Cats have the best lives, don’t they? It seems they’re always either sleeping or eating. They wake you up because they’re hungry, but then stare at you from the bed as you leave for work.
However, their leisurely lifestyles may have adverse affects on their health. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that over 57% percent of cats are overweight. This can lead to more serious health problems like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and a decreased life expectancy. If you’ve noticed that your furry friend is packing around a couple extra pounds, it’s time to understand their needs for diet and exercise.
First of all, consult your veterinarian before putting your cat on a diet or altering their feeding regimen. Also, realize that this will be a slow and steady process, but the goal is to get your cat to burn more calories than it consumes.
Start by determining your cat’s current weight. Most domestic cats should weigh between 8 – 10 pounds. Then, talk with your veterinarian about calorie consumption to see how many you can safely reduce from your cat’s diet to reach an ideal weight. Not all cats are the same, but the general feeding guideline recommends 30 calories per pound of body weight each day. Once you’ve determined an appropriate amount, it’s best to phase in the change over a one or two week period.
If you have an automatic feeder, now is the time to pitch it. Letting your cat eat freely throughout the day is probably the biggest contributor to their obesity. Instead, feed a pre-determined amount of food in two portions. This gives you full control over how much food you’re cat is taking in. You could also consider scrapping dry cat food altogether. Wet food has a higher water and protein content, which are crucial elements to maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for high percentages of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates.
Now, you may want to cover your cat’s ears for this one. Ready? Ok. Stop feeding treats to your overweight cat. Yes, I know she’s meowing like she’s starving to death and doing that cute thing where she rolls onto her back. However, treats are like candy. They’re full of empty calories and unnecessary to their diet.
Getting cats to exercise is tricky. It’s unlikely that you can strap on a leash and take them for a jog around the neighborhood. You’re going to have to get creative.
Try moving the food bowl to the other end of the house. The idea is to place it somewhere that your cat will have to take extra steps to get to. However, cats are smart and will probably catch on to your games. It may become necessary to move the food bowl frequently.
Find toys that your cat will want to chase. A few favorites include feather wands, long ribbons, or a laser pointer. Make it a point to spend 10 minutes of your day engaging your cat in activity. Be sure to have a variety of toys on hand to make sure your cat doesn’t lose interest.
Making your home more stimulating will also encourage cats to stay active. Let them hang out on a screened in porch to bird watch or leave small toys out so they can bat one around when the urge hits. Keeping stimuli at their disposal increases their chances of burning calories.
Measuring weight loss progress will help you determine if the routine is working. Weigh your cat weekly and keep a diary of the results. The best way to do this is by weighing yourself and then weighing yourself again while holding your cat. The difference in the total pounds will tell you how much your furry friend weighs.
If you aren’t seeing results, consult your veterinarian about other diet and exercise options. It could be that there is another underlying issue. The most important part of being a pet owner is making sure your cat stays happy and healthy.
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