Obesity prevention is where we should put the greatest emphasis. First, it's easier to prevent animals from becoming overweight
than it is to treat. Secondly, there are significant health benefits to maintaining a normal to lean body weight. This should
be a focus of a wellness plans, and client education efforts at the time of exams for kittens. Weight loss management programs
can be an important part of your wellness program. Teach every owner to do a body condition score, and have them do so on
a regular basis. Reinforce this at each kitten visit. The time a pet is scheduled for spay/neutering is an often neglected,
but important time, for client education. Most owners are unaware that neutering will reduce their cat's energy needs. It's
an important time to review the diet history (diet type, feeding management, etc) and make appropriate recommendations.
For kittens, owners should select a good quality commercial food that has undergone feeding trials according to Association
of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) protocols for growth. Feeding directions are required on pet food labels but the
quality of the information varies. Some feeding directions are very sketchy while others are quite detailed. Some feeding
directions overestimate the amount of food a cat needs. Also, just like people, cats vary tremendously in how easily they
gain weight. Therefore, the best method is to calculate the cat's energy requirements to come up with an estimate of the total
number of calories required per day, as shown below, and then to feed to maintain optimal body condition (between 4 and 5
on a 1-9 scale).
RER= 70 x (BW in kg).75
MER= 2.0-2.5 x RER (feline growth)
1.2-1.4 x RER (intact adult cat)
1.0 x RER (neutered adult cat)
0.8 x RER (obesity prone adult cat)
Be aware that these are only starting points and the individual animal's actual MER may be higher or (often) lower. Once you
calculate the MER, this number of calories is then divided by the caloric density of the selected cat food to determine the
number of cups or cans to be fed each day. The number of calories in a particular pet food can be obtained from product guides,
from the company's website, from calling the company, or for some foods, from the label. The pet food label is allowed to
contain the calorie information but it is not required (except on "light" or "low calorie" foods – see below) so most brands
do not list this information.
Calories/day ÷ calories per can or cup = cans or cups/day
This amount should be divided into at least two meals per day. Free choice feeding is fine for cats that can maintain optimal
body weight but most indoor or indoor/outdoor cats need some control of calories to avoid becoming overweight. Be sure to
talk to the owner about treats and table food as these can be a major contributor to obesity. Kittens should eat a food that
has gone through feeding trials for growth until they are 1 year old. If they are becoming overweight before 1 year of age,
they should be switched to a kitten food that is lower in caloric density but still meets the requirements for growth.
Developing a Weight Loss Program
If prevention does not work and the cat becomes overweight, a weight loss program must be designed to achieve the optimum
body weight. The key to successful weight reduction is a comprehensive program - this means controlling the calories (from
all sources), increasing exercise (if possible), and changing behaviors that contribute to obesity.
Identify any underlying health problems that could contribute to obesity or will impact their ability to exercise. Start out
with a thorough physical exam and do baseline blood work (liver enzymes and blood glucose are especially important). Identify
medications taken that might affect appetite (steroids). Assign a body condition score (BCS), and estimate a target or realistic