Though a steady source of cartoon humor, fat, lazy, slow-moving tabbies are no laughing matter. Obesity—the condition in which your cat exceeds its optimum body weight by 15 percent or more—is a growing problem for our feline friends. Obese cats have a higher incidence of liver disease, diabetes, and other ailments. Plus, fat cats have a tougher time if they must undergo any type of surgery under anesthesia.
If you think your cat is overweight, your first stop should be your veterinarian's office to determine if your cat is truly obese. Remember, cats come in all sizes, so a large, solid cat isn't necessarily overweight. But, if you see flab hanging from underneath your cat or if your cat feels jiggly when you grasp it around its waist, chances are, your pet will need a change of lifestyle. Your veterinarian will also help determine if your cat's weight problems are due to health issues such as diabetes or thyroid trouble.
Whatever you do, don't put your cat on a crash diet. Crash diets don't work for people or pets. Instead, begin limiting the amount of fat in your cat's diet. Your veterinarian will help you chose a low-fat brand of cat food and instruct you on how much to feed it every day. A cat with an ongoing weight problem should not be allowed access to food all day, since this allows it to snack whenever it wants. Instead, offer your cat regular meals and withhold food between meals. And never, ever feed your overweight cat table scraps or offer cat treats, even if your cat acts like it's starving to death.
It's also wise to increase your cat's exercise regimen. This can be challenging for cats accustomed to a relaxed lifestyle, but try to stimulate activity with new cat toys. Feather duster toys dangled in front of your cat's face are an excellent way to lure your pet around the living room floor. Or, try offering a carpeted cat tree to encourage climbing and exploration.
You can also take your cat for a walk outdoors. Use a leash and harness to encourage your pet to investigate the back patio or garden. Always remain with your pet to prevent it from becoming tangled or attacked by neighboring animals. Even a little bit of exploring will go a long way toward weight control.
Note: Don't expect a kitty that's never been on a leash and harness to suddenly start heeling around the backyard. Go slow and let your cat lead the way. If your cat has never been outdoors, it might take several visits for your cat to even feel comfortable outside the confines of its perch on your comfy couch.
If your cat is the only pet in the household, you might also consider adding a new cat or kitten to the family. With some adjustment time, most cats will accept a kitten into the house and will eventually play with (or at least follow) the bouncy newcomer.
By watching what and how much your cat eats and encouraging it to become a bit more active, your cat will eventually lose weight and become a happier and healthier family member.