Does your precious feline tip the scales? If so, you’re not alone. An astounding 60-percent of American house cats are categorized as being either ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’, this according to a 2016 report conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
It’s a shocking number and one that, ironically enough, seems to put a mirror up to the very human struggles of our own health collective health issues. While 60-percent may seem rather high when it comes to our kitty cats, the fact that a whopping 70.8-percent of American adults are either overweight or obese may just give us the answer to our pets’ problems.
It’s a stark similarity that begs the question: are our bad habits making our cats fat?
Of course, in order to answer this question, we must first take a closer look at our own habits through the eyes of the people who know most about our feline friends– veterinarians.
What constitutes a “fat cat?”
The answer to this question certainly is a loaded one (no pun intended). Cats, like most animals, come in all different shapes and sizes. That said, there are some simple guidelines to consider when it comes to the weight of pet cats. Here’s what the average house cat should weigh:
- Domestic (otherwise known as a domestic short hair or “tabby”): 8-10 pounds
- Persian: 7-12 pounds
- Siamese: 5-10 pounds
- Maine Coon: 10-25 pounds
As you can see, a domestic cat’s ideal weight can vary greatly depending on the breed. For instance, a Siamese–those pretty blue-eyed cats that are known for their daintiness–can easily get away with being about 5 pounds, whereas a Maine Coon should never dip below 10.
But, just like people, metabolism can vary from animal to animal, making it difficult to put complete trust in the guidelines like the one displayed above. That’s why vets do a kitty BMI test on all of the felines that they treat, where the doctor places their hands on and around the cat’s ribcage to better gauge the animals’ fat content. Generally speaking, if the bones are difficult to count without added pressure, then the cat is obese or, at best, overweight.
Why are our cats so fat?
Sure, cats may seem as mysterious as they are timid, but that doesn’t mean that their bodies are much different from ours, especially when it comes to metabolism. You see, the very same factors that contribute to our national obesity crisis also affects our pets.
In a study published in the Veterinary and Aquatic Services Department, researchers concluded that there are a total of 12 contributing factors to the conundrum, with food type and activity level being at the top of the list.
The experts assert that humans are, in fact, the “main cause of obesity in cats.” We are the ones who either overfeed the animals or give them the wrong meals in the first place. For example, table scraps, excess cat treats, and even high-energy food that is designed for active, outdoor felines should never touch the lips of a cat whose, as the study puts it, “main activity is walking to and from the food bowl.”
To piggyback on that point, most house cats simply don’t get the exercise they need to maintain their health. Now, we all know that letting a cat out can mean saying ‘goodbye’ to the kitty forever, which is why most folks opt to make them house cats. This is fine and good, but it also means that the pets shouldn’t eat anywhere near what their alley cat brethren consume. Here’s how much their diets can vary:
Let’s take a look at an adult cat who gets little activity and already weighs 10 pounds. For a kitty of that size and activity level, he should only be eating about 218 calories per day, while, conversely, his very active counterpart should take in about 305.
Of course, cats can also be predisposed to gaining excess weight for a variety of reasons, including diseases, genetic disposition, advanced age, medications, and even conditions such as hypothyroidism–problems that cat owners may not be aware of until the animal starts gaining weight out of the blue. This just goes to show you that weight gain, even if the cause is something as banal as overfeeding, is always a sign of poor health.
How can we get our cats’ health back on track?
As mentioned above, it’s key to first rule out all other potential health problems before placing a cat on a weight loss plan. This means consulting with a trusted veterinarian who will take several factors into account before the change, including age, breed, and health history.
Once the animal is cleared, the pet owner can go ahead and take the necessary steps for aiding in the weight loss of their precious lap cat. Pet Obesity Prevention recommends first considering the animal’s calorie intake. As a guideline, the organization tells cat owners to start out by cutting down their pet’s food by 20%; in other words, if the overweight or obese cat is currently 8 pounds, they should be fed about 150 calories per day during his diet.
In addition to dieting, it’s important that all overweight and obese cats trade in that flab for muscle. Owners can help their cats do this by encouraging exercise through play and by nurturing their animals’ natural hunting instincts. Vets also urge owners to get their pets outside, if possible, so that they can run off a few of those lbs.
With just a bit of education on the pet owner’s part, fat cats can reclaim their health and, hopefully, live the long, happy lives that they deserve.