Cats have a very interesting evolutionary history which has a huge effect on the way they process their food. Most people are aware that rabbits and cows are herbivores, meaning they eat only grass and vegetable matter. Humans and dogs are omnivores, which means they can survive on a varied diet, including, meat, vegetables and carbohydrates. However a lot of people including many cat owners, are unaware that cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must have animal protein in their diet; although they can easily digest carbohydrates too and in the wild, would have got these from the intestines of their prey.
So for many millennia cats expended a lot of energy catching prey and eating it. They remained slim and lean themselves, due to their carnivorous diet and high activity levels. We may like to think that our cats have a better life since we have domesticated them. However many of our pet cats have become overweight and sedentary as a result of our indulgences.
Did you know that 40 % of pet cats are overweight or obese?
We often feed too much of the wrong type of food
Unlike in dogs, where obesity is usually caused by just feeding too much food; in cats, it is also caused by feeding the wrong type of food. A lot of commercially produced foods have a high carbohydrate content which a cat cannot digest. Feeding some dry food is fine, but make sure it is a high quality brand which you can find in your local Healthy Pet Club practice.
Modern cats do not get enough exercise
Many modern day cat owners are reluctant to let their cats out at night, for fear of them fighting or getting run over. Many in fact are entirely indoor pets nowadays and therefore have little opportunity either to eat their natural diet or indulge in their normal nocturnal activities.
A combination of eating too much of the wrong type of food, coupled with less activity – no wonder we have a growing number of overweight cats. Chronic obesity in a cat can cause many health issues but specifically can eventually result in diabetes mellitus.
Body Condition Scoring
If you are worried that your cat is overweight you may like to follow these instructions to assess the Body Condition Score of your cat. This is a way of using ideal shape, rather than weight as a guide.
Once you have established what Body Condition Score your cat has, you will be in a much better position to do something about it.
Here are a few tips to help
- Book an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses. They will be able to confirm your cat’s Body Condition Score and corresponding weight.
- Ask for their advice on diet - type and amount. You may need to change to a new food. Always do this change slowly to avoid upset tummies!
- Use digital scales to weigh out any food, as measuring cups can be unreliable.
- Use interactive feeding dispensers to deliver food over a much longer period of time. This will also encourage activity using up a few more of those calories!
- If you have more than one cat and one is greedy, invest in a microchip operated feed bowl which will stop any food thieves! This also means the food is covered when there is no cat at the feeding station, increasing hygiene and keeping out flies.
- Play with your cat. Especially if your cat is 100% an indoor cat, you should spend time playing with them and encouraging them to move about. Make a point of putting time into this on a daily basis.
- Invest in a cat tree and put food at all platform levels so they have to climb up and down to feed.
- If you would like to let your cat out but are anxious about doing so, have a chat with your vet. They will be happy to give you advice.
You will be amazed how much better your cat will feel, if they can lose even a small amount of weight. As they lose weight, their natural behaviours will return such as grooming and playing, which will make them happier and more active. We all want our pets to live happier healthier lives. Let’s start helping them today!