they should have access to dry food throughout the day. This is because they don’t “wolf” their food down in one sitting. However, cats don’t have the ability to balance their intake and their activity level. Although a feeding schedule is more work, it does allow you to monitor and control their consumption. A feeding schedule is a must if you have more than one cat, and each one needs a different diet.
There is disagreement about whether cats should consume dry kibble, or wet canned food, or both. Wet food is often used as a treat. Some experts argue that, because cats need a very high amount of moisture in their diet, they should only be fed high quality wet food. Others feel that dry kibble helps keep the teeth clean and feeding wet food only will result in dental problems. A healthy balance of both is your best bet.
It is a good idea to feed your cat different cat food at different stages in their life. Kittens and senior cats will require different nutrients and different amounts of protein for example. For cats with kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid problems and weight issues, they may require a special diet – your vet can guide you on this as your cat will benefit from food aimed at their specific needs.
Managing the weight of your cat falls on your shoulders and there are many things you can do to make sure weight does not become an issue. Ideally you want to control the weight before it becomes a problem. However, if it does, know that there are numerous solutions.
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