Feline Focus: Keeping Your Cat Fit & Healthy

Beyla, currently available for adoption, will need to start a weight loss program in her new home.

Beyla, currently available for adoption, will need to start a weight loss program in her new home.

Chubby kitties might look cute, but those extra pounds can be a serious health risk for your cat, putting them at risk for dangers such as diabetes, fur matting, osteoarthritis, and respiratory issues, among others. But don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your cat healthy and active and help them to shed the extra pounds!

1. Don’t Overfeed
Some cats are great grazers, while others don’t have the ability to regulate their own food intake. A cat in the wild would first have to hunt and kill its food, which takes time and energy. But for our spoiled pets, it’s up to us to regulate their diet. You can start by reading the recommended portions from your food brand. Even if your cat grazes throughout the day, you should not put down more than a day’s serving at a time. If you have multiple cats that can’t share, try feeding them in separate rooms with the door closed during designated meal times. Also limit the number of treats you give each day. Save them as a special reward for when your cat does something good (like staying still for nail trimming or after a long snuggle session)!

2. Exercise Your Cat, Physically & Mentally
If your cat is constantly crying for food (and you’re feeding them plenty), then chances are they’re not actually hungry. They might just be bored, and if food time is the most interesting part of their day, that will become their default need. Next time your cat cries and it’s not dinner time, take a ten minute break from whatever you’re doing and start up a game instead!

Don’t know how to engage your cat in play? Every cat likes a different toy and it can be hard to find that one they go crazy for. Some cats might seem like they are stubborn and uninterested in playing at all. Don’t let that fool you! Start by buying a small selection of a variety of toys (fuzzy mice, bell balls, wand toys, etc.) and see which interests them the most. Then, make the game as fun as can be! It’s important that you play to your cat’s hunting instincts. Dangling a feather in their face is more annoying than fun. Instead, show your cat the feather and then slowly drag it behind the corner of a wall or piece of furniture and watch your cat spring into action! Just as they get close, lift the feather up into the air and see if they leap for it.

When you figure out your cat’s favorites, keep them novel. Try rotating toys every few days. Your cat will forget the hidden toys even existed until they magically appear again!

3. Make Food Time Fun
If your cat acts like it hasn’t eaten in days when it’s only be a few hours since their last meal, it’s important to make food time last as long as possible (which will also help their stomachs feel full). A great way to do this is with a food puzzle, which you can buy, make from a yogurt container, or even an egg carton.

You can also use dry food to train your cat. Dinner time is a great time to do this because your cat is more motivated. Take half of your cat’s dry food and make it sit, climb, or touch for a piece of kibble (clickers work great for training cats, but it’s important to learn the proper techniques first!). When everything is gone, you can reward your cat with the other half of its dinner portion. (Remember, any food you use for training should be accounted for in your cat’s daily caloric intake.)

4. When in Doubt, Ask a Vet
If you’re not sure where to begin on your cat’s weight-loss program, or if you need to reduce portions or change brands of food, be sure to consult a vet. If you suddenly cut your cat’s portions dramatically or switch types of food, your cat might stop eating – which is not good either! A veterinarian can help you come up with a systematic program to get your cat back on track to a healthy lifestyle.

Food Is Not Love

BigCatOne of the biggest issues with animal obesity is that owners themselves simply don’t recognize it. After all, our pets are our best friends; we see them every day, so naturally a few extra pounds can easily go unnoticed. This is until of course the dreaded weigh in at the Doctors office. When it comes to our pets being over weight there is much more at stake than just good looks. Some of the many health risks resulting from pet obesity include diabetes, joint stress, arthritis, blood pressure issues, heart disease and most importantly, longevity. Maintaining our pets everyday quality of life in later years becomes much more difficult when they are overweight. Obesity in our animals is not only important to recognize, but to control and prevent.

So how can we really tell if our pets are over weight? As DVM Kasja Newlin puts it, when feeling over our dogs ribs it should feel similar to the way our knuckles do when our hand is laid out flat. On the contrary, if your pets ribs feel the same way your knuckles do when forming a fist then they are under-weight. An easier way to tell might be simply standing over your pet, when looking down at them you should be able to see a waist. If you see a tank, your pet is too heavy. Keep track of your pets weight just as you would your own, this way any gains or losses can be easily detected. It is important for pet owners to understand that though your pet being a few pounds over weight may not sound like very much to you, it is to them. In our defense, our pets constant eagerness to eat is easily confused for actual hunger. As DVM Dr. Davis likes to remind us, the important truth is that our pets are a lot like us, we eat because we like to and not necessarily because we are hungry.

If your Veterinarian has advised you that your pet is over weight, or under weight, it’s important to take control of the issue. We don’t want to see rapid weight gain or weight loss in any pet so it is important to cut back or add on to equate the ideal calorie intake. Proper calorie intake varies between each animal. Consult your veterinarian to learn your pets ideal weight.  With your pet’s Doctor you can calculate a proper diet in accordance with the recommended calorie intake. After all, we want to see our loyal companions live forever, so lets start feeding them that way!