The Fat Cat's Guide to Getting Fit
Garfield, Morris and the Cheshire Cat are fat feline icons we find irresistible! They are sassy and adorable, sport barrel bellies and have a waddle in their walk. But the true skinny on fat cats is that they have a shorter life-span and are probably living uncomfortably. Read on for ways to help your real-life tubby cat trim down!Garfield, Morris and the Cheshire Cat are fat feline icons we find irresistible!
They are sassy and adorable, sport barrel bellies and have a waddle in their walk. But the true skinny on fat cats is that they have a shorter life-span and are probably living uncomfortably.
Feline obesity causes many of the same problems it does in people. Too-plump pussycats are prone to joint, ligament and tendon problems -- even arthritis. Obesity can also result in cardiovascular and breathing problems and fat cats are predisposed to feline diabetes which can be fatal, or lead to an expensive, insulin regulation routine for the owner. Even skin problems can result if a fat feline can't groom itself properly.
The good news is there are ways to help your tubby tabby trim down!
STEP ONE--VISIT YOUR VETERINARIAN FOR A NEW "DIET DIRECTIVE"
"Food does not equal love," chuckles veterinarian, Sonja Olson of Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa, Florida. She estimates the vast majority of pet owners overfeed pets without even realizing it.
"Volume of food and frequency of feeding is key," she insists. "It's very important to have your veterinarian determine the appropriate caloric needs of your cat based on age, activity level and health status."
And be sure to follow your veterinarian's recommendations (not the manufacturer's) for how much to feed and how often.
Some cats may turn up their noses at a new diet, and a couple of days without food can quickly turn dangerous for fat cats, prone as they are to developing fatty liver disease. Be sure to mix the new diet little by little with the current diet, until a complete transition has been made.
Olson cautions against making food constantly available to your cat. "Cats are generally not self-regulators," she notes. "Avoid using free-feeding systems or heaping a bowl of cat food to last all day."
STEP TWO--CHANGE KITTY'S ENVIRONMENT
Keeping cats inside offers many healthy advantages. Protected from the hazards of cars, predators and infectious disease, a cat is likely to live longer when not allowed to roam. But an indoor life can be a sedentary one, contributing to obesity.
"Find or create things that will be environmentally stimulating to reduce boredom and increase their activity," suggests Olson.
Allow your cat to enjoy the outdoors in the safety of an enclosed porch, patio or lanai. They'll enjoy the sunshine, breezes and the ability to watch birds, bugs or other creatures.
Inside, your cat's environment can be enhanced by offering a variety of window perches giving them different vantage points of the outdoors. "This will be far more interesting than sitting on the back of the couch," Olson points out.
"Be patient, it might take a few minutes for your cat to warm up to the idea of play," says Olson. She also notes that playtime is great bonding time with your feline.
Popular toys to get cats moving include:
- Catnip-stuffed toys
- Feather wands
- Cat fishing poles ending in attractive strings or feathers
- Toys that can be dragged along the floor
- Laser pen light for chasing
- Climbing posts or kitty condos -- even declawed cats can usually climb these easily
Cats enjoy these household or homemade toys too:
- Brown paper bag or cardboard box
- Wadded crinkled paper
- Wine corks or plastic tops from water or milk containers
Avoid dangerous items like string, floss, ribbon, twine, rubber bands or anything that your cat can swallow.
Instead of interacting with your cat over food, bond over grooming or play. Your cat will love you just as much for a loving session of gentle brushing, or a playful half-hour spent together. Time spent in either pursuit is better for an overweight cat than eating, and the exercise will help take the weight off.
Is your cat fit or overweight? What suggestions do you have for pet owners to help their cats get fit? Leave a comment and share!