Research shows why your overweight cat needs to lose weight
While overweight cats are often portrayed in media and online as being cute and cuddly, the effects of this excessive weight on their wellbeing is often profound. If a cat is carrying more weight than is healthy for them, it can be having a significant impact on their health and quality of life.
Not only can excess weight potentially reduce their mobility, cause more specific joint issues, and in some cases even limit them from being able to groom themselves properly, it can also dramatically influence their quality of life and put them at risk of a significant number of secondary health issues. These secondary disorders range from mild ones such as shortness of breath and urinary issues, to more serious, ongoing issues such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis.
Managing weight loss in a cats can be a real challenge, but numerous studies have shown that if an overweight cat can have their weight reduced to a healthy level, then their quality of life, wellbeing and behaviour will all improve.
Improve their mobility
As anyone who has ever carried around a couple of bags of shopping will tell you, more weight makes it harder to move. Cats carrying too much weight are often inactive and spend a lot of their time sleeping, because moving is hard, and in some cases, can even cause them pain. They’re also less interested in playing and have trouble doing things that come naturally to most cats like climbing and jumping.
Research that focused on reducing a cat’s weight to healthy levels using a managed program of diet and exercise, showed that activity levels increased significantly in overweight cats as their weight was reduced. Signs of this increased activity included being more playful, becoming more interested in interacting with others, and being more physically adventurous with their climbing and jumping activity.
Improve their quality of life
As part of studies into the reduction of weight in obese cats, a group of cats had aspects of their behaviour observed to help give an indication of their quality of life. Overweight cats were found to be more anxious, less curious, more likely to hide, less inclined to be stroked or handled, and less likely to be able to groom themselves properly.
Once their weight was reduced however, those same cats were less shy, less irritable, more likely to be happy to be stroked and handled, and more happy about life in general.
Reduce their begging
It seems ironic, but overweight cats are more likely to show signs of begging behaviour than cats that maintain a healthy weight range. Signs you may be familiar with if your cat begs for food including: eating their food too quickly, constant meowing for more, stealing food from your family or the neighbours, waking you up in the night to be fed, and following you everywhere until you feed them.
ROYAL CANIN® conducted an integrated weight management program with 399 cats across 27 countries in 2015 that used a combination of exercise and the veterinary feline Satiety Diet. One of the findings was that not only did 97% of the cats lose weight, but owners noticed a significant improvement in their cat’s behaviour by the end of the study.
Is your cat overweight?
If you are not sure whether your cat is overweight, have a look at our article How can I tell if my pet is overweight? It shows you how to conduct a simple physical and visual examination of your cat called a Body Condition Score test. The results of this test will give you a basic idea about whether your cat is carrying more weight than is good for them. There is also a short video about the Cat Body Condition Score that helps explain how the test works and a Body Condition Score Triage Tool on our website to help guide you through the test.
How can I help my cat lose weight?
If you suspect your cat is carrying more weight than they should be, the best thing to do is to talk to your vet or vet nurse at your cat’s next check up. They can help you confirm whether your cat has a weight issue and help you to develop a tailored weight management program for them that will most likely be a mixture of dietary change and increased exercise. You can find some great exercise tips for cats in our article Giving your pet enough exercise. If you’re looking for guidance on dietary change for your overweight cat, check out our article on The key nutrients needed to deal with an overweight cat’s health problems.