How to manage your cat's weight

Although many cats are healthy, active felines that stay in good health for all of their lives, some owners may find that their pet has a tendency to gain weight rather easily.

And while the problem of feline obesity hasn't yet reached the same epidemic proportions as in dogs, weight related health conditions are becoming increasingly common in cats that are carrying an extra few pounds.

Not only can obesity shorten a cat's lifespan and lead to problems such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and lower urinary tract infections, but it can also make your moggie's daily activities more strenuous and less enjoyable.

Therefore, it is essential that owners take steps to ensure that there pet doesn't gain any unnecessary weight and that, if they are a little too heavy, make the effort to shed the excess pounds.

Diet

Possibly the most important contributing factor to a healthy weight for your feline friend is the diet you choose to feed them, both in terms of quality and quantity.

"Cat owners should feed their pet a nutritionally balanced cat food diet twice a day to provide optimum health to their feline friend," says Nikki Burville, a veterinary nurse at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

"If you are unsure what to feed your cat, seek advice from your vet, who will be able to help you choose the best food and diet for your cat."

The first question you'll want to ask your vet is whether your cat is over or underweight, which they can usually check in a few seconds

At the ideal weight, you should be able to feel, but not see, your pet's ribs quite easily and their waistline behind the ribs should be clearly visible when viewed from above.

If your cat is classed as overweight, then make sure you speak to your vet before making any sudden dietary changes, but chances are you'll be advised to embark on a feline weight loss programme.

Although crash diets should be avoided, reducing the quantity you feed your cat may be advisable, or you may want to consider switching your pet onto a 'light' formula, such as those offered by Hill's cat food.

Exercise

Unlike dogs that can just be popped on the lead and taken out for a walk, encouraging a cat to exercise in an effort to lose weight can be rather more difficult.

However, this doesn't mean that you should let you cat be lazy and inactive, as even house cats can quite easily achieve their daily recommended levels of exercise.

Nikki says: "There are also many things you can do at home to ensure your cat remains a healthy weight, like providing food in a food ball so your pet has to exercise to get it out, and also engage your cat in play time like string toys and chase games."

Other little tricks to encourage your pet to get active include putting their litter tray or food bowl at the top of the house so they have to climb up the stairs to reach them, and buying climbing towers to encourage your feline friend to jump and play.

Finally, make sure that you rarely - if ever - treat your cat with human food, as not only will this help them pile on the pounds but it can also be bad for their health.

Written by: Hannah