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Your Cat Needs a Diet, But Why Did it Get So Fat?

If your cat is significantly overweight, it is a good idea to help him slim down. There are many causes of excess weight in cats. Factors like his breed, genes, age, and whether or not he is spayed or neutered may all play a role. Though less common, a fat cat may sometimes have low thyroid function. Though it may seem obvious, the most common reason for feline obesity is because of overindulgence in too many high calorie treats from doting cat owners.

Health Risks for Fat Cats

The health risks of cat obesity can cut short your cat's life, and can result in costly vet bills. Some of these risks include diabetes and liver disease, which may require expensive prescription medications. Obesity in cats can also cause skin problems, mobility problems, and decreased longevity and enjoyment of life.

What You Can Do

There are some simple steps that you can take to help your fat cat lose weight, and increase his overall health and longevity.

1. Talk to your vet.

Your vet can design a diet plan that is right for your cat, and can provide you with a healthy target weight for your cat. A typical range is 8 to 12 pounds, depending on your cat's build. Though you may have to spend some money on this vet visit, it is well worth it in the long run in order to avoid more costly bills resulting from chronic illness. If you have pet insurance, the visit may be partially or fully covered.

2. Put your fat cat on a diet.

Your cat should be eating at least half of his calories in the form of lean protein. Protein should be a staple of your cat's diet, since cats are naturally carnivores. Make sure he does not exceed his recommended daily caloric intake. Reduce fat and increase fiber in his diet. You will want to do this under the supervision of your vet, since too much fiber can decrease the absorption of certain nutrients. Too little fat can also result in dry skin and other problems. Supplementing your cat's diet with fish oil can help combat these skin problems.

3. Feed him frequent, small meals.

Instead of one or two large meals every day, try spacing his food intake over 4 to 6 small meals. This will help him feel more satisfied, since he won't have to wait as long between meals. Just like in humans, this "grazing" type of diet helps keep his blood sugar steady.

4. Help him get some exercise.

While it can be tough to walk a cat, you can play with him for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day. Use toys that encourage his natural hunting instincts, like those with dangling feathers, or toys that you can slither down stairs in snake-like fashion.

It is in your cat's best interest to keep him healthy and disease free. By helping your overweight cat trim down to an appropriate weight, you significantly decrease the risk of certain chronic illnesses and early death. While your concern for your cat is your primary motivation, you will also save yourself hundreds of dollars in vet bills by addressing your cat's obesity problem now.

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