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Fat Cats: Questions and Answers for Getting Your Tubby Tabby Back into Shape

How to get overweight or obese cats back in shape.
By Sandy Eckstein
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM

An estimated 57% of U.S. cats are overweight or obese, according to a 2008 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

So WebMD asked Rolan Tripp, DVM, for advice on how to get fat cats back in shape. Tripp is an affiliate professor of applied animal behavior at Colorado State University veterinary school and the University of Wisconsin veterinary school, and founder of animalbehavior.net.

Cat Care

Slideshow

Foods Your Cat Should Never Eat

You’ll be surprised to learn how many common foods are dangerous (or even deadly) to your cat.

Q: Why are so many of our cats fat?

A: Because they’re over fed and under exercised. There’s no magic here. The pet food companies make their foods the tastiest they can make it. And then there’s the misconception that when a cat isn’t eating it’s somehow sick. That’s not always the case.

Q: My cat has the run of the house, isn’t that enough exercise?

A: No. Could you get all the exercise you need just walking around your house? An indoor cat needs planned exercise. The best exercise is object play - playing with your cat with toys. That’s the answer to exercise problems, obesity, and how to get a well-adjusted cat. If your cat doesn’t get enough exercise, it comes out in bad ways.

Q: If I get another cat, will they get more exercise?

A: If it’s a kitten. Kittens are the high-energy ones. If it’s another adult cat, you have to be very careful. Bringing another adult cat into the house has very few positives for the established cat. What you need to do when you bring home another cat is buy a bunch of new resources - new toys, new food, new beds, new treats. So the association for your old cat is that this new cat comes in with a bounty, a dowry.

Q: What are some games I can play with my cat to get him moving?

A: Cats are predators, and the way to get them to play is to let them use their hunting talents. Buy toys and then use them to mimic the actions of the animals a cat would normally hunt - a mouse, bird, lizard, rabbit or bug. Take a laser pointer and skitter it across the floor like a bug. Get a wand toy that looks like a bird and pretend to land and take off. But don’t just flap it around. No bird acts like that. Try to think about what a bird really does and then reenact that with the toy. It’s all pretend play, but try to make it as real as possible for your cat.

Q: Do cats like videos showing birds, squirrels, and other animals? Should I get them a fish tank or put up a birdfeeder outside a window that they can watch?

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