We all want the best for our cats. They bring us love, affection and joy! But we also need to remember that different cats have different needs. And this is certainly the case when it comes to food. How much food a cat needs and how to recognise when a particular cat might be eating more than they need, is no easy thing! In fact, because of this, cat obesity has become a big issue in the UK, especially over the pandemic.
Overfeeding during the pandemic
As we’ve spent more time at home over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, cat obesity or overweight cats has become much more common. Cats Protection – the UK’s leading welfare charity for cats – conducted a survey with over 2,000 participants. They found that more than a quarter of respondents had overfed their cats during the lockdown. Another UK report found that even prior to the pandemic, more than 3.2 million cats of the UK’s 13 million are overfed.
These are big numbers, making it a big problem! As cats get overweight, they don’t like to play or exercise, further exacerbating their health and weight problems. Add to this that a fat cat, as iconic as the image might be, is not necessarily a happy cat. Cat obesity shortens a cat’s lifespan and causes health issues including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and liver failure.
It’s in everyone’s interests that cats aren’t overfed.
Overfeeding and the environmental impact
What’s more, cat food produces huge amounts of carbon emissions and for that reason, we don’t want to use more than we need! Extra food means a bigger carbon pawprint. That’s because the land use and emissions associated with the meat production, processing and transportation of all this food is really significant. In fact, food makes up for the largest part of a cat’s carbon pawprint, so it’s worth carefully considering how much food you provide. Not to mention that overfeeding is also going to put you out of pocket!
Cat obesity: how to deal with my overfed cat?
So, what can you do if you suspect that your cat’s eating a little too much? Firstly, don’t worry – you’re not alone! There are some simple steps suggested by Cats Protection that you can take today.
- First things first, check with your local vet to get a professional opinion before drawing up your weight loss plan! This is good practice generally and something you always want to do before making any big changes in the lifestyle of your animal.
- Factor in treats: if you’re regularly giving treats to your cat on top of meals, take these into account! Cat obesity is often begun with an overgenerous hand! It might mean you reduce the amount of food given at meal times, or should perhaps reduce the treats (or types of treats) you give.
- Weigh out your cat food: most pet food comes with recommended serving sizes. This can be easy if it’s a pouch, but dry food and tinned food is harder to estimate. Grab some scales and make sure you’re not being overly generous with lunch and dinner!
- Watch out for dairy products: it’s important to avoid giving your cat treats which we typically associate with cats, but which are only fit for human bellies. Tasty treats such as milk and cheese are usually indigestible by cats. Keep them away!
- Check if your neighbours are the culprits: you may want to call round and remind your neighbours not to offer up any extra morsels of food. They might think they’re being nice, but let them know your plans and co-opt them into your cat’s diet! You might also put on an extra paper collar which explains this cat’s dieting.
- Off to the gym! Overfed cats move less, and this can exacerbate their weight issues. But you can help. Set aside regular time to play games with your feline friend to encourage them to move and be active – you’ll have great fun in the process!
- Do more research: there’s loads more advice out there on the internet and in your community. Consider joining forums, speaking to other cat owners and sharing your learning as you go along.