Porky & Buddy Pet Health: Dealing With An Overweight Pet

Dear Porky & Buddy,

I just brought my wonderful cat, Waldo, back from his annual physical and my vet says he’s fat!  Well, she used the word obese, like that would be easier to hear, but I am still embarrassed.  She said I should try to help him lose weight, but how?  And why?  Is a little extra weight really that bad for a cat when we know that they like to lie around all day anyway?


Dear Sam,

Not only are our own waistlines expanding, but so are those of our pets.  Up to 50% of all cats seen in veterinary clinics are over weight.

And yes, it is a serious problem.  Waldo might be lying around all day simply because he is fat. Sure, cats like to nap, but they also like to play and his obesity may be affecting his general quality of life.

And we’ll bet he hates seeing himself in the mirror.

But it’s not just a problem of Waldo becoming a big boring lunk. Obesity can also exacerbate several serious disorders such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and diabetes.

And his cardiovascular health can also be impaired by  his obesity.

According to the Cornell University Center for Feline Health, a major factor responsible for feline obesity is the practice of “free feeding,” in which a bowl of dry food is available for consumption by a cat throughout the day.

Cornell recommends the use of canned food, which typically has a higher protein and lower carbohydrate content than kibbles.

Since canned food is 90 percent water, this will also increase the cat’s fluid intake, which is a good thing. And Cornell recommends that owners feed regular meals to their cats—not allowing them to eat whenever they want.

In essence stop the grazing all day long.

So if you’ve been doing free feeding with Waldo, consult with your veterinarian first for her specific recommendations and guidance, but at a minimum you should probably start phasing the dry food out.

Remember, however, that crash diets are no better for pets than they are for humans, and aim for a slow and gradual weight loss.  Buy yourself a baby scale so you can keep a measure of your success.

You can also assess Waldo’s changing physique by using a “Body Condition Score” chart available from pet food manufacturers such as Purina and Hills. These charts tell you what to do and what to look for.

In a very obese cat, you won’t be able to feel the ribs under a heavy layer of fat; there will be heavy fat deposits over his back area, face, and limbs; the abdomen will be distended and the waistline will not be visible.

Not a pretty picture, huh?

And get Waldo up off the couch and encourage him to run around and play again.

Buy him some new toys. It will be good for him and probably good for you too!  (We are not insinuating anything about your body condition score.)

And here’s another idea!

Maybe Waldo needs a non-human playmate (or two).  Adopt him a baby brother and/or sister from the Oswego County Humane Society and see him become his former svelte playing machine!  You can find his new companion(s) at www.oswegohumane.org.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption  for pets in urgent need, assistance with lost and found pets. Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.