Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Medical: Obesity Epidemic

October was national pet obesity month – and we missed it.

But it’s such an important topic (dare we say, especially around the holidays?) we felt it was worth discussing.

Dr. Eberhardy with one of his patients
Pet obesity is on the rise. A recently published report on pets seen by a sampling of U.S. clinics since 2007 stated that dog obesity had increased by 37% and cat obesity had increased by 90%.

This, as they say, is epidemic.

So we went to Dr. Eberhardy of Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital to get the 4-1-1 on it.

Dr. E: “Obesity is a big issue, mainly because it causes a cascade of other health problems such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, arthritis. Even urinary tract infections have been tied to some degree to obesity.”

In addition, of course, there are issues with mobility and even self-cleaning if the pet becomes too heavy. Dr. E told us that, in an effort to understand this phenomenon – especially the huge jump in feline obesity – researchers examined cats' eating habits.

Outdoor cats via Creative Commons
Their findings were interesting. An outdoor cat whose diet consists of field mice and other natural prey is rarely overweight. Given that the average adult cat should weigh around 10-11 pounds, he’d require something like 220-280 calories a day to maintain that healthy weight.

So then they calculated the average number of calories in a mouse. (In case you’re wondering, your average field mouse is about 30-35 calories). To get that daily calorie intake, an outdoor cat would need to hunt, catch and then eat between 7 and 8 mice per day. That’s a lot of running around.

Compare that to the indoor cat who needs to do nothing more than saunter up to the food bowl and plant his face into a bottomless mountain of kibble.

The simple fact is that most indoor cats live a sedentary lifestyle.

So what can you do about it? Dr. E says it’s a very simple calculation of calories in vs. calories out. And growing a thick skin when it comes to those pitiful, pleading looks of 'starvation' directed your way. But if you plan to embark on a weight-loss plan for a seriously overweight cat, please consult your veterinarian first.

Weight loss in cats can be deadly, due to a condition called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. With cats, it’s critical that the weight come off slowly, in a carefully managed way. You can read more about why this is so important in our post on fatty liver disease from earlier this year.

So that deals with calories in. What about calories out?

Dr. E suggests playtime. Interactive toys such as Neko Flies and Da Bird mimic actual prey in a way cats find fascinating. In fact, often the only calorie-burning limitation is the human factor – you’ll wear out before kitty loses interest! If wand toys aren’t your thing, “you can create your own Stairmaster with a laser pointer and a flight of stairs,” Dr. E suggests.

Your cat may also have a "prey preference". One might be a real mouser. In our home, though, Allie's a "bird-er" and Maxwell's the "bug guy." Test you cat out on different toys that mimic various types of prey to see which kinds they favor. More calories will be burned if you target their particular interests.

You can read more about prey preference and other basic needs for indoor cats at Ohio State University's excellent Indoor Pet Initiative site.
Cat owners can click here, while dog owners will want to check this link out.

Obesity Report
Ohio State University's Indoor Pet Initiative 


  1. What a great post. I heard a tip once for cats who don't really like to play... the lady would toss a piece of kibble down the hall for her cat to run and get. I guess he was kinda working for his food in a way.

  2. Prey-preference SQUIRRELS! Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. This is such an important topic, Scylla had really packed on the pounds and was even having trouble grooming. Mommy started feeding her diet catfood and she has been more energetic and the weight is gradually coming off. We are very proud of Scylla.

    1. Yay for Scylla! That's not easy for a kitteh.

  4. We are SO strictly portion controlled here! The only kitty who is allowed to eat all she wants is me because I am UNDERweight! But even that is limited, since the other two hogs, I mean cats, tend to steal any food or treats I walk away from!

  5. I'm not overweight, I'm under tall..MOL She'z mean, I only get scraps..Oh stop lying Alf, you get the descent food, I get b***dy Kibble!! BOL xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  6. Good info, particularly today when someone likened our brother Maxx to a harbour seal! We liked reading about exercise! Thank you! Purrs...from your friends at

  7. I´m not fat , just fluffy :)
    Sorry I know this is a serious health issue and that overweight cat´s shall loose weight slowly.
    My mom exercise me efurryday with Da Birdie or the Cat Catcher , so I don´t have any weightproblem :)

  8. That was darn good stuff! Now where am I gonna find a field mouse?

  9. Well, I for one, am pleased to say that I lost a whole pound in the past couple of months! So, Im doing my part... But I blame a lot of the cat weight gain on the increasing pressure to keep us cooped up inside ta protect the wild birds and mice!!! ~ IZA

  10. Hmm...after reading this, Tommy says she's gonna cut down on the treats. And I told her, when starts taking Zumba classes we'll consider cutting down the treats!

  11. What an interesting and very true artical.
    Our mom is considering giving us less treats now though!

    Love and Christmas joy,
    Sherlock and pals xoxo

  12. TW says it doesn't matter if she'll wear out before I do cos I lose interest very quickly. Even when we play I usually do it sitting or laying down. My biggest exercise is when I get the zoomies. BTW, Pop read the same thing in yesterday's paper about obese cats.

  13. Thank goodness I as a REAL mouser am only 81/2lbs but I have best of both worlds ... I play with my catch (blawk to eating) and huMum rewards me with a bowl of tuna flakes

  14. We all love our different wand toys and yes, the human gets tired of the game way before we do. It's difficult to control portions for eight cats but mommy lets our bowls get empty twice a day.

  15. pawsome post...and Mom just got out the laser...or crap! Now I am gonna have to run!...yeee hawwww!! luvluvluv it! great post


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