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Buddy is a friendly domestic shorthair cat. At six years of age, Buddy weighs 28 pounds. His owner, Michelle Endorf, confesses that she and her family have been at times embarrassed of Buddy’s weight problem, fearing that guests might think they were neglecting the cat’s health. Recently, following veterinary advice, Michelle has been trying to help Buddy gradually lower some of his body weight. She is one of many cat owners who are struggling to deal with their cat’s weight problems.
Cats, much like humans, may suffer from weight problems. In fact, in his book Animal Clinic for Cats , Dr. Jim Humphries maintains that obesity is the most common nutritional disease in pets. With a choice of tasty food and treats and a relatively sedate lifestyle, indoor cats are particularly affected by this problem.
Excess fat can have a bad effect on the cat’s overall health. Overweight cats are prone to heart disease, arthritis, and a series of other health problems, and are often in poor shape. Some cats are very overweight and are considered obese. Obese cats find it difficult to move around and are often short of breath. Maintaining a healthy weight helps to the extend cats’ life span and improve their quality of life.
The Ideal Weight for a Cat
Having settled that a cat is better off not being overweight, we now must decide what is the ideal weight for our cat. This varies from one cat to another, depending mainly on two basic factors:
Breed & Weight
This is the fundamental parameter in assessing a cat’s ideal weight. For the larger breeds, such as the Maine Coon, a large fully-grown male can weigh 18 pounds (8 kilos) without being the least overweight. A female of a smaller breed, the Singapura, may actually be overweight at a mere 7 pounds (3 kilos)! Cats that are not purebred should usually weigh between 8-12 pounds (3.5-5.5 kilos), depending on the cat’s bone structure.
A cat’s sex & Weight
There is a noticeable difference in weight between males and females of the same breed. Males are usually 2-4 pounds heavier than females.
Note that whether a cat is neutered or not should not affect its weight. The only difference is that, in order to achieve the same weight, neutered cats require about a third less calories. If they eat as much as they did before the operation, they are liable to experience a serious weight gain. You should not accept this weight gain as “natural” or “expected.” It must be dealt with like any weight gain and treated accordingly.
Assessing Your Cat’s Weight
The best way to tell if your cat is overweight is by checking the cat. Move your hands along the sides of the body and gently try to feel the ribs. If the cat is within range of its ideal weight, you should be able to easily count the ribs. The ribs should be covered with a layer of fat, but not to an extent that would make it difficult to feel them.
With obese cats it is easy to see that they are larger than usual, have a large abdomen, and experience difficulty walking and grooming themselves. Obesity can sometimes be a side-effect of a more serious disease and requires urgent veterinary attention.
Weight Loss Plan
If your cat is overweight, you should take care and help it lose weight. Talk to your veterinarian and work out a plan for the cat’s gradual weight loss. You and your vet should set the weight loss goals and fix sensible timetables. The basic line of the plan would be feeding the cat with specially formulated low-cal cat food and setting an exercise/play regime.
Please note that kittens should never be put on a weight loss diet, unless under strict veterinarian instructions. Kittens need all the nutrients they can get, including fat, to achieve adequate growth rate.
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