By: Catherine West, MCC Practice Manager
Did you know that 58.3% of cats are obese according to their veterinarian? The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) continues research on pet obesity and found that only 34% of cats were in ideal weight and the rates of overweight and obese cats was on a significant rise.
There are three main points we want to focus on concerning obesity in cats:
1. Early Age Spay and Neuter
There has been in influx of research completed on early spay and neuter in dogs and cats in the last decade. Many previously held beliefs have been debunked and new data is illustrating a change in metabolism with early sterilization that later influences obesity.
A study published in 2001 in the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility Supplement concluded, “Early-age neutering does not stunt growth in dogs or cats (a once-held belief), but may alter metabolic rates in cats. The anaesthetic and surgical procedures are apparently safe for young puppies and kittens; morbidity is lower and recovery is faster than in adult animals. To date, adverse side effects are apparently no greater in animals neutered at early ages (7 weeks) than in those neutered at the conventional age (7 months).” (Olson, Kustritz & Johnston, 2001).
We recommend cats not be spayed before they weigh five pounds or are five months old.
2. Diet: Carbohydrates versus Protein
Cats are carnivores. They are not made to process carbohydrates and they require a high level of protein. Most people are unaware that dry cat food is not an ideal diet for their cats. Dry food has a lot of carbohydrates and any wet food in gravy is also high in carbohydrates. Most cats should consume between 180-200 calories per day and high carbohydrate diets are plush with calories.
The ideal diet for a cat is an all wet food diet that is high in protein and little to no carbohydrates. We recommend the owner add a tablespoon or two of water to the wet food at each feeding to assist with hydration. There is a fabulous article on transitioning your cat from a dry food diet to an all canned diet at www.catinfo.org.
3. Environmental Enrichment
Cats need their environment to encourage movement, exercise and a low stress overall feel. When cats have their needs, in these regards, met they are a lot less likely to be obese. There is an excellent article on feline environmental enrichment at https://www.thedrakecenter.com/materials/environmental-enrichment-indoor-cats. This article discusses how to create territory, challenge hunting skills when feeding and much more.
Here in the clinic, we have the No Bowl Feeding System which encourages hunting to recover treats as well as the SlimCat Balls, another puzzle feeder which requires the cats to move in order to retrieve the treats.
Obviously, overweight pets are very similar to people. When a cat is overweight, they become prone to high blood pressure and diabetes. They also become at risk in many other areas making it difficult for your veterinarian to treat ailments.
Olson, P.N., Kustritz, M.V. & Johnston, S.D. (2001). Early-age neutering of dogs and cats in the United States (a review). Journal of Reproductive and Fertility Supplement, 57, 223-32. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11787153
(n.d) Environmental enrichment for indoor cats. The Drake Center. Retrieved from https://www.thedrakecenter.com/materials/environmental-enrichment-indoor-cats
(n.d.) Results of the National Pet Obesity Survey. Animal hospital of North Asheville. Retrieved from https://www.ahna.net/results-national-pet-obesity-survey