At 12 years and 22 lbs, Tripp is a tubby tabby. And it doesn’t take a veterinarian or a PhD to help me figure that out. Over the years his swagger has morphed into a waddle. He boasts an impressive furchin*. I have to tend to his crusty butt hygiene because he can’t quite reach back there anymore. (Who am I to talk? I can’t reach to lick my nether regions, either.)
Your cat might not be as hefty as Tripp, but you may not realize that he’s overweight. It’s estimated that over 50% of cats in the U.S. weigh in over their ideal weight. Research shows that, like overweight humans, tubby cats are more likely to develop health problems. Problems like diabetes can diminish their quality of life and shorten their lives. It diminishes your quality of life, too. Daily injections or infusions are no fun to give, and it’s hard to travel when you don’t want to entrust a sitter with an ailing pet.
Because I want to enjoy as many years as pawsible with Tripp, Purina is helping me getting him back in shape. They’ve developed tools and nutrition that will help me and my vet determine his ideal body condition. You, too, can use these tools to determine if your cat is pussyfooting into the pudgy zone and then get him back on the path to good health.
Start With A Healthy Hug
A simple rib check can tell you if your cat has a weight problem. With your hands facing downward, place your thumbs on the cat’s spine, grasping the rib cage area with your palms and fingers.
Can’t feel his ribs? It’s a sign your kitty needs to lose some weight.
Look For the Hourglass Figure
Take a look at your cat from above. He doesn’t need to sport a tiny Scarlett O’Hara waist, but if you can’t see a waist when viewed from above or the tummy appears rounded when viewed from the side, it’s likely that your cat needs to lose some weight. Consult your veterinarian to rule out illnesses that might contribute to weight gain and determine if your cat needs a weight management program.
The expurrts at Purina Pet Care have a 1-9 scale by which you can determine if your cat is at her ideal weight:
Underweight Cat (1-4)
1. Ribs will visible on shorthaired cats, and they will not have any obvious fat. Their tummies will appear to be sucked in (called an ‘abdominal tuck’), and their spine and hip bones will be very pronounced.
2. Ribs and backbones are easily visible on shorthaired cats. There will be minimal muscle mass with no obvious fat, with a pronounced abdominal tuck.
3. Ribs can be easily felt and the backbones and waist behind ribs will be visually obvious. The cat will have a minimal fat covering across their body and on their tummy.
4. Ribs can be felt with a minimal fat covering and they have a noticeable waist behind their ribs. They will have a slight abdominal tuck but will be missing a ‘fat pad’ on their tummy.
Ideal Cat Weight(5)
5. A well-proportioned body – you should be able to see a waist behind the ribs; ribs can still be felt but with a slight fat covering. There will be a small paunch of fat on the abdomen. This level is a healthy weight for a cat.
Overweight Cat (6-9)
6. Ribs can be felt but are covered with a slight excess fat covering. Their waist and tummy fat pad are noticeable but not obvious – there is no abdominal tuck.
7. Ribs can’t be easily felt underneath a moderate fat covering. Their waist can’t be easily seen and there is an obvious rounding of the stomach with a moderate abdominal fat pad.
8. Ribs can’t be felt, and are covered with excess fat. Their waist is absent, and they have an obviously rounded abdomen with prominent fat pad on their tummy, and also fat on their back area.
9. Ribs and lumbar area are hidden under a heavy covering of fat, and heavy fat deposits are also present on the face and limbs. The abdomen is distended and covered in fat, and there’s no discernible waist.
How Do You Get Your Cat to Adhere to a Weight Loss Regimen?
It’s easier than putting yourself on a weight loss routine. After all, while you can cheat on a diet whenever you want with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, your cat can’t sneak off to the Jack in the Box drive-thru unless you’re driving. You control his entire diet (save for a mouse appetizer here and there). And although you can’t send him to weight loss bootcamp, you can increase his level of activity a number of fun ways. Here’s what you need to consider:
Your veterinarian can recommend a nutrition plan that will help your cat achieve his optimal body condition. The best weight loss diet should include the right balance of protein, fat and fiber.
Cut Calories with a Measuring Cup
The days of freefeeding are over. Purina provides feeding guidelines on the back of its packages. These guidelines will help you determine the amount of food necessary for your cat to achieve the best possible body condition. Measure your portions according to the guidelines. No, don’t eyeball it; measure.
You may notice there’s a big difference between the amount of food your cat now gets and what he got pre-diet. Tapering the decrease will make the change easier to swallow. If you free-feed your cat, dividing the daily food allowance over the course of the day will make the adjustment go more smoothly.
Put the Brakes on the Treat Train
As you work with your veterinarian to develop a weight loss nutrition plan, allow for a few treats here and there and build those calories into the day’s calorie allotment.
100 Jumping Jacks a Day
…in the form of rigorous playtime. Your vet can help you determine how much exercise your cat needs. Catify your house with a tall cat tree and encourage him to climb. Adopt a playmate who will chase and play with your cat when you’re not around.
Simply limiting the amount of food you feed your cat is not the best approach to managing his weight. Like humans, cats will lose muscle mass if they don’t get the right balance of protein, fat and fiber. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets® OM Overweight Management® Feline Formula includes the high level of protein a that your cat’s metabolism demands to maintain lean muscle. Its low levels of fat and calories encourage healthy weight loss. And OM contains just the right amount of fiber to help a cat feel satisfied (and regular) while he sheds the extra blubber.
And now…. back to my pint of Chunky Monkey.
*Furchin fər′chən A turgid sac o’ fat protruding from the feline abdomen, so named because of its resemblance to a furry sea urchin.
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