Cats & Obesity
More than half (60%) of cats are overweight or obese and obesity increases the risk of health problems, such as diabetes, reduced mobility, and reduced ability to groom.
The high incidence of cat obesity, and more broadly pet obesity, is likely due to obesity awareness, a food-is-love culture, and stress that may come from implementing an effective weight-loss plan. We are interested in how to make implementation of a weight-loss plan easier.
In our recent study, we enrolled 44 overweight cats with a body condition score (BCS) of 7/9 or greater, (i.e., cats whose ribs are not easy to feel and that had obvious abdominal fat—under the skin, not intra-abdominal). At the first visit, we measured the cat’s body weight, assigned a BCS, and reviewed the weight-loss plan. Cat owners/caregivers were asked to complete a survey regarding their perception of their cat’s quality of life. Cats were sent home with a veterinary weight-loss food, measuring cup, and instructions.
Cats returned monthly for weigh-ins and owners completed the quality of life survey. If cats were losing less than 0.5% body weight per week (e.g., 0.1lb per week for a 20lb cat) or more than 2% body weight per week (e.g., 0.4lb per week for a 20lb cat), the amount of veterinary weight loss food was adjusted. For 32 cats (72%) that displayed disruptive food-seeking behavior, ¼ cup of vegetables (e.g., zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, lettuce) were recommended and were found to be helpful in reducing the food-seeking behavior.
Cat owner perception of quality of life improved as cats lost weight, specifically, owners reported increased social behavior, increased mobility, increased play, and improved ability to groom. The unexpected key finding of this study was the value of adding vegetables to the diet of the overweight cat that acts hungry on a prescribed weight-loss plan.
Megan Shepherd, DVM, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Nutrition
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine