Overweight and obesity in cats

Nowadays, the lack of activity affects more and more cats, and in France 87% of them¹ are sterilized: two factors favoring overweight... if the diet is not adapted.

Overweight is a common pathology in cats.

- Overweight corresponds to an observed weight at least 10% higher than the ideal weight (fat mass is normally 20%, 10% overweight leads to 27% fat mass). The frequency of overweight in cats (and humans!) varies across continents, countries, regions, and time; different studies have been conducted using the same method to measure it. In France, the latest version of this study² ​​estimates the frequency of overweight at 42%. Overweight in cats is a relatively recent phenomenon, since it is estimated that it only affected 10% of French cats in 1973.

- Obesity is significant overweight leading to a pathological condition. It corresponds to an observed weight exceeding the ideal weight by at least 20% (which corresponds to approximately 33% of body fat), and affects around 10% of cats in France³. It seems that the growth of this serious condition has stabilized recently², perhaps thanks to a better awareness of all the actors (industrialists, veterinarians, and cat owners).

What are the factors that promote overweight?

Overweight results from an excess of calorie intake from food, compared to the energy needs necessary for the functioning of the body. It results in excessive accumulation of fatty tissue.

- … and finally our own repository. Indeed, a correlation has been demonstrated⁴ between the fact of underestimating the body condition of your cat and its possible overweight.

Food is therefore always at the center of the appearance of overweight. Certain risk factors have been highlighted, which influence the energy requirement or the appetite:

- lack of physical exercise (linked for cats to access to
outside but also to social interactions)

- sterilization (which increases appetite and slows metabolism)

- age (which beyond 7 years reduces muscle mass and physical activity)

- emotional status (loneliness, stress, boredom),

Did you know ?

A cat's energy requirement depends on its "lean body mass", which is a function of its ideal weight and not of its daily weight.

A thin and muscular 4.2 kg cat (4.2 kg ideal weight therefore 3.4 kg lean mass) has a higher kcal requirement than a 4.4 kg overweight cat (4 kg ideal weight therefore 3.2 kg of lean body mass).

Calculating the energy needs of an overweight cat on its daily weight leads to fattening.

It is with the eye and with the touch that one realizes best the body condition of his cat (or his dog): his silhouette (seen from above and in profile), and the accessibility of his ribs (to the touch).

- the normal weight cat will have a slightly marked waist (above the pelvis), without the naked eye being able to see the relief of its ribs (in profile) or that of its spine (from above) .

- If its ribs or spine are visible, the cat is thin (this condition is usually correctly identified by everyone).

- The ribs, on the other hand, must always be able to be felt. If her waist is invisible, her ribs are barely palpable, and her belly is beginning to "heavily" in profile view, your cat is overweight.

Cat obesity promotes serious diseases

Obese cats are prone to diabetes, urinary, respiratory, cardiac diseases, and musculoskeletal disorders.

An American study⁵ conducted over nearly 5 years measured the state of health of 1,500 cats, and observed the appearance of diseases according to body condition. According to this study:

- skinny and very skinny cats are 1.7 times more exposed to diarrhea requiring veterinary care.

- overweight cats are 2.9 times more exposed to lameness (those not related to bites or accidents)

- obese cats are 2.3 times more exposed to dermatological conditions without allergic cause, 3.9 times more exposed to diabetes mellitus, 4.9 times more exposed to lameness requiring veterinary care.

Obesity and metabolic disorders:

- Diabetes mellitus (or insulin-resistant diabetes, comparable to type 2 diabetes in humans) is one of the best-known pathologies resulting from obesity.

Being overweight leads to a loss of sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar by moving glucose from the blood into the cells. Then follows a constant hyperglycemia which damages the pancreas, organ secreting insulin.

- Hepatic lipidosis is a serious liver disease that can occur in obese cats. It is detected when the cat stops eating suddenly and completely (for 48 hours). The liver then becomes overloaded with fats (triglycerides) and can no longer function properly.

If confirmed anorexia is not identified and hepatic lipidosis sets in, it leads to significant metabolic dysfunction which unfortunately leads to death in one out of two cases.

- If diabetes is not treated quickly, the
degradation of the pancreas can lead to fatal outcome.

- If the cat regains a normal weight before the pancreas
has not suffered damage, the diabetes is reversible, and the cat can
go on living without treatment.

Did you know ?

Controlling the weight of the cat is essential both to avoid the onset of diabetes, but also to treat it once it appears and before it is installed.

Obesity and urinary pathologies:

Cats suffering from obesity are more frequently affected by urinary diseases (grouped under the name of Lower Urinary Tract Diseases), which include bacterial infections of the urinary tract, urethral stones, cystitis... Indeed, excess weight limits the movements of the cat who can no longer groom himself properly.

If he has osteoarthritis, the joint pain means that he will go less often to relieve himself, which leads to the development of cystitis and stones (see "diseases diagnosed in cats").

How to protect my cat from obesity?

Obesity is a chronic disease, both a contributing factor and aggravating factor for many serious pathologies in cats, which leads to a reduction in life expectancy and quality of life.

In addition, overweight in cats should never be treated by "dieting" without medical supervision (risk of hepatic lipidosis, see above).

Preventing your pet from being overweight is therefore essential for its health (the post-sterilization period is a key moment in this), first through exercise and play, but also through controlling its diet: it is important to to ensure the quality of his food, and to check the adequacy between his real energy needs and the total quantity of calories he ingests.