30-pound cat needs a special adopter to help him lose weight. How should they do it?

The Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) is using their Facebook page to try and find a home for Sterling who weighs three times the normal weight for a cat of his size at 30 pounds. He is chronically obese. Cuddly, yes, but chronically obese to the point where his health is in jeopardy. Type II diabetes comes to mind as a common cause of severe obesity in domestic cats.

Chronically obese Sterling at the humane society
Chronically obese Sterling at the humane society. Photo: Humane Society of Huron Valley
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The charity’s Facebook post reads:

“Please, someone help us help Sterling. This 30lb boy needs a special adopter to help him lose weight. We know, those plump cheeks are adorable. But obesity is terribly unhealthy for cats.”

Sterling is classified as severely obese by the Humane Society. The Facebook post states that: “Sterling’s adopter will need to discuss his diet with their vet, and provide large litterboxes in easy-access areas until his mobility improves.”

The veterinarians who wrote Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook usefully provide us with a well-organised method (regime) for reducing the weight of an obese cat like Sterling.

Weight loss regime

A couple of scientists, Dorothy Laflamme DVM, PhD and Stephen Hannah PhD in a study state that when your goal is for your cat to lose weight you should aim to reduce the amount of fat that your cat carries as opposed to total weight loss. In this way lean body mass is retained. This is important for maintaining resting energy requirements. They found that in their study a high protein diet resulted in a greater loss of body fat and greater retention of lean body mass in overweight cats compared to the control diet.

They recognise the fact that it can be difficult to redirect a cat away from bad habits. Many cats turn carbohydrates directly into fat. A diet that is high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrate is recommended.

Further, they recommend feeding a restricted-calorie reduced diet. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is said to be just as effective or even more effective than a low-calorie, high-fibre diet. And the former is more reflective of a cat’s ideal natural diet. This points to a wet food diet.

In controlling the food supply of the cat, feeding should entail regular measured meals two or three times a day. When he or she has finished what’s in the bowl she must wait for her next meal.

Gourmet foods, treats or table scraps should not be fed. Some treats are acceptable provided they are a few bits of your cat’s food from her regular meals.

You’ll have to check that your cat is not finding food elsewhere by monitoring her activity.

And you have to chart the weight loss through records. This should be carried out meticulously 😉. The cat should lose weight at the rate of about 1% of body weight per week. If it’s faster than this there is a risk of developing hepatic lipidosis a.k.a. fatty liver disease.

RELATED: Health problems associated with feline obesity

Exercise should be factored into a chronically obese cat’s life. Perhaps this goes without saying; there are two ways to lose weight: eat less and burn more.

Many indoor cats need more exercise than normal. This means playing with your cat. It is something that I feel that many cat caregivers let slip. I do myself. I do not play with my cat enough so I am reflecting my failure when mentioning this. You can buy interactive feeders which might help because it means that the obese cat has to work a little bit to get at their food. The problem is that these are dry cat food feeders and for an obese cat I believe that a high-quality wet food is better if not essential. This is because of the high carbohydrate content of dry cat food which can encourage diabetes BUT a study entitled: “Gonadectomy and high dietary fat but not high dietary carbohydrate induces gains in body weight and fat of domestic cats” states that “high dietary fat, but not carbohydrate, induces weight gain”. Confusion I am afraid. “Gonadectomy” means the neutering of a male cat and the spaying of a female cat.

L-carnitine is a supplement which may be helpful in getting your cat’s weight down. It may increase lean body mass according to my reference book. You can discuss this with your veterinarian. You might feed your obese cat 250-500 mg of it per day.

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An ideal weight might be obtained after about eight weeks of this controlled diet at which point you can feed a high-quality balance food in the correct amount to maintain the then normal weight.

RELATED: How often should domestic cats be fed?

You probably know by now, because of the publicity about it, that there is an obesity epidemic so-called in the domestic cat world in the West. There are estimates of 40% of all cats being obese. You can assess obesity visually but if your cat is slightly overweight you can check by feeling her ribs. If you can feel them through a subcutaneous layer of fat which provides some padding and insulation than she is probably about right in terms of weight. You should be able to field your cat’s spine as well. Looking from above, you can see a ‘waist’ just in front of the hips.

Sterling with bald patch where the Humane Soc. had to shave off matted fur
Sterling with bald patch where the Humane Soc. had to shave off matted fur due to his inability to autogroom. Photo: Humane Society of Huron Valley.

A belly flap is not indicative of a cat being overweight. This is perfectly normal. Some cats don’t have one while others do. In addition to diabetes, overweight cats can develop arthritis earlier than normal. They might have a poor hair coat due to an inability to self-groom (autogroom). Note: The bald patch on Sterling’s side is due to shaving off matted fur caused by his inability to autogroom.

HSHV is an award-winning animal welfare organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of homeless, injured and abused animals in our community.

The study referred to: Increased Dietary Protein Promotes Fat Loss and Reduces Loss of Lean Body Mass During Weight Loss in Cats.

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