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What to Do If Your Cat Is Overweight or Obese


14 April 2021



Obesity in cats is a serious problem that is becoming more of a concern than ever before. Up to 60% of the dog and cat population are considered overweight or obese. Overfeeding is one of the leading factors contributing cat obesity. Overfeeding occurs when a cat is taking in more energy than it is burning. Cats that are 10-20% above their ideal body weight are classified as overweight, and those who are higher than 20% are considered obese. Here are a few tips and tricks you should know if your cat is overweight or obese.

What are the health risks associated with obesity?

Overweight or obese cats are at a greater risk for a variety of health conditions including the diminished overall quality of life of our feline friends. Here are the most common ones:

  • Cats who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop diabetes, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer.
  • The sheer weight of the animal causes more stress on the joints and may contribute to osteoarthritis and limited mobility.
  • Overweight cats may be more physically restricted regarding self-grooming. These limitations in grooming may be contributing factors to dermatological problems such as feline acne, alopecia, and scale formation. 
  • Physical examinations by veterinarians are impacted due to excessive body mass, and may render procedures such as blood drawing, ultrasounds, and physical palpation more difficult. Cats that are overweight or obese are also more likely to have adverse reactions to anesthetic.

Are some cats predisposed to obesity? 

Though most cases of obesity are a result of overfeeding and a sedentary lifestyle, there are some endogenous factors that can predispose an animal to weight gain or obesity. It is important to recognize if your animal has predispositions and adjust their lifestyle accordingly.

  • Your cat may be more at risk of becoming obese based on their age. As an animal ages, their basal metabolic rate decreases along with their daily energy needs. This means that your cat’s metabolism slows down (as does their activity level in most cases) and their food intake must decrease accordingly to maintain an energy balance.
  • Energy requirements often decrease after cats are sterilized. The age at which cats are neutered typically corresponds to the natural decrease in growth and energy requirements. If pet owners continue to feed the same amount, their pet will gain weight. Because cats are often spayed or neutered just before maturity, the change in reproductive status is often blamed for weight gain, but the reason is usually a change in energy requirements due to age. There is a hormonal component that will affect food intake. Sterilized females tend to consume more, as they do not experience estrus, during which the animal will naturally consume less. The basal metabolic rate of sterilized animals also tends to be lower. This lower metabolic rate along with overconsumption will lead to an energy surplus and a weight gain.
  • Certain breeds are predisposed to weight gain as well. Studies suggest that mixed breed or domestic cats may be more likely to be overweight than purebred cats. While there are many studies on this subject for dogs, further research is needed to determine breed predispositions in cats.
  • Food intake can be affected by many factors as well. A highly palatable diet and competitive social settings will both encourage animals to eat more regardless of their hunger level.

How can I ensure my cat maintains a healthy weight?

Regular vet visits and consulting a body condition score chart is a great way to ensure your pet is at their ideal weight.

To help your cat lose weight, it is recommended to feed according to your cat’s target ideal weight rather than their current weight. It is also highly recommended to use a small kitchen scale to measure the food in grams, as this allows for a better accuracy of calorie control as opposed to rough volumetric measurements like cups.

Exercise is extremely important in ensuring your cat maintains a healthy weight. Some examples of ways to get your cat to exercise is to encourage play through chasing with a string or laser pointers, or even hide and seek games. Encouraging your cat to chase after a cat teaser is a great way to get them moving. If your cat does not seem especially interested, try catnip spray to stimulate them. You may also want to hide your cat’s food around the house to make them work for their food as they would outdoors, to catch their prey. While our domestic cats seem to be living the dream with a full bowl of food always available, their ancestors and cousins spent up to 80% of their time foraging for food. An interactive feeder such as a cat tree or puzzle will stimulate your cat’s natural hunting instincts and make them work for their food. Cats who are fed through interactive feeders are less likely to eat out of boredom and tend to eat only when they are hungry. Cat trees are also a great option to promote your cat to climb. All these options are recommended for mental stimulation as well!

If your cat is currently overweight or obese, you may want to consider switching them to a weight management formula so that they can lose weight and maintain it. Weight management formulas, such as our Care Weight Management formula, are specifically formulated to help limit weight gain and curb their appetite.

To summarize, portion control is key in helping an animal lose weight. Increasing your cat’s activity level and feeding a diet specifically formulated for weight loss is a good place to start.

How Does Care Weight Management Work?

Our Nutrience Care Weight Management formula is specifically formulated with low fat to limit weight gain, high fiber to curb their appetite, and L-carnitine, an important molecule needed to burn fat for energy. While cats can make this molecule themselves for regular maintenance, supplementing it in the diet ensures an adequate supply is available to burn excess fat during times of weight loss. L-carnitine works by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cell to make them more available to burn during energy expenditure.

To reduce the fat contents of a formula while keeping the volume of food the same, fat must be replaced by another macronutrient. Replacing fat with fiber is a great choice! Why? Because fiber not only has zero calories but has digestive benefits and keeps cats satiated for longer. Our Weight Management formula is also made using a triple blend of sustainable sources of fiber, such as sun-cured alfalfa, pea fiber and miscanthus grass. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and provides bulk to the diet, keeping your cat full for longer.

Compared to a high protein diet, averaging 473 kcal/cup, our Nutrience Care Weight Management diet contains 50% less fat and 18.4% less calories to help your cat lose and maintain a healthy weight, improving their overall quality of life.

Moreover, along with the Digestiboost cubes, this food contains botanicals such as ginger, licorice root, and peppermint for their gut-soothing properties. Turmeric is added as well, a spice well known for its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Like all Nutrience formulas, Omega-3s are added to this food in the form of salmon oil and coconut oil, to maintain a healthy skin and coat.

  • Sapowicz, Stephanie A. et al. “Body Condition Scores And Evaluation Of Feeding Habits Of Dogs And Cats At A Low Cost Veterinary Clinic And A General Practice”. The Scientific World Journal, vol 2016, 2016, pp. 1-7. Hindawi Limited, doi:10.1155/2016/1901679.
  • Pet Health Hub. Body Condition Score Chart Cats. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/5352/bcs-cat-min-1.jpg. Accessed 13 Nov 2020.
  • Case et al. Canine And Feline Nutrition. 3rd ed., Mosby, 2011, pp. 313-336.

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