You might have heard the story of Meow, the obese cat who weighed in at 39 pounds when he was surrendered to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society by his 87-year-old owner who was no longer able to care for him. Meow had been placed in a foster home where it was hoped he would lose enough weight to be able to be placed up for adoption. Meow developed a large fan following rooting for him to lose weight, and had been doing well having lost 2 pounds when he began having difficulty breathing. Sadly, while he was only 2-5 years old, Meow passed away on May 5th due to complications from his obesity.
Meow’s tragic story underlines the dangers of obesity in cats. A study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimated that 54% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. The risks associated with excess weight in cats include: arthritis, diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, increased risk of cancer, and a decreased life expectancy.
If your cat is overweight, your first stop should be your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical cause for your cat’s obesity. One of the main reasons for the obesity epidemic in cats is simply overfeeding. Unfortunately, when your cat gains weight, he is less likely to want to play and the decreased activity only adds to the problem. While over-feeding your cat usually stems from an abundance of love, you can do more to show your cat you love him through careful portion control.
While it is easier said than done, the simple formula to help your cat slim down is through a decrease in calories and an increase in activity. Don’t allow your cat to “graze” on food all day long; instead, feed a measured amount of a high-quality cat food at specific feeding times such as morning and night. Limit the amount of treats you allow your cat. Try to spend time each day playing with your cat. Cats face the additional risk of hepatic lipidosis if they lose weight too quickly, so a slow, gradual weight loss is important.