We hear every day about human obesity but do we realise that pets are becoming overweight as well as their owners? Research shows that nearly 50% of UK pets are obese or overweight and that the life of an overweight pet is shortened by at least two years because of the impact it has on the health and wellbeing of our beloved pets. In human terms, this means reducing life expectancy by 15 years!
Are all pets in danger of becoming obese?
Scientists think that there are some pets that seem predisposed to obesity by their breed. So in dogs, for example, it’s often breeds such as Labradors who seem to suffer with a genetic predisposition toward obesity.
With cats, it’s a little different.
Firstly, the ‘it’s in my genes’ is not always a good defence, as thousands of owners of lean pets will testify.
Certainly intrinsic factors (those to do with the cat as an individual) can make a difference. The age, reproductive status and gender of a cat can influence how likely they are to become obese. And calories may have to be more carefully controlled in obesity-prone cats and they need not necessarily be given the opportunity to become obese.
Weight gain could be more of a problem than you think
You may think that your cat gaining a little weight isn’t a serious issue. But even if your feline friend is as little as 10-20% overweight, they run an increased risk of developing painful conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. Overweight cats and cats are more lethargic and less likely to interact with the outside world. Cats like to be active, in some cases they need the ability to run fast and be agile. An overweight cat is unhappy and less functional.
How do I tell if my cat is too fat?
If you think your pet is at risk of being overweight or obese, the best and first thing to do is to visit your veterinary practice for a weight check, which is often free. Weighing your cat regularly should become a part of regular check-ups. Your vet or vet nurse will help you structure the weight loss programme to help your pet reduce its weight. The weight loss challenge should be made up of a feeding plan, exercise plan and re-check plan.
Your vet or vet nurse will help you set the target weight for pet, which is normally in the region of 1-2% per week and the use of Pet Weight Record Books is a useful way to evaluate how well your pet has managed to stay on track.
When on the weight loss challenge, watch out your pet does not ‘cheat’ by scavenging or begging for food from other people. By feeding a food that remains nutritionally complete even when calorie intake is reduced and that promotes satiety, your chances of success will definitely increase. Most table scraps are very high in calorie – for instance, feeding your cat a slice of toast is equivalent to a human eating a hamburger. Or, giving your cat a cup of milk is equivalent of a human eating four and a half hamburgers! Therefore, it is recommended to establish a more controlled pattern of feeding your pet when offering food at set meal times.
So, if you are worried about your pet’s weight, talk to your vet or vet nurse. And remember, it is never too late to change the future of your overweight pet and preventing them from possible health problems and diseases that come with being overweight. By ensuring your cat is a healthy weight throughout their life, you are effectively adding weeks, months and possibly years on to their life expectancy. It really is that important!