Obesity in cats can prevent a normal life span for your pet and if it is severe enough, it may shorten their time with you.
It is by far and away the most common nutritional related health condition in all cats worldwide, and it is estimated that almost thirty five percent of all cats are obese.
Obesity is officially defined as the excessive accumulation of body fat.
This causes your pet to be somewhere between twenty to twenty five percent over their ideal weight.
It all means that your cat may have so much body fat that it can lead to several diseases and conditions.
This can include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, trouble sleeping, just to name a few.
But what most owners do not know is that there are several potential conditions and disease other than just too many calories that is placing or has placed your cat in this position.
However, it is also very helpful to understand what to look for in an overweight or obese cat.
Obesity in cats, contrary to a lot of misconception, is not that difficult to identify in your pet.
Although each cat is as individual as we are and their overall body stature determines them individually, there are some very easy signs you can look for.
However, it is also important to understand that there is a major difference between being overweight and obese.
If your cat is simply overweight, they will show a slight increase in fat over their ribs, but the ribs will still be easy to see.
Their abdomen will be slightly rounded, and their flanks will concave, meaning that they curve in.
Their flank folds will hang down with a moderate amount of fat and will jiggle when they walk.
The flank is the side of your cat’s body between the rib and the ilium, and the term flank fold means thickness of this fat.
This is how cattle are measured for fat, and this is good for a cow, but not for your cat.
If your cat is obese, both their ribs as well as their backbone may start to disappear and you may not be able to see them at all, due to the layer of fat.
Their abdomen will also be extremely rounded and they will appear to have no waist.
They will also have very distinct flank folds that will sway from side to side when the walk; again perfect for a cow, but now extremely an extremely dangerous situation for your cat.
Obesity in cats has numerous potential causes that will range from simply being overfed, being fed the wrong type of food, to a disease that may be progressing in your cat.
But in most cases, the actual cause of this obesity is the owner causing the caloric intake exceeding the output.
This first potential cause of Obesity in cats is from the type of food being fed, the availability of this food, and the palatability of the food.
A large numbers of cats will live their entire life with having food available at all times, eat only what they need, and as a result never have a problem.
Some cats will be very picky on what they eat, and they too may never have a problem. However, other cats will eat whatever is placed in front of them.
The amount of food you feed your cat, their eating habits, and the type of food fed, will all determine rather your cat does or does not become obese.
Table scraps, most treats if not selected properly, and premium high energy food will all cause obesity in cats.
If your cat’s main form of exercise is walking to the eating dish, than the litter box, and back to their favorite chair, they do not need premium high energy food.
However if the cat is a barn cat and lives a life that is high energy most of the time, they need this food.
The activity level plays a major role in determining your cat’s calorie needs, and there are several very good brands that can reduce the calories and still be very healthy for your cat.
The next potential cause of obesity in cats depends on if your cat has been neutered or spayed.
If they have, it has automatically reduced their calorie requirements between 20 and 25 percent simply because it lowers their metabolic rate.
In addition, both their androgen or estrogen hormones have been reduced, which drastically lowers their roaming tendencies.
This helps protect against other issues, but it also reduces their calorie needs.
The actual process itself does not cause obesity, but in most cases, owners do not take this into account.
Genetics and breed is also believed to be a potential cause of obesity in cats, although it is not as common as it is in dogs.
There is a growing consensus, however, that mixed breeds are much more prone to becoming obese than are purebreds.
But what is fully understood, is that any cat that does become obese, seems to start develop.
Young cats are growing and developing and need the calories, but as they start to get close to this age, they slow down.
However, in most cases, they are still eating the same amounts of food.
It is also extremely rare that a senior cat becomes obese unless it is caused by medications or a disease.
The next major cause of obesity is your cat’s social environment, as they do not handle stress very well.
Stress induces the exact same eating behavior in some cats as it does with people, and they will eat much more than is needed if not controlled.
If you have a multi-cat or pet household, the tendency is to also eat quickly, and this is referred to as social facilitation.
This is where your cat may feel that they have to protect their food, causing Obesity in cats.
Social environments also involve the weather.
If your cat is an outdoor cat and the temperature becomes much colder, they will require a lot more calories to maintain body heat.
But if they are primarily indoor cats, this has very little effect on them.
However, the single largest cause of obesity in cats other than feeding habits is either medications or disease.
Certain medications such as glucocorticoids or barbiturates that control epilepsy can have huge impacts on both metabolism as well as your cat’s appetite, thus creating a two pronged attack.
There are also three diseases that can have the similar effects on your cat; Hypothyroidism, Cushing disease, and Pituitary gland abnormalities.
Hypothyroidism, because of its effect on lowering your cat’s thyroid hormones, will naturally reduce both their metabolic rate as well as their energy needs.
Cushing disease affects your cats adrenal glands and causes them to produce high levels glucocorticoids, which than alters their metabolism as well.
If it is not managed very carefully, it can cause a buildup of fat to occur very rapidly in your cat.
The Pituitary gland in your cat is referred to as the master gland as it produces hormones as well as regulates their production.
If it is not functioning properly, it will have dramatic effects on your cat’s metabolism, their appetite, as well as their fat disposition.
Obesity in cats is a growing concern worldwide and is the number one overall health risk to the cat population.
Understanding how to tell if your cat is overweight is the first step, and then identifying the signs of obesity is the next step.
Many owners will ignore these signs and continue to feed their cat the same way.
Obese cats may be very loving and cuddly, but you are threatening their life span if it is not controlled.