There’s nothing like a snuggle with a ‘fluffy’ feline friend but obesity in cats is a problem. Compared to their previously wild ancestors, the cats we know and love today don’t work nearly as hard for their food, or spend nearly as much time on the move.
In nature, cats do not have an ad libitum (as desired), free-choice, all-you-can-eat environment. They make numerous – up to 50% failed – hunting attempts for every successful kill. To avoid starvation, the drive to see, stalk, pounce and kill is permanently turned on.
Each hunt requires intense concentration, processing ultrasonic and other acoustic and visual cues while remaining motionless until pouncing. Most prey are small mammals and birds, none of which are large enough to share with another cat. Cats may hunt 80-100 times/day to meet their caloric requirement, an intellectually stimulating and physically active endeavour.
There are numerous reasons, the most obvious being that they eat more calories than they need. But it is more complicated than that.
Knowing how much food to feed each cat is extremely important. While obesity is a big problem, it is also critical (especially in older cats) to ensure cats aren’t underweight, which can result in a loss of muscle and frailty.
We tend to overestimate the body condition of thin cats and underestimate the body condition of overweight and longhaired cats. Learning how to accurately assess your cat’s body condition plays a key role in preventing weight problems.
Body condition indicates whether kitty is getting too many, too few, or the right number of calories. Muscle condition scoring specifically reflects the amount of calories from protein.
You can manage your cat’s weight by not feeding them too many calories, but also through making them work for their meals. This stimulates more natural hunting, killing and eating behaviour which makes for a happier cat.
Let’s get our tabbies to their top condition! Know how much to feed, how to feed it, and how to check whether it’s working for Tom or Tabitha.
This article was written by Cat Healthy feline specialist Dr. Margie Scherk DVM, Dip ABVP (Feline Practice)