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by Dr. Karen Halligan
The Risks for Overweight Cats
Obesity is one of the most common problems inflicting domesticated cats. Overweight cats are at risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cushings disease, pancreatitis, heat intolerance, arthritis, cancer, anesthetic complications and FLS (fatty liver syndrome).
Overweight cats are prone to FLS, also known as feline hepatic lipidosis, as it is one of the most common liver diseases diagnosed in cats. This condition is not recognized in overweight dogs, yet it is fatal to overweight cats if not treated rapidly and aggressively. The typical scenario with FLS is that the overweight cat has gone through a period of not eating. The chances of FLS occurring are greater if the cat is obese before the anorexia began. Basically, when the fat is broken down to supply nutrients it is deposited too rapidly in the liver, failing to be adequately processed. The fat becomes stored in and around the liver cells, resulting in liver failure. Cats with FLS often become very cold, and/or may develop jaundice, which identifies itself by turning the normal whites of their eyes, skin and mouth yellow. FLS is a life threatening illness which must be treated immediately. Treatment is aggressive and includes intravenous fluid therapy, nutritional support and hospitalization until the cat’s appetite returns and the liver is functioning normally.
What to Do If You’ve Got a Fat Cat
Take Your Cat to the Vet
First and foremost, take your cat to your veterinarian to determine if your cat is overweight, and, if so, exactly how much weight she needs to lose. Your vet will come up with a weight loss reduction plan that includes three components: decreasing caloric intake, increasing exercise and getting your cat’s weight re-checked by your veterinarian.
Owners must measure exactly the amount of food that their veterinarian has instructed them to feed their pet in order to obtain weight reduction. There are several low calorie diets on the market that will decrease the caloric intake without your cat feeling extra hungry or miserable. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation. You can give treats but these treats must be included in the total daily caloric intake. Stick to your guidelines because as little as 1/4 cup of food can make a difference in your cat achieving her weight goal.
Most veterinarians recommend 20 to 60 minutes of exercise per day. There are a number of cat toys available to entice your overweight pet to play. Most pet supply stores, including spcaLA Pet Adoption Centers, sell toys called the Cat Dancer and Go Cat feather-on-a-string toys, which get even the laziest cats in a chase game.
Get re-checks from your veterinarian
These are important to help determine the weight loss. Initially, you will probably want to have your cat re-checked every two weeks, then every four-to-six weeks. Maintain re-checks until your cat has reached her desired target weight, which usually occurs within eight-to-12 months.
The bottom line is that your cat will have less health problems and live longer if she is not overweight.
Behavior and Training Department
If you would like more information on training or have a behavior question you can email the Behavior and Training Department at training@spcaLA.com or call the Behavior Helpline at (888) 772-2521, ext 260.