As much as you’d like to think Bella is PHAT, as opposed to FAT, it’s usually the latter. Picture: Supplied

Any cat owner will quickly concur that getting their feline friend to slim down is no easy feat.  

And if we’re honest, the term "cat owner" is in itself null and void. Cats are not owned, but rather hosted in the environment that they choose to inhabit.

Dealing with these independent beauties means that recognising that your cat is overweight is only one half of the battle. Cat hosts need to be fully committed to the process.

It's important to feed your cat the right amount of food at proper intervals, but this can be tricky - feeding requirements vary greatly from one cat to another. And it’s all fun and games until Bella can’t fit through the cat flap anymore. 

As much as you’d like to think Bella is PHAT, as opposed to FAT, it’s usually the latter. It’s no surprise that pet parents find it hard to admit their cat has a weight problem, we all like to believe our babies are purrfect. 

The truth is, denial will only put their health at risk and in reality, obesity will shorten a pet’s lifespan by up to two and a half years!

Dr Guy Fyvie, nutritional advisor at Hill’s Pet Nutrition says that it’s not uncommon for cats to develop dread diseases from being overweight. “Overweight cats are four times more prone to developing diabetes, which means daily medication doses or even insulin injections. In addition, cats are two and half times more likely to develop urinary stones that may require surgery.”

Dr Fyvie offers a few helpful steps to get Bella back to her svelte self:

Consult your vet

Take your cat to your vet so that they can either identify or rule out any underlying health issues that may be causing your cat’s weight gain - cats are masters of disguise and won’t always let you know when they’re suffering or in pain. 

Once disease is ruled out, your vet will provide you with weight guidelines for your cat. Your vet may recommend you and your cat join a programme.

Nutrition 

While it may seem like a good idea to just cut back the amount of food you give your overweight cat, this often doesn’t work and can be dangerous to her health. 

When it comes to fat cats, not eating is a very serious issue. Help your cat lose weight by choosing a food that increases your cat’s metabolism, rather than restricts calories.

Feeding guidelines

Introducing your cat to any new food should be done gradually. Over a seven-day period, mix your cat’s current food with increasing proportions of the new food, until only the new food is being fed; i.e. 75 percent current food and 25 percent new food, over the week, moving to 25 percent current and 75 percent new, until you’re eventually at 100 percent new food. 

Any sudden or drastic change in food can result in your cat refusing to eat or an upset stomach. What’s incredibly important to remember are the feeding guidelines. The correct amount is calculated for your cat’s ideal weight and not their current weight – a classic mistake, adds Dr. Fyvie. 

Importantly, he says once you’ve established the amount of food your pet should be eating – take the food cup and trim it right down so that it only holds the correct amount of food. “Measuring using only the lines to guide you usually leads to over-feeding.”