Every cat has different nutritional needs. For instance, a growing kitten will need to eat a lot more than a sluggish senior cat. Unfortunately, many pet parents have no clue how much to feed their cats. As a result, the portion sizes are total guesswork. Some pet parents might dump a heaping pile of kibble in the food bowl and call it a day!
Large portion sizes and unlimited access to food can lead kitties to pack on extra pounds. At some point, you’ll look at your cat and wonder, “Am I feeding them too much?” The following information can help you determine if your cat is overfed and why it’s important to take action.
The dangers of obesity in cats
Cats that are fed too much usually become overweight or obese. Obesity is very common among cats, which can lead to a number of other health concerns. Overfed cats that develop obesity have a much higher risk for diabetes. This is a dangerous disease that causes insulin resistance, making it difficult for the body to regulate its blood sugar levels.
Obese cats commonly suffer from cardiovascular issues, too. Fat deposits along the arteries can restrict blood flow to the heart. Some cats may develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a serious heart disease where the heart muscles thicken and become weaker. HCM lowers blood capacity in the heart and makes the weakened muscles less effective at pumping blood throughout the body. This can lower oxygen levels and cause breathing problems.
Excessive weight also increases an obese cat’s risk of degenerative joint disease. The extra weight puts stress on the joints, which accelerates the deterioration of the cushioning connective tissue. Joint problems like arthritis have no cure, and they cause lifelong problems such as pain, swelling and limited mobility.
Signs you’re overfeeding your cat
Most pet parents can tell their cat is overfed just by looking at them. When cats have a healthy weight, you should be able to feel their ribs and backbone (but they shouldn’t be visible, as this can be a sign your cat is underweight). With obese cats, the excessive weight creates padding that prevents you from feeling the skeletal system.
Cats are supposed to have an hourglass figure from a top-down view. Their figure should narrow right above the hips, because this marks their natural waistline. You can tell a cat is eating too much when they look much rounder around the torso. If you can’t see the waistline, it’s probably time to rethink your cat’s diet!
Other signs of an overfed cat include lethargy and exercise intolerance. Extra weight restricts mobility, making it harder to run, jump and play. While it’s normal for cats to sleep a lot, an overfed cat will be reluctant to get up from their napping spot. They will ignore all your attempts to initiate playtime, even when a brightly colored toy dangles right in front of their face. Refusing to stay active can make obesity even worse.
Overfed cats often have access to free-choice food bowls. This means the bowls have a constant supply of kibble that pets can eat whenever they want. It’s nearly impossible to monitor your cat’s daily caloric intake when they’re free to chow down at any point in the day. Free-choice food bowls let cats eat when they get hungry, but what they really need are structured meal times. Unlimited access to food is part of what causes obesity in cats.
Consult your vet about diets
It may become clear that you’ve been overfeeding your cat. If your kitty appears obese, don’t try to fix their diet on your own. Many well-intentioned owners have given their cats health problems because they restricted food intake the wrong way. Drastically reducing their portion sizes can lead to sudden weight loss, malnutrition and fatty liver disease.
Talk to a vet about diet options at your cat’s annual exam. The vet will start by determining whether or not your cat is overweight. If weight loss is necessary, your vet will suggest healthy ways to shed the extra pounds. Always follow a vet’s guidance on portion sizes, types of food and exercise schedules. Following their instructions gives your cat the best shot at returning to a healthy weight gradually.
Pet parents have a hard time admitting they’re the reason why their cat looks a bit chubby. It’s not a good feeling, especially when you want the best for your kitty. Obesity is common among cats, but it’s also easily prevented. The sooner you act on your cat’s health, the better chance they have at avoiding serious problems later in life.