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Fat cats are all over the Internet. While some people think a roly-poly Garfield lookalike is cute, vets like me shudder every time we see one because all we can think about are the health consequences of obesity in cats: diabetes, arthritis and hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), to name just a few.
If you have a fat cat, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most common medical diagnoses in felines, usually due to a combination of overfeeding and under-exercise. A 2011 study from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 53 percent of cats are overweight.
While the main culprit is usually a matter of simply setting out too much food, cat obesity can have a variety of causes. If you’re ready to get your cat in shape, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Are you feeding the right diet? It might not be just the volume of food, but the type of food, that is contributing to your cat’s waistline. High carbohydrate foods can be a trigger to overeat in some cats, especially considering their carnivorous nature. Consider canned food, which tends to be lower in carbohydrates than kibble, or ask your vet for a recommendation for a low-carbohydrate, high-protein food.
Medical conditions. Cats, like people and dogs, can have hypothyroidism. Although less commonly seen than in other species, this condition can lead to weight gain. A simple blood test can determine if this is a problem in your cat. Any medical condition that causes a decrease in activity, such as arthritis, can also lead to weight gain. Regular veterinary checkups help catch these underlying problems early.
Weight loss is best done gradually in the cat. Obese cats subjected to a sudden change in diet may refuse to eat, triggering a dangerous condition called hepatic lipidosis. Make sure to consult your veterinarian before embarking on a weight loss plan. Good luck, and happy losing!
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a small-animal veterinarian from San Diego. When she's not at work or with her family of two and her four-legged creatures, you can find her blogging about life with pets at PawCurious.com. Dr. Vogelsang's blogs have previously appeared on The Daily Cat.