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fat catIt always burns me up when one of those supermarket tabloids runs a “Do you have the fattest cat?” contest. Not only does it hurt Kitty’s feelings, it’s just plain unhealthy to be a fat feline! The pressure and stress of Kitty’s extra weight on her bones, muscles and internal organs could actually shorten her life span.

The statistics vary on how many of our cats are overweight; however, I can say that I’ve been in way too many homes with fat cats. And I get way too many phone calls and letters from listeners and viewers complaining about their cats being overweight and not having a clue how to remedy the problem.

My response is always the same – I know our cats are smart but I’ve yet to meet a cat that has learned how to operate an electric can opener! For the most part, cats are not the ones in charge of dispensing food. Only their human family members are responsible for over feeding their felines. (This holds true for you people out there who are owned by dogs, too!)

Pet food manufacturers have caught on and are tailoring their products to our cats’ needs. For instance, there are now formulas available for the senior, less active kitty.

The key to trimming Kitty’s waist line is as follows – less food and more exercise. As far
as food goes, too many owners of fat felines are leaving Kitty’s bowl full all day. Yes, cats are noshers and enjoy a nibble throughout the day. However, there is an alternative to leaving Kitty an unlimited supply. Instead, offer her more frequent feedings of smaller amounts of food. If you’re not home during the day, you may want to invest in an automatic cat feeder that allows you to set the amount and frequency that Kitty’s food is dispensed.

All the dieting in the world won’t help weight loss the way dieting combined with exercise will. Of course, if you’re embarking on an exercise program for your cat, particularly if she is overweight, it’s best to tell your vet and get Kitty a physical check-up.

When you do start Kitty on an exercise routine, start slow. Don’t try to make up for lost time. Too much exertion can be just as dangerous for your cat as carrying around those extra pounds. So do start slowly and stop before Kitty is panting heavily. And watch for the darkening or greying of the pink areas of Kitty’s inner ears, tongue, gums and eyes – these could be signs of over exertion.

When I say exercise, I don’t mean that you should teach Kitty how to do push-ups and sit-ups. I do, however, expect you to create a kitty gym and to encourage her to use it. No, you don’t have to provide Kitty with an exercise bike and weights, but you should provide her with an area of your home conducive to activity. For instance, one of the best ways to get Kitty’s heart pumping is to toss her favorite toys. Toss them in an area clear of furniture so Kitty can chase these items without the fear of skidding into the sofa.

You may want to purchase or build a series of shelves for Kitty to climb. Or put down cartons or paper bags for her to explore and climb in and out of. Provide Kitty with something to scratch – store bought posts, or a clean piece of wood or a piece of carpeting rolled so that the backing is exposed (cats prefer the backing). If your cat loves to hunt and pounce, try one of those kitty fishing poles from which a toy dangles. Of course, you’ll need to play with her with this one, but you’ll both have a lot of fun. Just remember to put this one away when you’re not supervising her – she could become entangled in the string and choke.

You may want to consider adding a four-footed personal trainer for Kitty. Another cat is sometimes the best exercise for an overweight feline. Another cat, especially a younger one, is often the best way to get Kitty moving. This is particularly true if Kitty is older and you introduce a kitten into the household. Just be sure the newcomer has had a clean bill of health and all his inoculations. And follow the steps outlined in “First Pet Psychology: How To Introduce A Second Pet To Your Pet”. Even if your older cat has to pick herself up to get away from the kitten, it is a form of exercise!

So let’s make a resolution – no more fat cats!