Fat Cats – Facts and Fictions

The results are in - unlike humans, rats and dogs, there is no downside to being a 'Fat Cat'...until you become a diabetic, that is. Recent studies have indicated that obese cats are more likely to get arthritis, skin problems and diabetes. What does it really mean and what might you need to do about it?

Is my cat obese?

Obese refers to cats who are 40% over the normal weight - which means you can’t feel your cat’s ribs even with deep prodding! The fat pad that hangs below the belly is a special type of fat, like the fat in a camel’s hump, which produces energy and water if the cat has no food. It is the fat on the ribs which is the problem fat. The arthritis is unspecified as to location, and responds to weight reduction and pain relief. The skin problems are mainly due to a physical inability to reach around and groom themselves, so weight reduction and owner assistance can resolve that too.

Fat Cats - those who still have ribs - also get arthritis, and are still prone to diabetes. However, neither group has an increased incidence of cancer, kidney or bladder problems, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, heart problems or allergies.

How can diabetes be prevented?

Diabetes is the difficult problem to live with, so prevention is better than having to look after a cat who needs injections twice a day. One of the most interesting recent developments is that diabetic cats respond quite well to dietary management and there are new commercial diets developed to help. The key change in thinking is to replace carbohydrates (CHO) with protein in the diet, and to have a moderate amount of fat and fibre. This is a departure from recommendations only two years ago as we have realised that while most cats can use CHO for energy, some cats have a metabolism that is ‘tricked’ into diverting CHO straight into fat! Thus modern diets are once again starting to be more like mice - high protein, no carbohydrate and moderate fat!

It is usually very hard to live with a cat on a diet - we have even had some felines go feral on their owners and attack them when their calorie intake was restricted! However, the new diet recommendations are also working very well for cats who need to lose weight - clients are telling us that their cats aren’t being as vocal nor as demanding of food as they have on other reducing diets.

So if your cat is starting to waddle instead of walk - talk to your vet about helping them get a more svelte feline form again!

About the Author

Dr. Kim Kendall BVSc MACVSc (Cat Medicine and Animal Behaviour) is one of Australia’s and the worlds best known Cat Vets. 

Since 1994 her dedicated cat-only veterinary, boarding and grooming centre, The Chatswood Cat Palace has been based on Sydney’s North Shore.  

Kim loves cats, and wants the best for them, using science to back up intuition and passion for feline health. She is also a pioneering expert in the field of Feline Friendly Care at home and at the vet clinic and has written extensively on the subject. Read more

By Dr Kim Kendall - Last updated 4 November 2014

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