Obesity in Cats

In North America, obesity is the most common preventable disease in cats. Approximately 30-35% of the general feline population is obese, with 50% of cats aged 5-11 years old weighing in higher than their ideal weight.

What is obesity?

Obesity is an accumulation of excess body fat. Extra body weight and extra body fat tend to go hand in hand, so most overweight cats will have excess body fat.

"Obesity is an accumulation of excess body fat."

Body weight is easy to measure when assessing if a cat is overweight or obese – easier than trying to measure body fat. Using body weight as a guide, cats are considered to be overweight when they weigh 10-20% above their ideal body weight. They are considered obese when they weigh 20% or more above their ideal body weight.

cat obesity interactive cat toy

What are the risks with obesity?

Obesity shortens a cat’s life and makes them more likely to develop disease. Even being moderately overweight reduces a cat’s life expectancy. In cats, a 2.8-fold increase in mortality has been shown in obese cats (8-12 years old) compared to lean cats.

A large, lifetime study of Labrador Retrievers found that a moderately overweight group of dogs lived nearly two years less than their leaner counterparts. This is a sobering statistic as it was always accepted that heavy dogs lived a shorter time than lean dogs, but only by around 6-12 months. It is reasonable to expect we would see similar results in a study performed on overweight cats.

Previously, fat was considered to be relatively inactive tissue, simply storing excess energy calories and adding to body mass. Scientific evidence now reveals that fat tissue is biologically active. It secretes inflammatory hormones and creates oxidative stress on the body’s tissue, both of which contribute to many diseases. Thinking of obesity as a chronic, low-level inflammatory condition is a new approach.

"Excess fat negatively impacts a cat’s health and longevity."

Obese cats develop an increased risk for:

  • many types of cancer, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hypertension
  • osteoarthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints
  • urinary bladder stones
  • anesthetic complications as they are less heat tolerant 

Obese cats who stop eating are at great risk for developing a potentially life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis – a devastating liver disease. Other potential complications of obesity in cats include skin problems and difficulty fighting infectious disease.

How do I know if my cat is obese?

cat_body_scoring_chart_2018-02The very first step in dealing with an overweight or obese cat is to recognize and acknowledge that there is a problem. Unfortunately, we are inundated with images in the media of cats that are consistently too heavy, which makes it challenging to understand what normal looks like. Your veterinarian and veterinary health care team can assist with an assessment.

Rib coverage is not only an important measurement to help you identify if your cat is overweight, but it is also easy for you to do at home, on your own. If you hold your hand palm down and feel your knuckles with the flats of the fingers on the opposite hand, this is how your cat’s ribs should feel just behind the shoulder blades. It is also a good method for measuring weight loss progress between formal weigh-ins.

"Rib coverage is not only an important measurement to help you identify if your cat is overweight, but it’s also easy for you to do at home, on your own."

Your veterinary health care team will provide an estimated ideal body weight to use as a target, but it is important that they also do regular body condition assessments to ensure progress is being made toward normal body weight and body condition. Most veterinary practices use a body condition scoring system on a scale of either 1-5 (3 is normal) or 1-9 (4.5 is normal).

What can be a better solution?

But sometimes, our love for our feline furballs translates into just a bit too much pampering….and a few too many treats.

Hey, we’ve all done it – you come home late from work and your cat is just so hungry….so why not spoon out a little bit extra, right?

It is totally okay – to be expected – that you might slip your fur baby an extra treat or two from time to time.

But vets say that this is turning into more overweight cats than healthy weight cats. Whoops!

The issue of packing on the pounds is even more critical for indoor cats, who may in time get so used to “the art of the snooze” they forget exercise can feel really good too!

Enter the “interactive cat toy.” This just might be the answer to “fat cat syndrome” as well as cat boredom, cat behavior issues, cat health issues and so much more!

Interactive cat toy benefits

While the average pet cat has an average of seven toys, a full 11 percent of pet cats have no toys at all! Sniff!

Why are toys so important?

Research now shows that the benefits of toys, and particularly interactive kitten toys and cat toys, extend far beyond just that of providing light entertainment or alleviating boredom.

Today, professional veterinary associations state that offering toys is considered one of the “five pillars” of providing a healthy environment for a pet cat.

The best interactive toys for cats can provide these six benefits and many more:

  1. Stimulate your cat’s natural instincts for hunting and exploring.
  2. Awaken all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing.
  3. Provide the satisfaction of foraging for food independently of “being fed.”
  4. Offer the opportunity for interaction with other household cats and with YOU.
  5. Generate an interest and enthusiasm for physical activity, play and exercise.
  6. Bring out and enhance new aspects of your cat’s intelligence, agility, and creativity.

Providing interactive cat toys for indoor cats can be particularly important, since outdoor cats do get some of the above benefits from their independent time outdoors.

But all cats need and deserve the chance to enjoy interactive play to have the most enriching and healthiest life possible.

If your kitty is one of those breeds known to be particularly keen intellectually, the importance of offering interactive cat toys simply cannot be emphasized enough.

The Abyssinian, Siamese, Japanese bobtail, Korat, Sphinx, and Turkish Angora represent just a handful of the many feline breeds known to possess extraordinary intelligence and a keen appetite for any toy that stimulates that intelligence (for more on this topic, browse on over to this informative post!).

But all cats have brains, and they need to use them to stay healthy!

What are interactive cat toys?

So what exactly do we mean by “interactive cat toys?”

Ultimately, any toy that includes the word “interactive” suggests that you, your cat’s beloved owner, will take a starring role in its use. In fact, an interactive cat toy is a toy that is designed so that you can easily participate in play time with your cat.

But that doesn’t mean that your cat cannot enjoy interactive cat toys when you are not available to play.

Many of today’s sophisticated interactive cat toys feature timers, laser technology, treat foods like catnip or kibble and other means to engage your cat’s interest even when home alone.

If your household includes more than one pet cat, your cats can also enjoy playing together with many of today’s innovative interactive cat toys. The goal of these toys is to engage your cat’s interest, and the best of the best do this very well!

On that note, let’s dive into exploring some of the best interactive cat toys available today!

Source: VCA Animal Hospital

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