Did you realize that close to 50% of today’s house cats are obese? An average 15 pound cat would be comparable to a 400 pound man or a 300 pound woman. Wow!!

      There are several reasons why our feline friends are heading in this unhealthy direction.  We have taken animals from their natural outdoor environment, where they would have traditionally hunted and been more physically active, and moved them to a safe indoor home.  Unless you have been very proactive in creating an environment full of stimulation, your cat’s metabolism may not be running at proper speed and weight gain could be a result.  Stimulation can be introduced in the form of scratching posts, climbing levels and active play using toys and laser lights.  Spaying or neutering cats can also cause hormonal changes that result in an increased size and number of fat cells.  If we control the amount of food we feed our feline friends and try to increase their activity level, we can limit the amount of weight gain following the spaying or neutering of our pets.

      Adipocytes, or fat cells, are typically thought of as a place for energy storage.  Yes, this is true, but they also drive metabolism and control numerous hormone levels.  The result is that some hormones can cause an increase in appetite, others can cause glucose intolerance, while others can result in an insulin resistance.  Fat cells also secrete many pro-inflammatory substances.  Overweight cats are at an increased risk of developing diabetes, constipation, and osteoarthritis among other diseases. 

      The staff at theBarrydowneAnimalHospitalinSudburyare committed to reducing the incidence of disease in our feline friends.  To begin, we need to reduce body weight in our cats.  We can accomplish this by controlling the amount of calories our cats ingest on a daily basis.  To properly control the amount of calories ingested, we need to know how much they require and measure out their daily feeding amount.  Free choice feeding is no longer acceptable!!!!  This is easier to accomplish by using canned (wet) food versus dry food as it contains a higher water content which can help to make cats feel fuller faster.  It typically contains higher levels of protein which also helps to satisfy hunger.  Protein is less likely to be turned into fat for storage and could help regulate blood sugar levels.  This is why we encourage every cat owner to use a good quality canned food along with a good quality dry food.  Remember, not all food is the same. Your veterinarian will make a food recommendation suited for your pet and should be followed to the best of your abilities to assist in achieving optimal health. 

Regular exercise is an excellent way to reduce weight in cats.  There are some cats that will walk comfortably on a leash but not many!!!  Initiating play using indoor cat trees, toys, and laser pointers are great ways to burn calories and increase metabolism.  Outside play in a controlled yard environment introduces external stimuli such as bugs or the wind blowing through the grass which may encourage your cat to increase activity by “hunting” these stimuli. Using special fences or outdoor kennels are excellent ways to maintain a safe habitat.  Register on our website, www.barrydowneanimalhospital.com, to see a link for more information on outdoor cat habitats under the client only section.

      Creating a population of felines that maintain a healthy weight should reduce the incidence of disease and thereby prolong their lives.  Together we can all work to keep your pet healthy and happy throughout their lifetime!!!