Friday, October 10, 2008

Fat Cats

A study I worked on aaaaaaaaages ago has just been published in the Australian Veterinary Pracitioner, revealing that at least 26.2% of Australian cats are overweight and 6.6% are obese! Shocking but true. Pet obesity seems to be one of those diseases of the greedy Western world. There's a dedicated pet obesity clinic in the UK. Obesity in cats, as with people, can lead to diseases like diabetes. In male cats, obesity increases the risk of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) which can result in a life threatening urinary tract obstruction if not treated.

One of the points made in the discussion is that "in the absence of reliably effective means of increasing exercise in cats, it is appropriate to consider ways in which [food] intake can be modified."

Great point! Exercising cats is hard work. When I try to exercise mine they widen their little eyes but thats about all it amounts to. But it still might be helping. I watched a fantastic documentary on obese pets in the UK and there was a huge cat whose owners were told to play with him every day. Well, play they did, although he couldn't be bothered. But he lost weight anyway. I think the fact that they were giving him attention and involving him might have burnt some extra calories so I don't think playing with cats is a dead loss when it comes to weight reduction - and lets face it, spending time with your moggy is never time wasted.

The study did confirm that desexed cats are at a greater risk of obesity (thought to be due to reduced activity, increased intake and a decreased metabolic rate), so they require fewer calories than their entire counterparts.

At my house we have "big cat, little cat" syndrome. ie one cat gorges herself on the food and the other doesn't. Dieting cats in multi-cat households can be tricky, as cats tend to graze on meals and thus there is often food available. Big Cat did lose some weight when she was put on a commercial weight loss diet (Hills r/d) - but I've no doubt that sporting those extra kilos will see her develop a more severe form of osteoarthritis in her old age than Little Cat. (FYI I've started her on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate "Joint Guard for Cats", and she'll be given acupuncture and analgesics in later life if and when required).

But the take home message is: feed less calories to your desexed cat, and PLAY WITH HIM (or her) MORE!

Full reference: McGreevy P; Thomson P; Pride C; Fawcett A; Grassi T and Jones B (2008) Overweight or obese cats presented to Australian Veterinary Practices: risk factors and prevalence. Australian Veterinary Practitioner 38(3):98-107