OK – I’m in big trouble now. I did remember National Feral Cat Day, Oct. 16. And that October is Adopt-A-Dog month. And, of course, Nov. 14 is National Pickle Day. (Who could forget that?) It seems there is a day for everything – even for fat cats. Oct. 12 was National Pet Obesity Day. It’s a problem. Depending on the source you choose to quote, at least half of our indoor cats are overweight.
Approximately 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese, according to data released from a nationwide collaboration between the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and Banfield the Pet Hospital. Also, according to veterinary surveys about 20% of dogs and cats are considered downright obese. And it seems these numbers may actually be on the rise.
Being overweight may impact longevity — even cancer risk may increase in overweight pets, not to mention diabetes and various other physical problems. Certainly, being overweight can impact quality of life. For example, overweight cats are likely to have arthritis and to have less and less interest in play.
Also, overweight cats may eliminate outside the litterbox – it’s just not easy to squeeze a big package into a large box, and it may hurt to even step into the cat’s litterbox. Sometimes even pampered overweight cats are given up to shelters because they miss the box. Even if relinquishment isn’t the end result, the bond with family members may diminish if the cat is having accidents.
The CATalyst Council (a non-profit organization with a mission to elevate the status of cats) is helping to combat feline obesity by offering the following list of five easy ways owners can help their cats get the exercise they need to stay at their healthy weight. If you believe that your cat is overweight, prior to trying any of the following suggestions, visit your cat’s veterinarian to ensure that there are no underlying medical reasons for your cat’s excess weight. Also, speak to your veterinarian about diet. And be honest about those table scraps that you might offer your cat. I know the last thing you mean to do is to love your cat to death.
1. Hunting Food toys are available that channel a cat’s natural hunting drive and release kibble a small amount at a time. Another option is to hide a cat’s food in different places so that he or she has to find it. Working for food makes a cat happy because it’s great physical and mental exercise.
2. Training Cats are smart and can be trained to do fun tricks just like dogs, and the mental and physical stimulation is great for your cat. With a little time, you can easily teach your cat to play fetch, find a favorite toy or jump on command, all of which are great exercise. As an added bonus, training a cat will help strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
3. Walking Many cats enjoy taking walks with their people. Walking a cat does require purchasing a special harness and leash designed for a cat and ensuring your cat is up to date on vaccinations and preventative medications, but provides excellent exercise for both the cat and owner.
4. Preying Cats are natural hunters and love chasing, pouncing, leaping, swatting and stalking prey, even when it’s not a “real” prey item. There are many types of prey toys available on the market; or, with a little creativity, you can even make your own out of common household items. Just make sure they are safe and appropriate for your cat (your veterinarian can help provide guidance on homemade cat toys). All the fun of hunting is also fantastic exercise for the cat.
5. Buddying Think about getting another cat. Cats are social animals, so consider getting another cat to keep your current cat company (if you only have one). Cats love to play, and having a feline friend in the house will make for two happy cats, provided they are properly introduced and have the right places to eat, hide, play and go to the bathroom.
Visit your community dog and cat shelter and see what feline friends they have to offer. The playing that cats do with one another is great exercise and will ensure both cats remain active and healthy.