Trying to shed some of those excess pounds you put on during the pandemic? You’re not alone. Even pets gained weight during the lockdown due to restrictions on walking and more snack time with their humans. U.S. veterinarians noticed weight gain and higher obesity levels in pets since the pandemic began. But even before the pandemic, obesity among pets was on the rise, reaching epidemic levels. In 2018, an estimated 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs in the U.S. were overweight.
Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat. Specifically related to cats, when your kitty exceeds its ideal body weight by 10 percent, it is considered overweight. It is considered obese when it exceeds its ideal weight by 20 percent. Obesity can increase the risk of serious medical conditions in your cat including diabetes mellitus, fatty liver disease, arthritis, cancer and heart and respiratory disease.
Veterinarians advise that the best way to tell if your cat is overweight is to feel the ribs. Touch the sides of your cat and see if you can feel each individual rib. You don’t want to see ribs jutting out, but you do want to feel the ribs underneath the skin and a small layer of fat. If you can't feel your cat's ribs or follow them up to the spine, your cat is overweight. If you still are not sure after conducting this examination, weigh your cat.
Free feeding or leaving food out all day for your cats is cited as a major cause of cat obesity, though genetics can play a role. Also, while keeping your cat indoors helps ensure its safety, it generally results in a lower level of activity.
Ultimately prevention is better than treatment, but your cat may be overweight already and it’s time to plan a visit to the vet. Before you go, make note of when you feed your cat, how much it eats, the types of food you feed and any special treats or ‘people food’ you give. Your vet can provide you with commercial low-calorie food, which will help the weight loss. However, even so, these foods are still most effective when you add exercise. While your local pet supply store can arm you with lots of toys to entertain your cat – cats love following the laser light or the fishing pole - some of the homegrown ones are just as effective. Of course, if your cat is alone, you may want to consider a cat pal or even two. There are lots of homeless cats these days and, let’s face it, who doesn’t like to exercise with a friend?
The ultimate solution will undoubtedly take some work and patience, but in the end a trimmer cat means a healthier cat and that means lots of years to enjoy your pal.