Let’s face it, cats are getting fat, so fat that The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimates 54 percent of them are overweight or obese. The biggest loser might not be you, or even another human. It could be your cat.
APOP says the result is that 93 million dogs or cats that are obese or overweight. It’s hard for people to imagine what feline weight really means. So they point out that a fluffy feline that weighs 15 pounds (domestic short hair) is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male?
So should it be any surprise to learn that Nestle Purina has teamed up with Jenny Craig to create “Project: Pet Slim Down” – an online reality show at http://www.projectpetslimdown.com. It’s about creating a slimmer, healthier pet, less likely to contract diabetes and other illnesses associated with obesity.
The reality show starts with a vet and vet tech prescribing a diet and exercise regime. Then the show follows each pet over a four-month period, with a a weigh-in every 30 days. The owners are also interviewed to see how the project slim down working for the pet and the family. Each pet’s 120-day journey is documented in a 6 to 7 minute clip. The second year the series has been aired, this year’s series has expanded beyond dogs, and includes three dogs and five cats.
This week, the series is in Episode 5, detailing how the pets have lost weight and the owners gained a lot of knowledge.
While fun and informative to watch, Project Slim Down also has an online program, as well. By singing up for the challenge on their homepage, the online program tracks your progress, gives helpful hints, and gives reminders of different strategies to try to make the weight loss program a success. Awards badges are given for progress, and can be shared with friends and family. They also offer Facebook option where you can meet others on a pet weight loss journey and share your cat and dog weight loss experiences by joining our Facebook page, Fighting Pet Obesity with Purina Veterinary Diets®
And just like with us humans, the focus is on how much food and exercise kitty or poochie needs. One cat owner put her cat up on a high perch making him expend energy by jumping down. Providing ample toys and activities will help the cat want to play, and thus exercise. Any cat owner will know that enticing a cat to exercise when they’d rather be napping could be the ultimate challenge – one you’re likely to lose.
Nestle Purina shares information that every cat owner should know on their website. Activity level, temperature, and body metabolism are important to maintaining an ideal body weight, one in which:
- The animal is well proportioned,
- Has an observable waist behind the ribcage
- Ribs can be felt with a slight fat covering over them
Cats tend to be nibblers or occasional eaters, and should have access to their food and a source of clean fresh water throughout the day.
Nestle Purina also makes some additional suggestions:
- A quality cat food needs the proper balance of all the nutrients a cat requires in addition to being tasty.
- Feeding cats table scraps can upset the nutrient balance of their diet.
- Repeatedly adding raw eggs to a cat’s diet can cause a deficiency of the vitamin biotin, which can lead to dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), loss of hair and poor growth.
- Some raw fish can cause a deficiency of the vitamin thiamine. Signs of a thiamine deficiency include anorexia (complete loss of appetite), abnormal posture, weakness, seizures and even death.
- Meat must be combined with other ingredients to provide complete nutrition. Raw meats may contain parasites, and cooked meats can be high in fat and do not contain a proper balance of nutrients.
- Raw liver, fed daily in large quantities, can cause vitamin A toxicity in cats.
- Cats should never be given small soft bones (such as pork chop or chicken bones) because they could splinter and lodge in a pet’s mouth or throat.
- Supplements are not necessary when a normal, healthy cat is being fed a complete and balanced food.
- Feeding table scraps, inconsistent exercise or stressful changes in routine can leave cats with special nutritional needs.
- Cats require a higher level of dietary protein, a different nutrient balance than dogs and taurine to their diet. For this reason, never feed your cat dog food.
- Feed and treat responsibly. Lots of treats have added sugar, so it’s important to read the labels.
- Milk is a food and not a substitute for water. If the intestinal tract does not contain sufficient lactase, consumption of a high level of lactose can cause diarrhea.
Even when all factors are the same, two cats of similar size, age, and activity may need different amounts of food because they have different metabolism rates, just like people. A cat’s appetite and total food consumption will vary from day to day.
According to the Nestle Purina website, people should not be overly concerned if their adult cat experiences a short-term loss of appetite or reluctance to eat. However, if this behavior extends for several days or the cat shows symptoms of illness, take the cat to a veterinarian.
Before putting kitty on a diety, ProjectSlim Down suggests getting input from your vet to establish weight loss goals which should be about one of two percent a week. That would translate into one or two pounds for 100 pounds, so for a 20 pound kitty, it would be a quarter to half pound.