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Are you over feeding your cat?

It can be difficult for cat parents to know whether their cat has a weight problem. Dr Veronica Monaghan from Greencross Vets Kedron talks about the problems with overfeeding.

How much should you feed your cat?

If your cat is new to your household, you should begin by using the cat food packet as a guide. The amount is often described by the cat’s age and weight. But different animals often have different requirements depending on their lifestyle and other factors, so you cannot rely on this guide alone. 
If your cat is starting to put on weight after a couple of weeks, it’s important to reassess how much they’re eating. Likewise, if they’re losing weight you may need to increase their amount of food. If you’ve had your cat for a long time, it’s about feeding it a certain amount and observing. If you’re unsure, consulting your vet about your cat and its diet is the best way to go.

Consequences of regular overfeeding

Cats will get fatter if they’re regularly overfed. This means they get less mobile, more lethargic, they don’t want to play, and they can eventually get sick. Obese cats can easily get liver or heart disease, or diabetes. In our clinic, we see some families who have more than one diabetic cat, because that family tends to overfeed their pets. This is pretty disappointing because it’s easily preventable.

Long-term consequences

Regular, long-term overfeeding can lead to the death of the cat. Diabetes needs to be managed a certain way, and if a diabetic cat it is continually overfed, it won’t live as long as it should. Liver disease, pancreatitis and other health issues can also take a toll on how long a cat is going to live.

How to check

It can be difficult to check if a cat is overweight. The best way is to put your hands on the cat and feel the fat on the body. You should still be able to easily feel bones and flesh underneath. For breeds of cat with lots of fur, you can’t just go by how they look, because the fur conceals body size. A simple way to see an example is to make a fist with your hand and feel your knuckles – that’s what you’re after when feeling your cat’s bones. Alternatively, if you feel the underside of your knuckles, on your palm, with your hand loosely open, that feeling could be an indication that your cat has excess fat. 
Greencross Vets have also developed this infographic to help cat parents test if their cat (or dog) is overweight.

Fixing the problem

Carefully look at how much your cat is actually eating. This includes not just what goes into its bowl, but everything it eats throughout the day, including treats. An easy way to ensure your cat doesn’t get extra food is to put aside how much the cat will get throughout the whole day, and when it comes to giving treats, use a couple of bits from its daily allowance. That way, when dinner time comes, you’re giving the rest of the food to the cat and not giving too much by accident. 

Exercise is important

Playing is hugely important for cats in terms of health benefits. The cat is moving around, burning more calories, and weight loss happens faster. It’s also the mental health side, too. In the wild cats would spend a lot of their day stalking food. We throw it in a bowl for them and two minutes later it’s all over. My cats get fed in treat balls – so they roll the ball around and the food falls out piece by piece. So play helps with the mental and physical health of your cat. 
Contact your local Greencross Vets to set up an appointment for a weight and nutrition assessment for your pet. 

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