A fat cat shouldn’t be taken lightly. Therefore, before the gravity of the situation is explored, one thing must be said; The tubby tabby is a growing problem in this country. Okay, now that’s out of the way, how to tell if your cat is fat?
Does the china shake when your fat cat lumbers into the kitchen for his feed bowl? Have you had to buy a large litter box recently? The last time you had to haul your fat cat to the vet, did you return with a hernia?
Of course, a surer test is to weigh your fat cat. Try it. Bathroom scales can’t give an accurate reading on a beast that becomes pure muscle extended in four different directions simultaneously when held in place by a human. But if you succeed, know that your cat should probably weigh between eight and 12 pounds. Nineteen pounds, for example, is not acceptable.
Don’t try to rationalize that an extra seven pounds isn’t all that much to carry around. We’re talking about small creatures here, not humans. The stress on their bodies is more than they should be asked, or allowed, to bear. What does fat do to a cat? It lowers its resistance to disease. It can impair the functions of heart, lung, liver and pancreas and make the cat prone to arthritis and skin diseases.
Although you can tell a cat is fat by looking at it, many people can’t quite see it. We tend to judge pets the way we do livestock – the fleshier the better. Only a veterinarian is knowledgeable enough to monitor a fat cat’s weight loss. Certain cats may have to remain on a diet for life. Others have preexisting conditions which may be harmed by a reduced diet. Only a veterinarian can ascertain this.
The diet cat food usually comes in one flavor – liver. While the increased palatability of cat food is in part responsible for cats overeating in the first place, a variety of flavors is not what is drawing felines back to their bowls. This is one of several myths promoted by pet food companies. Cats are normally addicted to one food flavor – usually whatever flavor the cat was most consistently introduced to shortly after being weaned. If your kitten ate beef-flavored food, the cat he grew into is likely to turn up his nose at chicken. At this point, don’t do what many owners do, which is serve more and varied food to tempt his appetite.
Assume that if your cat isn’t eating he should be lured to his bowl. Cats’ appetites are cyclical. There are peaks and valleys separated by several weeks. One week he may wolf down his chow, while the next he may barely twitch a whisker at the sound of a tin being opened. He is not being finicky. Don’t break open the gourmet treat in hopes of putting him back on his feed.
Although many cats consume as much as 50 calories per pound per day, they should only consume between 25 and 35 calories. Unfortunately, few cat foods list caloric content. What the concerned pet owner should look for on the label is the nutritional guarantee that the food is adequate for growth and reproduction.
Be wary of foods billed as all beef, all chicken etc. This sounds appetizing to humans, but can be nutritionally deficient for cats. Instead review ingredients listed, which appear in order of their proportion contained in the food. Look for a large number of ingredients. This suggests the manufacturer has made some effort to formulate a balanced diet.
Be prepared to see cereals and grains, which is fine, but also look for animal and plant sources of protein. And if the source of animal protein – meat, muscle meat, eggs, milk or cheese – isn’t listed among the first four ingredients, you might want to try another brand.
No one but your vet can actually advise on how much to feed your fat cat, but many cat foods do list recommended allotments. Just remember this, felines are civilized creatures – ask any owner – and the motto “moderation in all things” applies to them as well as to us.