It's happening more and more. Humans and their animals are getting less exercise and eating more. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that nearly half the nations pets are classified as overweight or obese by a veterinary health care provider, including 53% of cats and 43% of dogs.
Each year, The Student American Veterinary Medical Association adopts an individual health cause that allows the organization to build partnerships with colleagues in medical and public health schools. They focus on something that causes problems for both humans and animals. Just as with humans, animals have health risks associated with excess weight. Risks include heart problems, diabetes, joint and hip difficulties, cancer and also a greater chance of complications with anesthesia or surgery, skin disease, delayed healing and fatty liver in cats.
Animal obesity is a growing problem but also a controllable problem. A healthy diet is just one key component. We feed our pets, they aren't ordering fast food, so it's up to the owner to be aware and understand what a table scrap here and a table scrap there can do. According to AVMA, an ounce of cheese for a 10-pound cat is equivalent to three-and-a-half hamburgers for a human. A cup of milk for a 10-pound cat is the equivalent of four-and-a-half hamburgers for a human.
There are other factors to consider as well. For both humans and pets exercise along with a healthy diet is the best way to shed those pounds. You must be creative to get a cat to "exercise", especially one that's overweight. Choose a 10 to 15 minute time slot twice a day to play with your cat. Toys that might entice your cat to play include a laser pointer, catnip mice, poles with a line attached to feathers or mice, and balls inside mazes can trigger that predator instinct. Placing dry kibble treats or treats inside a treat ball can even tempt those lazy cats who just like to eat. So your cat doesn't become bored make sure to rotate the toys regularly. If your cat is comfortable on a harness or leash, taking her outside for regular walks can help as well.
For other ideas on how pet owners can help exercise their pets and themselves, personal trainer Gunnar Peterson created special exercise videos for the PetFit campaign that demonstrates a variety of ways owner can exercise themselves and their cats and/or dogs. The videos are available on the PetFit Web site at www.petfit.com.
To learn more about keeping your cat (and you) fit, see SAVMA's One Health Challenge III.