Garfield may make fat cats look cute, but the problems that arise from feline obesity are far from funny. Extra pounds on your pussycat can cause feline diabetes, arthritis, breathing difficulties and heart disease. Sadly, feline obesity is on the rise in the United States. According to a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, currently 54% of all cats are considered obese. With over half of the kitties in the country dealing with weight issues, it is time to make a positive change. Check out these 10 tips for managing your cat's weight, and make 2013 a healthier year for you and your furry friend.
1. Visit the Vet to Get a Handle On Your Cat's Condition
Before your kitty starts its diet, it is important that it sees a veterinarian. The doctor will test your feline's blood and urine levels to ensure that a thyroid or metabolic dysfunction is not responsible for the weight gain. If your cat is physically normal besides the extra weight, talk over a diet plan with your vet. Get your kitty's exact measurements and find out what its ideal weight should be. This will create a safe starting point for you cat's weight-loss journey. (petMD)
2. Create a Weight-Loss Program for Your Cat
After talking to your vet, it is important to formulate a plan for your pet. An easy way to kickstart your cat's diet is to feed your cat a specified serving of diet food that is 20% lower in calories than your cat's previous, non-diet food. After a week of these feedings, check your cat's weight. If the cat's weight has dropped more than 2% from its original size, increase the food serving, but if your cat has dropped less than 2%, consider cutting back a bit more. Kitties that lose right around 2% can stay on the same feeding schedule. Continue to weigh your cat and adjust its food every week, while mixing in interactive play, as well. Follow this routine until your cat is down to its goal weight. Once you hit the mark, remember to watch portion control. (Cat Channel)
3. Don't Diet Too Drastically
Plans are important because they keep you from going to extremes when feeding your cat. Crash dieting can lead to a serious and sometimes fatal liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. To prevent fatty liver disease, space out your cat's weight-loss plan over several months, and never make drastic changes to your kitty's diet. If you aren't seeing the expected results, take your cat back to vet to ensure there aren't other health problems at play. (Vetstreet)
4. Cut Back on Dry Food
Many dry cat food brands have a high calorie count, racking up to 400 calories per cup of food. These big numbers make it easy for owners to mistakenly overfeed their pets. Additionally, dry foods are usually high in carbohydrates and low in protein. This makeup is unhealthy for the naturally carnivorous feline, and can quickly lead to excess weight. To help fight unneeded calories, try cutting dry food from your cat's diet and opt for a high-protein canned food instead. (Vetstreet)
5. Cut Carbs and Up the Protein
Dry food is not the only offender when it comes to high carbohydrate levels. Many wet foods can have a large amount of hidden carbs, as well. It is important to research food brands and pick those with the highest levels of protein. Cats are carnivores; they need a high fat and protein-based diet to live at their best. Felines don't produce the enzymes to quickly digest carbs, causing excess carbohydrates in your cat's diet to store as fat. As you make your weight-loss plan, ensure that the foods you are choosing for your cat are largely made up of protein, not carbs. (Care2)
6. Stop "Free Feeding"
Free feeding is the term given to the routine of always leaving food out for your cat, and filling up their bowl when it becomes empty. This routine makes it easy to lose track of how much your feline is actually eating and how many calories. It is best to switch to meal-feeding instead, giving your cat controlled portions of food throughout the day and not refilling the bowl when they are all done. (Vetstreet)
7. Take Prepackaged Treats Out of the Diet
Treats quickly fill up your cat's calorie intake. Plus, prepackaged treats are full of carbohydrates, food coloring and artificial flavors. Get rid of these unhealthy nuggets and replace them with bits of cooked chicken or fish when your cat deserves a treat. These snacks will give your cat an extra protein boost and none of the unnecessary ingredients found in packaged treats. Overall, you should cut down on giving your cats treats of any kind, and owners should never feed treats to cats to stop them from meowing. This only encourages this behavior and gives them extra calories to boot. (petMD)
8. Don't Depend on Food Labels
While food labels have to be honest about what's inside the can, their portion suggestions can be off. Most portion sizes "recommended" by cat food companies are too large and can be one of the sources of your cat's weight gain. Instead of following the packaging, adjust your kitty's food based on their body makeup and physical activity. No cat is the same, so talk with your vet about the portion sizes and calorie intake that is right for your feline. (petMD)
9. Give Your Cat Daily Exercise
Diet and exercise are important elements of a healthy human lifestyle, and cats are no different. It is essential you encourage your cat to be physically active on a daily basis. Exercise will help your cat move easier and burn excess calories. Interactive toys that simulate the hunt for prey can be a great way to get a cat on its paws. You may also want to consider adopting an additional cat for your feline to interact with. It is important to watch your cat's behavior while playing. If it seems out of breath or tired, give it a break. (petMD)
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10. Give an L-Caratine Boost
L-Caratine is an amino acid that helps the liver transform fat reserves into glucose. As a result, L-Caratine can be a huge help for big cats trying to lose weight. The amino acid is found in high quantities in meats, but in very low levels in vegetable matter. This is another reason a high protein diet is great for cats. With your vet's approval, supplementing your cat's diet with L-Caratine can help kickstart weight loss in an obese feline and keep it healthy throughout its dietary journey.
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