Is your cat overweight? Odds are the answer to this question is a resounding: YES!

Overweight cats outnumber “normal” cats in American households. A 2011 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) determined that 50% of cats are overweight or obese.This is a serious problem as overweight cats are predisposed to very dangerous conditions such as diabetes, hepatic lipidosis and arthritis.

Most overweight cat owners live in a state of denial in which food consumption is never the problem. The fact is: overwhelmingly, food consumption is the main reason for overweight cats. As nature would have it, our feline friends were “designed” to be hunters of live, protein rich creatures such as mice and birds. In this process, they both exert themselves in the process of finding their food (exercise), and end up with a sufficient and perfectly balance meal for their metabolism (mice and birds are low in fat and carbohydrates and high in protein).

Now, take this “lean and fit” hunting machine and set him/her up in our urban apartment or our suburban home. Set up food and water and a clean litter box and let them “survive” on instinct in those “difficult circumstances”. The result of this scenario, in over 50% of the cases is a very lazy, overweight cat!

While I would agree, that having birds and mice “available” for your feline buddy to hunt and feed is a bad idea; we need to find a way to simulate nature in your control environment in order to maintain our cats in their adequate weight. First of all, if your cat looks and feels fat, it is. The sooner you recognize this as a cat owner, the faster you’ll be able to address the situation. Consult your veterinarian in order to create a measured and gradual weight loss program. Cats have sensitive metabolisms, and a sudden and drastic decrease in food consumption may result in an adverse and serious metabolic response.

Your Veterinarian will be able to recommend a specific diet and feeding quantities that better fit your cat’s current health condition. In order to assess the health condition, a complete physical exam is to be expected. This exam may include blood and urine tests as it is extremely important to make sure that normal thyroid hormone levels are present and that there are no signs of physical or metabolic dysfunction.

As a cat owner, you have a key role in this process. First it is important to comply with the feeding plan. In addition, it is up to you to increase the level of activity for your cat; remember, he/she is supposed to be “hunting” for food. Add “prey” toys or “moving” toys that peak their interest and incite a physical reaction. Lastly, limit the amount of treats you feed your cat, and factor those treats into their overall calorie consumption. If possible, make sure these treats are calorie controlled and that they complement your cat’s normal diet.

In conclusion, overweight management in cats comes down to the basics: diet and exercise. Consult your Veterinarian to put a feeding plan together. Stick to the plan and get creative with ways to increase your furry friend’s physical activity.

Keep’em healthy!