A closer look: Obesity in Cats
Obesity is a common, serious condition that measurably decreases a cat’s life expectancy and can lead to other serious diseases.
Optimal treatment plans include professional guidance from a veterinarian, the use of less calorie dense diets, gradually decreasing the portion provided, and increasing physical activity. When the weight comes off and stays off, some effects of obesity are completely reversed. The outcome is better the sooner the condition is treated.
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Fatty tissue is responsible for the release of several hormones, and can act as an inflammatory organ.
While the main cause of obesity is the imbalance between caloric intake and energy output, factors that can increase the risk of developing obesity include:
- Increased age
- Physical inactivity
- Food type and feeding habits
The primary symptoms of obesity in cats are:
- Excess body weight
- High BCS score (top 25% of the scale or higher)
- A layer of fat over the ribs and backbones, making them more difficult to find and feel
- Obvious rounding of the abdomen when viewed from the top or sides
- No visible waist when viewed from the top or sides
Obese cats also typically become less physically active and are slower to get up and get moving. They are often less athletic and struggle to jump or climb. Several other symptoms may be evident in obese pets but stem from the secondary diseases that are caused by or exacerbated by obesity.
Testing and diagnosis
Determining a cat's body condition score (BCS) is the best way to determine if a pet is obese. A BCS is a weight score usually out of 9 points and uses the look and feel of the pet’s ribs, waistline, and abdomen to determine the overall percentage of body fat. A score of 5/9 is an ideal body weight, whereas a score >7/9 is considered obese. A cat with an ideal body should have ribs that are easily palpable, a slight hourglass figure near the waistline, and a tucked-up appearance to the abdomen. A similar 5-point scale is also used by some practitioners.
Cats also have a primordial pouch (a pouch of loose skin and fat) that hangs down from their lower abdomen. This structure is normal in all cats who carry the trait, and is not to be confused with excess fat.
Additional diagnostics for obese cats include a thorough physical exam, blood work, and urinalysis in order to rule out other conditions and have a better understanding of overall health status.
Steps to Recovery
Treatment for obesity is targeted at weight reduction by increasing the number of calories burned and decreasing the number of calories consumed. Strategies include:
- Less calorie dense foods
- Gradually reducing portions
- Increased physical activity
- Monitoring weight and BCS
Loss of 1-2% of body weight per week is a healthy pace for weight loss.
Both short-term and long-term weight loss goals are best for the best success.
Weight loss in obese pets is a slow process and it may take several months to achieve a healthy body weight. Prognosis depends on the starting BSC of the patient, and response to treatment.
Preventing overeating by strictly controlling portions is the best way to prevent obesity. Encouraging daily physical activity, and monitoring body weight and eating habits also.
Is Obesity in Cats common?
Obesity is very common in cats
- Change in diet
- Caloric restriction
- Increased exercise/activity