January 1st has become synonymous with a new beginning and for many, a chance to set a resolution and make a change. It’s no surprise in a country where obesity and weight management are everyday conversations, losing a few pounds is the number one resolution people make each year. But while you’re thinking about getting more exercise and healthier eating, you may be overlooking an important member of your family: your cat.
While chubby cats might look cute to many, obesity in pets and more specifically cats, is a serious issue. Just like a human carrying around extra weight can be hard on the body’s systems, overweight cats are prone to many health issues including diabetes, joint issues and cardiovascular problems. Obese cats can become sedentary, further negatively impacting their health.
Studies have shown that around 50% of house cats are either overweight or obese. For your pets, it’s not as simple as hitting the treadmill or avoiding snacking between meals. In fact, dramatically changing your cat’s habits quickly, particularly their diet, can have negative impact on their health.
Here are some tips to help you get your cat’s new year started off on the right foot:
1 – Restrict Free Feeding
Most cats have food available at all times. This allows them to graze whenever they want, whether they’re truly hungry or not, something that’s counter-intuitive to their base instincts.
Instead, begin by free-feeding smaller amounts so your cat runs out of food between feedings until you are able to scale back to two-four 1oz feedings per day.
2 – Quality Over Quantity
Quality pet food can make a huge difference. Cheap grocery store or big box brands provide a lot of food for a low price, which can be appealing. But you wouldn’t eat fast food cheeseburgers for every meal and your pet shouldn’t either.
Find a food that has a first or second ingredient of whole meat and is low in fillers.
3 – Up The Physical Activity
Most people don’t take their cat for walks (although you can!) but there are things that you can do to increase their physical activity. Select interactive toys that engage your cat, make them bounce, pounce, run or chase.
4 – Make Treats A Treat
Often with pets, treats become part of a regular routine rather than a reward for good behavior. If this is done often, treats can add up. On top of free feeding, this can mean your cat is taking in a lot of excess food that it doesn’t need.
Instead, give treats rarely and consider purchasing all natural treats or cooking chicken or fish to give to your cat instead.
These are just a few of the ways you can support a healthy weight for your feline friends. Consult your veterinarian before making any dramatic changes to your cat’s routine.