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Keep extra weight away from your cat

A cat’s nutritional needs change with each lifestage and condition. A kitten needs different food from a neutered cat, and a healthy, intact adult cat has different needs from a cat that’s already over 7 years old. In any case, healthy weight should always be maintained.

Some owners will say “So what? My cat’s a bit on the heavy side, but that’s because she’s neutered.” Yes, neutered cats gain weight more easily - which is why they should be fed a third of the food eaten prior to neutering in order to keep their healthy weight. Excess weight shouldn’t be taken lightly in any cat, since overweight cats are prone to a range of conditions that impact their quality of life. Among them are diabetes, skin conditions, arthritis, urinary tract issues, heart conditions and an increased risk of cancer. If your cat’s over 7 years old, that puts her at thrice the risk of complications due to overweight compared to cats at a normal weight.

We know now that it’s important to keep cats at a healthy weight in order to avoid health problems in the future. But how do we tell if she really is on the heavy side?

Start under the belly and hind legs. Can you notice a roll of fat? Pass your hand along her underside and her ribs - can you feel them while you’re stroking her? If there’s a pouch near her hind legs and her ribs aren’t easily felt, it might mean she’s overweight.

If that’s the case, it’s time to change her feeding habits. Don’t worry, it just means that you’ll need to switch her to several small meals a day instead of the free feeding regime she’s been used to. Try a food dispenser or a food ball to control her meal size at first, then try serving her smaller meals throughout the day. If you’re encountering begging during this transition, compensate with extra attention. Your hugs and cuddles will go a long way towards calming her down during this time of change. 

If extra cuddles aren’t cutting it, try surprising her with some new toys or make some time to play with her each day. This keeps her mind off food and helps strengthen your special bond. Another way to keep her busy is to get her a playmate - think about getting a kitten so she doesn’t feel lonely when you’re away. Just be careful with the breed, since some cats experience stress if a second cat is introduced to the household. Consult with your vet about which breed goes best with your cat. 

Some final tips on watching your cat’s weight: be careful with the cat treats. Most of them are full of calories, and overfeeding is a fast track to extra pounds. The best way to control her calorie intake and watch her weight is to feed her a special weight management nutrition - ask your vet about which food is right for her.

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