The days are getting longer, the temperatures are creeping up and swimwear season is on its way - which for many of us means that its time to dust off the diet books, renew the gym membership and get in shape for summer.

But as you're pounding the treadmill and ditching the greasy takeaways, spare a thought for your cat who may also be carrying a little extra weight at the end of winter.

Pet obesity is a serious problem in the UK with many pet nutrition experts warning us that we could have an epidemic on our hands if owners don't take steps to help their mutts and moggies battle the bulge.

"Dogs and cats suffer serious adverse consequences from carrying too much weight, just like humans," says veterinary journalist Pete Wedderburn.

"Most people wouldn't even realise that their pet has a big problem. Obesity is basically down to people not knowing how to feed their pet and not knowing about animal behaviour."

Diet is particularly important when it comes down to cats as, unlike dogs who you can take out for a walk or play a vigorous game of ball with, it's a little more tricky to exercise a lazy feline.

"What goes in is more important than what goes out," Pete adds. "Animals are very efficient at exercising, so generally the biggest problem is feeding them too much or the wrong type of food."

Therefore, if you feel that your four-legged friend could do with shedding a couple of pounds your first step should be to reassess the quality and quantity of cat food that's going into them.

Many owners dealing with overweight pets will opt for prescription diets from their vets but, while these are often very effective, they can also be a little pricey.

However, a number of brands such as Royal Canin cat food now offer products designed for special dietary needs, which will offer the same high-quality food and help your pet shift excess weight but at a more affordable price.

Written by: Hannah