It was International Cat Day on 8th August and our Registered Vet Nurse Francesca Lees has shared why cat-owners across the UK should think twice before giving their feline friend an extra treat - as research finds 1 in 3 UK cats are overweight.
While cats have become an increasingly important member of our households, with 71% of cat owners saying they believe their cat is a member of their family, humanising the family pet comes with its own set of challenges. One of which is overfeeding - most people who are overfeeding their cats don’t even know they are doing it, and 31% of cat owners don’t think overweight pets are more likely to suffer from serious disease.
According to a study by PDSA, 40% of vets say they’ve seen an increase in feline obesity over the past two years as a staggering 1 in 3 cats in the UK are considered to be overweight. Now, new research from cat-care company Tippaws - a survey of over 700 cat owners - shows why this is happening: from 38% of cat-owners giving their pets treats every day to 76% having food available for their cats to graze on all day.
According to Francesca, a lack of education about dietary requirements can quickly spiral out of control:
“You may be managing mealtimes the best you know how, but a lack of education about dietary requirements can leave your cat with health risks either now or in the future. In our survey, only 15% of cat owners knew the rough calorie requirements of a 4kg cat, and 6% thought it was double the standard 40-45 calories per kilo their cat weighs. 35% didn’t even know their cat’s weight to begin with.
It’s not only how much we feed our cats that matter, but also the habits and behaviours we create around feeding. As cat owners, most of us are prone to giving into begging at least occasionally - but 12.5% of cat owners are getting up during the night just to give their cat a midnight snack”.
6 tips for managing your cat’s weight:
1. Understand your cat’s baseline dietary requirements
This will depend on your cat’s age, breed, activity levels and whether they are neutered. An older neutered cat will likely require less energy from food and could benefit from a diet with higher protein and lower fat, while a young active cat who roams outside all day will likely need more energy
2. Calculate how much food your cat needs
A good start is calculating roughly how many calories they need (40-45 per kilo of their target weight) and working out how much wet and dry food this translates to. You can then increase or decrease this when you see how your cat responds to it.
3. Weigh out food
85% of cat-owners don’t do this! Cats obviously need a lot less food than us and you may be surprised how many calories are in a small portion of food (Just think, a saucer of full fat milk is the equivalent to us eating a large pizza). While you might think guesstimating the weight of food is good enough, it is likely you’ll be overfeeding your cat
4. Provide stimulation
Cats used to hunt for their food in the wild. Stimulate their natural feeding behaviour by making them work for their food. Puzzle feeders, mazes and treat dispenser toys are great for this. They help to burn calories and keep on top of weight
5. Get your cat moving.
Dedicate time every day to playing with your cat. Anything which increases movement is good to help avoid weight gain. Chasing a ball or a fishing rod toy are both great.
6. Feed your cat a high protein diet.
Increasing the amount of protein in your cat's diet can be beneficial for achieving and maintaining weight loss. Studies have shown that feeding cats a diet with 40% crude protein leads to greater fat loss, while making sure your cat maintains their muscle mass. In fact, our Founder Rachel's British Shorthairs (susceptible to weight gain) have both reached a healthy weight since switching to Tippaws high protein cat food.
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