Bea Sacks of Huntington Woods, Mich., calls Jack, her adult cat,
“big.” But she has no idea how much he weighs or whether a diet is in order.
That’s because Jack, like many housecats, eats whenever he wants and rarely
visits the veterinarian. Unfortunately, if Jack is even a pound over his ideal
weight, he could be in trouble. Overweight cats are far more likely to develop
osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes mellitus, respiratory
problems, and non-allergic skin conditions.
If you can hear a thud when he jumps off the bed, you should consider
putting your cat on a therapeutic cat diet, modifying your feeding habits, and
getting him to move more. It’s a good idea to see a veterinarian first to rule
out other issues. Plus, the vet can help you formulate a sensible weight-loss
and exercise plan. What the vet can’t do is restrain your urge to reward your
cat with treats or to give in to his mewling when you change his diet. Keep in
mind: a slimmer, fitter cat is a happier and longer-lived cat.
An average domestic shorthair should weigh between 8 and 10 pounds,
and although you can attempt to put Tiger on a scale, there are other
ways to check his fitness:
Gently squeeze the sides of your cat’s rib cage. If you can easily feel the
ribs, he’s probably not overweight. If you have to press to get at the ribs, he
may be heavier than he should be.
Look at your cat’s waistline. His body should become more slender from the
belly to hindquarters.
A swinging pouch between your cat’s hind legs is an indication your cat is
Slimming Down Kitty
The primary responsibility that you, the caretaker, have is to limit the
calories your cat is getting. A 10-pound indoor cat should take in about 200
calories a day, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
Here are some of the basics in limiting calories and slimming down your
Measure out food. Divide the cat’s targeted calorie intake into four to six
Avoid giving treats, or if you must, use a few pieces of her dry food as a
Don’t share human food with your cat; it’s fattening and can cause diarrhea.
Don’t allow your cat access to dog food.
The consensus among vets is to implement a new diet slowly. Cats may stop
eating if you suddenly confront them with different food.
“The bottom line is, you have to cut calories in proportion to the amount of
work the cat is doing,” says Johnny Hoskins, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, of Branson, Mo.
“We try to do it over a several-month time period.” The Association for
Pet Obesity Prevention says a loss of about 1 pound per month is healthy.