Exercise is key to weight management in cats

Reducing calories is the first strategy for most pet owners trying to slim their pets, but exercise is often given less weight, especially in cats. According to Fetch dvm360® presenter Deborah Linder, DVM, DACVN, animal nutritionist and assistant professor at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, cats tend to “train” at their own discretion.

During her Friday session, “Weight Loss in Cats: How Physical Activity Can Be Your Secret Weapon,” Linder explained that cats burn calories through natural feline behaviors, such as other cats. Those who stay indoors and cannot engage in these activities may be more prone to shedding pounds.

Free life cannot be beat. However, according to Linder, indoor exercise – combined with a calorie restriction – can keep cats fit. She said exercise is our secret weapon. But owners sometimes get defensive when pushed to talk about weight loss for their pets, leading them to avoid fitness programs. Linder says this may be because pet owners need to acknowledge that their pet is overweight, it is not good for their pet, and these owners may feel guilty for having contributed to it.

For these sensitive conversations with customers, she advises veterinarians to adopt a neutral, non-judgmental attitude that focuses more on quality of life than on obesity.

Lifestyle assessment

Developing a weight management program that includes physical activity begins with an overall lifestyle assessment of the cat and the owner. The first step is to determine the cat’s fitness for exercise. Does the cat have health problems such as asthma or orthopedic problems that would restrict movement? What about the body condition and the muscle condition values ​​of the cat? For obese and / or muscular cats, medical examinations and graded training sessions may be indicated.

Second, you will receive a detailed medical history that examines the cat’s current and past activity levels and what types and levels of activity are possible in a particular household. For example, does the house have spatial restrictions? Are there rooms that the cat is not allowed to enter?

Third, try to identify the owner’s commitment to controlling the cat’s weight and providing conditioning activities. Inquire about his goals for the cat.

The key to the cat’s heart

Consult the owner to find out what motivates the cat and tailor an activity program based on it. What are the high quality foods for the nutrition-motivated cat? When nibbling, the owner can use puzzle toys that require the cat to move around and use their natural mobility to get crunch. Or the owner can distribute dry food around the house so the cat has to run around to chase it. For wet food lovers, the owner can open the can and use it to walk up and down stairs to lure the cat to get the food.

For the hunter, pen lights and electronic toys like battery operated mice can recharge the energy. Cats carried along by it can be stimulated with hunting feeders, which release nibbles as they pound around.

The adventurous cat can move about safely outdoors, perhaps walking on a leash. While many cats avoid physical restraint, treats can be used to positively reinforce cooperation in harnessing.

Fight the fight against fat

While Leftie liked the food-focused workouts, not every cat does. For naturally sedentary kittens, beginners, and obese individuals, she advocates gradually increasing low-intensity activities such as exercise. B. walking around the house. For cats with physical impairments that limit their activity, physical therapists can keep them busy with appropriate activities such as treadmill running and swimming.

While physical activity can decrease body mass, Linder reminded the audience, it doesn’t negate the importance of calorie control – or math. If an activity that burns 10 calories requires 100 calorie treats, she said, it is failing.

One way to steer the math in the right direction is to use low-calorie edibles to encourage activity. Selected delicacies should not exceed 1 kcal / piece. She added that cats are texture-oriented and can often be motivated with vegetables of the semi-soft variety like zucchini or the moist, crispy kind like sweet red bell peppers.

Linder said that once a plan is in place to both increase activity levels and reduce / control calories, customer follow-up is key. How does the customer feel? How does the cat react? What are the challenges? One of the most common complaints she hears now, as more and more people work from home, is that these cats are disrupting the work and sleep of their owners with their need for food. This is where puzzle toys and timed food dispensers come into play.

Puzzle toys have the ability to shift the cat’s focus from the pet owner giving the food to the inanimate object giving the food. Likewise, veterinarians should focus their cat owners on exercise and calorie control, which are important components of physical conditioning, environmental enrichment, and the bond between humans and cats.