When Does “Fat Cat” Become Dangerous?

No, we’re not talking politics here. But we are talking more like Garfield. Sure, everybody loves him even though he is overweight and eats lasagna, but when does an overweight cat become a health hazard?

Here are some notes from Kathy Blumenstock of Pet MD

Their squishy purring roundness makes us want to hug chubby cats as if they’re furry pillows, chuckling at their tubby tabby profiles. But instead, we should feel bad for fat cats, who did not get that way by indulging in too many desserts or daily whipped-cream-topped coffee drinks.

Fat cats are cause for concern among veterinarians and feline lovers because overweight cats are vulnerable to serious health concerns: diabetes, kidney, liver and heart problems, stress on joints, to name a few. Scientific studies on cats have found that more than half the cats in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. No wonder the Guinness Book of World Records eliminated its ‘world’s fattest cat’ category to discourage people from overfeeding their cats in hopes of reaching a record.

How do you know your cat needs to trim down? Can you see his waistline? Does he have folds of fat that swing when he walks? Can you feel his ribs?  Most vets say a cat with more than 20 percent body fat is overweight, and while factors such as age, bone structure and lifestyle come into play, a cat who tips the scale at more than 11 pounds is generally too heavy. Most likely, he got that way from too much free feeding on dry food, calorie-packed but easy for busy pet parents to offer. And those treats to substitute for playtime! But no need for a guilt trip: you may have contributed to your cat’s weight problem, but now you’re going to help him fix it.

Consulting your vet is the first stop, as she will check to be certain your cat is not suffering of those weight-related health problems, including skin conditions, food allergies or bladder stones. She’ll recommend the right food and portion size to help your friend slim down. Never ever abruptly cut a cat’s servings or change his food type in hopes of fast results. Starving a cat causes severe liver problems as his body tries to metabolize its own fat. Instead, gradually incorporate the newly prescribed food and amounts, making adjustments till the cat is on his new menu plan. Weight loss should also be slow: a feline pound is the equivalent of 10 people pounds.  Your vet gets the final say, but about a pound or even 10 ounces in a month is a great loss rate. Once-monthly weigh-ins/measurements will prove you’re both on the right track.

Your cat may object to the switch from ‘all you can eat’ to scheduled meals. A timer feeder, especially when you’re not home, will give your cat something to look forward to.  Surprise him with a new cat tree to climb, encouraging him to become more active. Extra play and cuddle time when you’re around will confirm that fun doesn’t all come from food. As the weight comes off, your fave feline will feel more energetic and brighter, and those nine lives we so prize will be long, healthy ones.