Fat Cat Blue’s big weight-loss journey
Of the 25,000 cats that come to SPCA every year, Blue’s appearance was almost unbelievable. When he was surrendered to the SPCA Centre in Christchurch in July, we knew he was a special boy who needed some help.
Blue weighed in at 12.64 kilograms (more than double the average), and is one of the heaviest cats ever seen at an SPCA Centre. SPCA vets classified him as morbidly obese, and sadly for Blue, his weight prevented him from cleaning himself or jumping on furniture and he could barely walk.
While many of us have gained a little weight during lockdown, Blue’s weight was extraordinary and can’t have been chalked up to being stuck at home for a few weeks! He’d clearly been snacking up a storm for much of his life.
Unfortunately, Blue’s situation is not unique. SPCA sees overweight cats come into our Centres more regularly than we’d like. Earlier in the year another cat named Mog Mog came into SPCA Wellington Centre weighing 10.4 kilograms, while an average cat should weigh 5 kilograms.
Being overweight or obese is a major health concern for pets. Just like their human counterparts, an overweight animal’s health concerns need to be taken as seriously as an animal who is underweight.
When pets get bigger, their lives get shorter. Chunky cats are at serious risk of disease affecting their heart, eyes, liver, and skin. Sadly, not only does their excess weight impact their general health, it also reduces their overall quality of life, interfering with daily activities such as walking.
The issue is so serious, that October 9 is World Pet Obesity Day. This day serves to remind pet owners to keep an eye on the weight of their pets and understand what they can do to keep them fit and lean.
Small treats add up to big problems
As pet owners, most of us are guilty of giving in and handing over food to a begging pet – it’s so hard to say ‘no’ to those pleading eyes, but humans aren’t all to blame for this oversized problem. It’s not uncommon to find cats making regular stops to houses in a neighbourhood, hoovering up morsels of food and treats along the way. Think of it this way, one human biscuit can equate to a whole packet when fed to an animal, due to their smaller body size.
New research shows that some owners may view chubbiness as a sign of good welfare and this increases the odds of their cats being overweight or obese. Research also shows that a cat begging for food was a risk factor in being overweight or obese.
Easy steps to weight-loss
Thankfully, this big problem can be managed in small ways. After learning what your pet’s ideal weight and food requirements are in consultation with your vet, you might like to measure or weigh your pet’s food. Without measuring, it is easy to overfeed them.
If your cat has weight to lose, they can quite comfortably lose 0.5 to two percent of their body weight per month. Patience is essential with pet weight loss, as losing weight isn’t easy or fast for cats. If your pet goes on a crash diet, they can develop serious medical conditions, including a life-threatening form of liver failure that can occur in less than 72 hours. Your vet will likely create a step by step weight loss plan that will gradually decrease the amount you’re feeding over a three month period.
A simple way to help with cat over-eating use a puzzle feeder, which is not only a feeding tool but an enrichment device. These can be as simple as hollow toys stuffed with food, or feeding techniques such as scatter feeding to help promote normal hunting and foraging behaviours, which have been shown to help improve weight loss in obese cats. Food enrichment requires the cat to work for the food and increases the time it takes to consume the food, too.
Cutting out human scraps that your family may be feeding your pet and limiting their treats are easy ways to ensure their weight is kept in control. If you give your pet treats, you should reduce the amount of food you give them accordingly.
Blue drops weight, but gains his life back
Blue’s weight is being managed in consultation with an SPCA vet, and he’s been put on a diet of Purina’s Healthy Metabolism Adult Premium cat food. A healthy weight-loss target was set at around 200 grams per week, with the goal of getting this cuddly cat down at least five kilograms before he can be adopted.
Sal Aitken, SPCA Christchurch Centre Feline Team Leader is fostering Blue at her home, and is delighted to see him making progress towards his weight-loss goals. As of October 2020, Blue has lost more than two kilograms and is moving around with more ease. When he reaches his goal weight, Blue will be available for adoption and his new family will ensure he stays on a healthy diet, while giving him all the pats and cuddles he could ever want. Purina have offered to give six months’ supply of Purina Health Metabolism Adult Premium cat food to the family who adopts Blue to help him stay on track for his weight loss journey.