Obesity in cats

The internet may make it seem cute and funny, but obesity in cats isn’t really something to laugh at. Overweight and obese cats can have serious health problems, including shorter lifespans. It’s a big problem, too — about 40% of the general cat population is obese, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. And while it may be adorable, the best thing you can do for your pet is make sure that it stays at a proper weight. This is especially true since obesity is a huge risk factor in developing diabetes, which comes with its own set of complications.

What are the potential symptoms of obesity in cats?

Symptoms for obesity in cats are generally pretty visible:

  • Your cat seems a bit heavy. Maybe you can’t spot their waistline anymore, or their belly swings when they walk.
  • Bad eating habits. Your cat focuses on eating treats and snacks but not their regular healthy food.
  • Lethargy. No desire to be physically active.
  • Inability to find your cat’s ribs. You should be able to feel your cat’s ribs if they’re a healthy weight.
  • Unkempt fur and dry, flaky skin. This usually means they can’t reach that part of their body to clean themselves.

What tests are used to confirm obesity in cats?

Tests to confirm obesity in cats are mostly physical exams:

  • Test for healthy weight. When you take your cat to the vet for obesity evaluation, the first thing they’ll do is determine your pet’s healthy weight. That should be based on the breed, age, and size.
  • Body condition assessment. The assessment breaks down weight into a numbered scale, usually from 1 to 5 or from 1 to 9. The higher the number, the more obesity.
  • Ancillary tests. Your vet will also likely test for any conditions that could be causing obesity in your pet, like an infection — that way you can add treatment to their weight plan.

What is the treatment for obesity in cats?

If your cat is obese due to a condition or disease like cancer, the first step is to begin treatment for that. Then, just like humans, it’s time for a diet and exercise regimen for your pet. For food, ditch the dry food, which can be stuffed full of extra calories, and start feeding your cat wet food at scheduled times with portion control based on their healthy weight. (You can find low-calorie versions of both dry and wet food, but wet food has the benefit of including hydrating fluids.) Your vet may suggest some prescription food depending on the degree of obesity. And remember to cut back on treats. Then, bond with your cat by playing with them. This is the exercise portion. Try to aim for 20 minutes of activity for your cat per day.

What is the typical cost of treatment for obesity in cats?

Assuming no other conditions, like endocrine disorders, might be causing your cat’s obesity, all it costs you to treat obesity in cats is the cost of low-calorie food and 20 minutes a day of play time. It’ll be good for both of you. Wet food can be a bit more expensive than dry, but you’ll be saving on obesity-related veterinary costs in the long run. Plus, since obesity in cats is mostly caused by overfeeding, you’ll be saving on food costs too!

Hours at the vet: As little as 30 minutes, as long as 1 hour.

What are the recovery steps for obesity in cats?

  • Treat any underlying conditions.
  • Put your cat on a diet and exercise regimen.
  • Once they reach a healthy weight, keep up what you were doing to ensure they stay that way.

How do I prevent obesity in cats?

Preventing obesity in cats is much the same as treating obesity in cats. Pick a nutritious food that’s served in proper portions at specific times, and keep your pet active. Cats are incredibly persistent at asking for more food than they actually need, but if you switch to an automated timed feeder you can reduce the amount of begging you have to deal with. You should also bring your cat in for regular checkups, where a veterinarian can do health assessments that include looking at your pet’s weight.

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