Confessions of a Cat Lady

Is Fluffy really all fluff or is there some extra weight hanging there from all those long winter cat naps?

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Kittens are little fuzzy fire balls of energy! They play hard, sleep hard and eat lots in between. Because they are growing and burning all of their energy, they require a high calorie kitten food. When your cat is spayed/neutered the extra hormones that help burn off all of those calories are gone, most cats will begin to slow down more as they mature and age causing them to be more prone to extra weight gain. Ask your veterinarian what diet would be best based on your cat’s age, lifestyle and current body condition.

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Is my cat Overweight?

Your veterinarian will access your cat’s body condition score (BCS) at each annual checkup. You can try  checking your pets BCS at home by simply running your hands over your cat’s sides gently, If you can feel their ribs by using light pressure, your cat is likely at an ideal body condition. If you need to apply more pressure to feel your kitty’s ribs then you kitty may be overweight. Ask your veterinarian about your cat’s weight at their next checkup.

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Causes of weight gain?

There are many different things that can contribute to weight gain in cats such as, lack of exercise, improper nutrition, diet, over eating, and certain health issues can be the cause of weight gain. Because it is in a cats nature to be curious, some more than others, they may require lots of environmental enrichment. Lack of environmental enrichment causes cats to become under stimulated, bored, or even depressed. Boredom can cause cats to over eat, which is why our veterinary professionals strongly recommend monitoring and measuring your cat’s daily food intake and try to limit how many treats that your cats get daily, as too many high calorie treats can contribute to feline obesity.  Your veterinarian can help you by calculating how much food your furry feline should be eating to help maintain his/her health. By measuring out and portioning your cat’s food by meal feeding helps in preventing weight gain caused by over indulgence in cats that are free fed.  Just like us, Diet has a great impact on your cat’s body condition. Ask your veterinarian to help pick a diet that works best for your cat’s current lifestyle and body condition score.  A diet that is ok for one cat may not be ok for another based on their activity levels/lifestyles or predisposition to diseases that can cause weight gain.

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How excess weight can impact your cat

Just like people, excess weight can have a psychological effect on cats as well.  If a cat is overweight they may become less engaged in physical activities like playing, grooming, interacting/socializing with other pets or people in the household, causing their environmental enrichment to suffer. They can develop depression and anxiety, resulting in behavioral or urinary issues.  They often spend even more time sleeping and less time grooming, which can result in skin issues due to stress and lack of grooming. Cats are naturally “clean” animals and focus a great deal of time on grooming. If your cat isn’t grooming their hair may become dull, greasy or flakey, as well as their hair may become matted causing skin irritation and possible skin infections.  Excess weight also puts more strain on their bones and joints which can cause them to become inflamed, resulting in pain, developing arthritis and other serious health issues

How can I help my cat lose weight?

Impossible? Don’t worry it is actually easier than you think! Just like people diet and exercise are the best ways to keep your kitty fit and happy.

First you want to make sure that your cat is up to date on his/her annual exam and weight loss is recommended by your veterinarian. Diet is a big issue with weight gain, ask your vet before deciding to put your cat on a diet to make sure that the diet is suitable for your cat’s needs, also to help you set a goal for your cat’s weight loss. Your veterinarian can help calculate your cats daily calorie needs for weight loss or to maintain a healthy weight based on their body condition score and current lifestyle. If giving treats be sure to include the calorie count into the daily calories that your cat is recommended for each day. There are a variety of puzzle toys and no bowl feeders, where your cat has to find the food and “work” to get his/her reward, this type of toy helps keep your pet active, stimulates the brain and brings out your cats natural foraging/hunting instincts.

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Now let’s talk about exercise! This doesn’t mean that you have to sign Fluffy up with a gym membership. Try finding something that your cat really enjoys while being active. There are a lot of different types or cat toys that can help keep your cats stimulated and active. Some promote individual play and others can help your cat be active while improving the bond between you and your cat.

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Some toys that are very popular with cats include laser pointers. Most cats will go crazy after that little red light, make sure to give your cat breaks and let them catch the red dot sometimes. As a reward you can place the beam leading them to a toy or treat. You can train your cat to use a special cat exercise wheel, not all cats will be fond of it but some cats really enjoy it and will eventually use it on their own. There are a variety of toy mice, catnip toys and wand/feather toys that engages your cat to chase, run and jump after.