A Weighty Problem

Dearest Catvocates, I will begin this post and end it with the same thought.  We must stop loving our cats through food.

I was at yet another veterinary lecture on feline wellness yesterday.  This one focused on weight management and health.  There is a terrible truth that we must face.  We are seriously overfeeding our cats and it is making them sick.  Nearly 60% of the cats in America are obese.  

Now, I must admit, I find fat cats absolutely adorable and completely charming.  But Catvocates, we must fight this urge to give in to the cuteness.  The consequences of feline obesity are not at all cute – diabetes, skin disease, joint pain.  

Obesity is directly related to diabetes.  As obesity rates have risen in cats, so have the rates of diabetes. The other risk factors for diabetes in cats include age (older than 8), being male, sedentary lifestyle, and high carbohydrate diet.  

Fat cats tend to get skin diseases. Obesity, and the metabolic changes that occur as a result, predispose cats to skin problems.  Add to that the indelicate truth that fat cats can not do a proper job cleaning their nether regions simply because they can not reach.  The moisture and bacteria that a cat of healthy weight normally grooms away, becomes a source of infection in a fat cat.  True and ewe.  

Painful joints and lameness are a logical result of too much weight on a tiny frame.  Veterinarians have limited ways to alleviate this pain.  People and dogs have a lot of options for anti-inflammatory medications and pain control.  Cats do not.  Many of the medications that we and our dogs take to help deal with these aches and pains are dangerous and can even be deadly for cats.

There is no data on obesity and life span in cats.  But there is good data in dogs.  Fat dogs live 15% shorter lives than dogs of a healthy weight.  For an average Lab, that’s two years.  I always say that cats are not dogs. However, this data does suggest that obesity in cats is likely to result in a shortened life span.


So Catvocates, naming the problem is the first step.  Most of our cats are overweight and this has serious health and lifespan consequences.  But, what do we do about it?  Stay tuned.  I will be writing about how to change your environment and feeding styles to make a healthier and happier life for your cat.  This I know for sure, We must stop loving our cats through food.

Liz Bales
Liz Bales


Dr Liz Bales is a born animal lover. She spent her childhood on horse farms surrounded by horses, cats and dogs. Dr. Liz graduated from The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2000. Dr Liz has been fascinated with cat wellness in her veterinary career - including feline behavior, nutrition and internal medicine.

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