ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If left to fend for themselves in the wild our cats would survive by stalking and devouring prey, displaying their prowess with an athletic build and the heads of trophy rats they’ve bagged mounted above their fireplaces. Our pet kitties, on the other hand, park their derrieres on the couch and munch fast-food for felines. The results are often not pretty. It’s estimated that over 35% of pet cats are overweight or obese raising their risk of diabetes, joint damage, skin disorders and fatty liver disease. Too corpulent and uncomfortable to run, climb and jump, fat cats live stunted lives. Quoting the late, great Joan Rivers: “Can we talk?”
The World Health Organization’s definition of obesity, “an excess of body fat that has negative effects upon health,” also applies to our kitties. Any cat can pack on the pork but middle-aged neutered males win the big prize. Sterilization, so important for population control, is a major factor for both sexes because it triggers increased hunger. Research suggests reducing calorie intake by 30% after spayed or neutered cats reach adult size.
Indoor cats with freely available dry food tend to kick back and snack if their homes are not rodent infested. Cat parent denial is another factor. We have to admit that our well-loved kitty’s girth is dangerously expanding. It’s a rare cat who is truly big boned, bless their hearts.
The type of food matters. Cats fed canned diets have more easily satisfied appetites. Eating multiple small meals also contributes to a healthy weight. Food-dispensing toys and puzzles can help make that happen. Controlling our cats’ weight relies on human discipline; most cats don’t go for takeout or order Grubhub delivery.
Take charge where you can. By measuring canned food (kitten food has more protein and less carbs) into food toys and puzzles your work-from-home feline predator will engage mentally and physically for her survival by doing whatever it takes to extract her sustenance. Beating up on a food toy is actually pretty good exercise. Let’s be real. Most cats don’t help pay the rent; the least they can do is work on their physiques.
Dr. Jeff Nichol, a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist, provides consultations in-person and by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery. NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.