FAT CAT vs Skinny Cat

By: Jennifer Oldfield

So you’re thinking, what’s the big deal, right?  I mean many of us carry extra weight, it’s just part of life… isn’t it?  As someone who is by no means a skinny cat, it is a big deal.  There are many side effects to carrying access weight that we don’t tend to think about.  As a human it is hard to shed those access pounds, we have to exert our own self-control, which can be so tough with the onslaught of delicious food choices and a busy, often sedentary life style.

cat-eating-food-in-bowlOur cats on the other hand are at our mercy – we control the food.   We can control how much and when they get to eat.  Unfortunately many of us grew up thinking you just pour food in a bowl, walk away and do it again when the bowl gets low or (God forbid) empty!  If you currently feed your cat this way I want you to do a self-test:

  • Measure how much food you tend to pour in the bowl (is it half a cup, a whole cup, two cups?)
  • Pay attention to how long it takes for the bowl to be empty (half a day, a whole day, several days)
  • Now mark down how many pets eat out of that bowl
  • Calculate who ate how much per day
    • Example: there is 2 cups and it takes a day and a half for the bowl to be empty with one cat eating out of it: approx. 1 and 1/3 cup eaten per day

So how did you fair?  Is there more than one animal eating from the bowl?  Did you realize you have no way of knowing who ate how much?  Often when there is more than one eating from the same dish you tend to have a heavy cat and a slim cat.  It is obvious who is getting more, the question is, is the slim one getting enough?

Did you know on average a cat should eat only 1/2 cup (240-250 calories) PER DAY!  If you have discovered that indeed you either don’t know how much your cat is eating or they are definitely eating too much, don’t fret.  One of our Nutrition Consultants will gladly assist you with transitioning to meal feeding and finding the right amount of food for your particular pet.

Now, let’s look at what the extra food, creating the fat, is doing to the body;Fat Kitty

The red arrows indicate two areas of fat pockets (there is more below the pink arrow, however we aren’t as concerned with that for the purpose of this blog).  Notice the compression on the stomach, intestines and colon (plus the other organs above and beside those are hard to even see).  Also note that the fat pockets will also be pushing into the chest cavity compressing the area available for the heart and lungs.

The pink arrow indicates the colon which has an uphill “S” shape making it so that the body has to work harder to move fecal matter out.  This is part of why overweight cats often have issues with constipation.

Looking at this x-ray it may not seem too bad, but let’s compare to a cat that is at a nice lean weight:

Skinny kitty

Notice how the stomach, intestines and colon are able to spread out in the body cavity.  Plus we can see other organs we couldn’t see on the previous x-ray.   The pink arrow here shows the colon again.  This time you can see that it makes almost a direct straight path out causing no extra work or strain to defecate.

Aside from cats, dogs would also have issues with excess fat causing strain on the organs in the body.  For both species fat pushing on the lungs and heart mean that both have to work harder.  Often pets that are overweight have difficulty breathing.  In dogs you notice they pant more.  Think of it is this way: in the heat we often have issues breathing, we find the air heavy on the lungs.  Now imagine not only breathing that heavy air but that your lungs are unable to expand fully.   Breath is more rapid and shallow – you can’t get that nice deep breath.

The good part is that, because as mentioned at the beginning, we control the food, it is easier to work to get your pet to lose weight than it is to do so for ourselves.  There are some fantastic diets available in-clinic that help to increase metabolism of your pet without needing to decrease the amount of food they eat.  There are also other store brands that are reduced in fat and calorie content to help, if not lose weight, at least prevent the further gain of weight.  Plus there are easy ways to increase the activity of your pet to help burn off that access weight.  Yes, even your cat can increase activity at home to loss weight.  See Amaya’s success video.

When deciding to proceed with a weight loss plan, keep in mind loss should be gradual.  Losing weight too quickly for a pet can be detrimental to their health.  Seek guidance from your veterinarian: contact us to make an appointment or to speak to one of our Nutrition Consultants today.


Weight Loss Success!


What?!? Did you say “Come put my nose print on the camera?”

Elliot is a typical energetic lovey lab who is certain everyone wants to see him, but he has one small…er….large problem: he is more than 20 lbs overweight!  Well at least that was his problem.  With the aid of Dr. Jo-Ann Liebe, Hill’s Metabolic diet and devoted owners, Elliot is now a svelte man at a nice lean weight a whole 24.5 lbs lighter!

His owner sent us this testimonial:

Elliot before

Elliot before his weight loss

“Thank you for sending those great pics (seen below) of Elliot after losing 20 pounds in about 6 months on the Metabolic diet and treats. He really enjoys the food (but then again Elliot is a lab and is not fussy and loves any and all food). My husband and I are very diligent about adhering to the amounts that Dr. Liebe has recommended.  I also make sure my husband adheres to the 6 treats per day as he was “over-treating before the metabolic diet started”! We could first see a difference within a month and could see his bulkier looking body of 107.9 lbs leaning out. Even though Elliot is a very tall lab this weight was not a healthy one. You could see he is much more comfortable at his new ideal weight being he has hip dysplasia from birth and now (he is almost 8 yrs old) has arthritis in his hips and knees. He has more energy and his mobility was much much improved even after losing the first 10 lbs. He appears to have less issues on getting up from a lying to sitting position and when he gets a treat he actually is jumping up on his back legs with front legs pawing high into the air. He resembles Black Beauty in those old shows!  It brought tears to our eyes as we haven’t seen him do that in a long time!  He is presently at his goal weight of 83.4 pounds and has a handsome hour glass figure. We are continuing with the Metabolic diet and Dr. Liebe has increased the amount per feed to 1 3/4 cup (two times daily) and we are having his weight checked regularly to make sure this ideal weight is maintained.

Elliot after - what a lovely lean body!

Elliot after – what a lovely lean body!

I have attached a pic taken before starting his diet at 107.9 lbs (seen above).

Thank you Dr Liebe, for recommending such an effective method of weight loss for our big boy, Elliot, and Elliot thanks you too as he’s much more comfortable.”

We are so happy for Elliot and his family on their success.  The lighter body means less stress on his joints making many things easier for him to do and over time it will keep him moving easier as he ages.

Getting a pet to loss weight can be tough, but we know that in the long run the devotion to feeding less at meals, giving less treats and increasing activity can be a great preventative method to certain health issues that arise as pets age helping to maintain mobility and even increase your pets life span.

Need help getting started?  Talk to one of our veterinarians or highly trained technicians who can help get you going on the path to a successful weight loss plan.  We will help you to maintain that plan and help you reach success every step of the way.  In the end your pet will thank you for it!


Body Fat Index – What Does That Mean?

We have all heard of BMI (body mass index)  – even if we weren’t sure what it stood for – we know it has to do with our body weight.  It indicates what is considered to be a healthy weight based on your height and age.  In animals we use the term BFI (body fat index) to determine how over (or under) weight a pet is.  The calculations are based on weight and specific measurements across the body to determine ideal body size.

We often don’t think of our pet being overweight when we are told they need to drop about 5 lbs.  We think – 5 lbs?, that’s it? – that isn’t very much at all.  Well it is true that 5 lbs isn’t much… on a adult human body that weighs over 120 lbs.  However 5 lbs on a dog that weighs only 30 lbs is about 20% of their total body mass.  Think of that on the average adult human.  Let’s say the adult is 145 lbs, 20% is 29 lbs!  Now that seems like a fair bit, doesn’t it?

To give an even better perspective let’s take a look at our Biggest Loser Contestants.  In this chart it shows each contestants weight, ideal weight, what that equates to in terms of BFI and how much weight they need to lose to reach an ideal weight.  Ideal weight is considered to be a BFI in the 20% range (from 16-25%) in both cats and dogs.

Contestant Starting Weight Ideal Weight Current BFI Lbs to Lose
JoJo 4.3 kg / 9.5 lbs 2.4 kg / 5.3 lbs 55.0% 4.2
Poko 9.6 kg / 21.1 lbs 5.4 kg / 11.9 lbs 54.6% 9.2
Piper 8.5 kg / 18.7 lbs 4.4 kg / 9.9 lbs 57.8% 8.8
Gunner 20.2 kg / 44.4 lbs 11.4 kg/ 25 lbs 54.6% 19.4
Lucky 9.1 kg /20 lbs 5.7 kg / 12.5 lbs 47.4% 7.5
Playdoh 5.7 kg / 12.5 lbs 4.6 kg / 10.1 lbs 35.0% 2.4
Aspen 38.6 kg / 85 lbs 23.6 kg / 52 lbs 50.9% 33

Now let’s look at these BFI’s on a human adult.  This chart shows how much an average adult male would weigh if he were the same BFI percentage as the animals above and how much he would need to lose to get back to the healthy weight.

Healthy Adult Male   OverWeight  Lbs to Lose
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs if 55% BFI then    –> 148.6 kg / 327 lbs 143.3
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs  if 54.6% BFI then –> 147.2 kg / 323.8 lbs 140.1
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs  if 57.8% BFI then –> 158.4 kg / 348.5 lbs 164.8
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs  if 54.6% BFI then –> 147.2 kg / 323.8 lbs 140.1
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs  if 47.4% BFI then –> 127 kg / 279.4 lbs 95.7
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs  if 35% BFI then –> 102.7 kg / 226 lbs 42.3
83.5 kg / 183.7 lbs  if 50.9% BFI then –> 136.8 kg / 299.6 lbs 115.9

Let’s look at a couple cross comparisons:  Jojo is at a BFI of 55% and ideally should weigh 5.3 lbs, she needs to lose 4.2 lbs to get to her ideal weight.  The same BFI in an adult male who should ideally weigh 184 lbs, would need to lose 143 lbs to achieve that goal.  The 2.4 lbs that Playdoh needs to lose is equal to this adult male needing to lose 42.3 lbs –  and in both cases that puts this male at a BFI of 20%, which in humans is actually still quite high.  Really this male would need to lose even more weight to reach what is considered a healthy BMI comparable to the equivalent healthy BFI in your pet.

Now let’s look at some food comparisons (provided by Hill’s Pet Nutrition):  whole bar

Did you know that for a 10 kg (22 lb) dog, 1 small oatmeal cookie is the caloric equivalent of 1 hamburger or 1 entire chocolate bar for a 5’4″ person?

How about  if a 5 kg (11lb) cat ate just one 28 gram cube of cheddar cheese? That would be the same as if a 5’4″ person ate 3 1/2 hamburgers or 4 whole chocolate bars!

What about if a 5’4″ person ate 3 hamburgers or 2 whole chocolate bars? That would be the same as a 10 kg (22lb) dog eating just 1 hot dog!

burgerNow what about that 5 kg (11 lb) cat again – what if he ate 1 whole potato chip or drank an 8 ounce glass of milk?  That would be the equivalent of a 5’4″ person eating 1/2 a hamburger or 1/2  a chocolate bar for the chip or 4 1/2 hamburgers or 5 chocolate bars for that glass of milk.

It isn’t uncommon for us all to think – awe it is just a little treat.  It can’t hurt, and maybe if it only happened that rare once in a while, it wouldn’t be so bad, however, we need to remember to think of everything in terms of the lesser size our pets are compared to us.  If they are only 1/5 our size (or even less) than that treat that seems small to us, is probably really big for them.

There are certainly health risks that go along with an unhealthy weight.  As the body fat increases, so to does the risk for both cats and dogs on:

  • Shortened life expectancy
  • Diabetes
  • Reduces mobility
  • Arthritis
  • Increased physical injury
  • Respiratory disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatitis

and also for cats is an increased risk for:

  • Hepatic lipidosis (Fatty liver which can lead to liver failure)
  • Bladder stones

Now you are probably wondering how you can assess your pet at home to know if they are in the healthy range or heading their way towards unhealthy.  The images (provided by Hill’s Pet Nutrition) below show how your pet looks physically and how that corresponds with each BFI value.

BFI Charts1

 Dogs Ribs Shape from Above Shape from the Side
20 Slightly prominent, easily felt, thin fat cover Well proportioned lumbar waist Abdominal tuck present
30 Slightly to not prominent, can be felt, moderate fat cover Detectable lumbar waist Slight abdominal tuck
40 Not prominent, very difficult to feel, thick fat cover. Loss of lumbar waist, broadened back Flat to bulging abdomen
50 Not prominent, extremely difficult to feel, very thick fat cover. Markedly broadened back Marked abdominal bulge
60 Not prominent, impossible to feel, extremely thick fat cover. Extremely broadened back Severe abdominal bulge
70 Unidentifiable, impossible to feel, extremely thick fat cover Extremely broadened back, bulging mid-section Very severe abdominal bulge

BFI Charts



Abdomen Shape from Above

Shape from the Side

20 Prominent, very easy to feel Loose abdominal skin, easy to feel abdominal contents Marked hourglass Moderate to slight abdominal tuck


Not prominent, easy to feel Loose abdominal skin with minimum fat, easy to feel abdominal contents Slight hourglass/lumbar waist No abdominal tuck


Not prominent, can feel Obvious skin fold with moderate fat, easy to feel abdominal contents Lumbar waist Slight abdominal bulge


Not prominent, difficult to feel Heavy fat pad, difficult to feel abdominal contents Broadened back Moderate abdominal bulge


Not prominent, extremely difficult to impossible to feel Very heavy fat pad; indistinct from abdominal fat, impossible to feel abdominal contents Severely broadened back Severe abdominal bulge


Unidentifiable, impossible to feel Extremely heavy fat pad; indistinct from abdominal fat, impossible to feel abdominal contents Extremely broadened back Very severe abdominal bulge

One thing for us to remember is that our pets are certainly smaller than us and a little is really a LOT for them.  Reducing their weight even just a little towards the healthy ideal can go a long way in improving your pet’s quality of life and reducing their risk factors for certain health conditions.

If you have concerns about your pets weight, give us a call.  There are diets that are specifically designed to help your pet lose the weight without you feeling like you aren’t feeding them at all.  Many of our staff are trained nutrition counsellors and are here to assist you.

Diet is only half the battle…

aikiou-interactive-dog-bowl   cat-eating-food-in-bowlWe all know what we eat is only half the battle to a healthy weight, what we do is the other half.  This same concept also holds true for our pets.  Although a reduction in the fat and calories taken in by our pets can make a BIG difference to their waistline, often it is not entirely enough.

The benefits of exercise are not just a leaner physique; just like in people exercise can increase flexibility (with proper stretching) and mobility, which are good for the joints.  Exercise is good for the heart which helps your pet live a longer life and of course it can make your pet feel better.   Exercise also helps your pet expand energy which can be beneficial to reduce unwanted behaviours at home like chewing on or scratching at the furniture or bothering the other pets.

It can seem fairly simple to exercise the dog, but what about the cat? or other pets in the household?  The following information (in blue) on exercise for dogs, cats and exotics is taken from www.healthypet.com.  We have also included some additional tips of our own.

Dogs on the run

Dogs can be great fun to exercise, because they can get you out and moving yourself. You don’t want to hit the ground running with your pooch, though. Just as with any animal–or person–you’ll want a doctor’s okay before you start your dog’s fitness routine. “Begin with a visit to the veterinarian to discuss your plans and ensure your dog has a clean bill of health,” says Dr. Jay Geasling, member and past president of the American Animal Hospital Association. “After your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead, start your dog on suitable exercise for beginners.”

Just like people who aren’t used to exercise, dogs should start off slow. Moderately paced walking and swimming are a good way to start–they let canine athletes build their cardiovascular and muscle strength without putting undue stress on their joints. A daily ten- to 15-minute walking or swimming session is a good start; you can build to an hour a day if Rover seems up to it. If, after a few months, he’s doing well and can handle long, fast walks without fatigue, he can graduate to jogging with you. Once he’s adapted to the exercise, you and your dog can run and walk to your heart’s content, if you take a few precautions:

  • Keep a close eye on your dog: watch for any unusual signs of fatigue or trouble breathing. If your pup wants to stop, let him. Dogs that overdo it can suffer strained tendons or ligaments or other orthopedic problems.
  • Don’t expect your fuzzy buddy to be a weekend warrior, even if you only get exercise on the weekends yourself. After a long week without exercise, your dog may be ready to get out and burn off energy. But because of their enthusiasm, many of the popular breeds, such as Labrador and Golden retrievers, will overdo it.
  • Safety first–keep Rover on a leash when you run. Even the best-trained dogs can run into the path of a car or a territorial animal. And if you have to run when it’s dark out, put reflectors on your dog’s collar as well as on your clothes.
  • Concrete and asphalt are tough on the paws, especially on hot days. Try to run on dirt paths or grass as much as possible. Gravel, cinders, and road salt can also irritate paws.
  • Take it easy in extreme weather. If it’s freezing cold or hot and steamy out, either keep your run short or play a little indoor fetch instead.
  • The more active your dog is, the more water he’ll need. Make sure he has plenty of fresh water before and after your run. If you’re going for a long run, take some water along for him.

If your dog is getting bored with running or walking, take heart: there are other ways to get him the exercise he needs. A 15-minute game of fetch makes for a good workout. Supervised play with other dogs is a good option too.  

If you have the time and your dog has the inclination, you could even try some specific dog sports such as agility, flyball or other breed related activities such as retrieving, nosework/tracking, carting or obedience.  If you’re interested, check our website for links to local clubs.

Another activity that can be done with dogs (especially when the weather outside isn’t co-operating) or even for cats, is to get an interactive food game where the animal has to search and work to find the food or treat within the puzzle or they have to move the toy around to get the food to come out.  Many people will put treats in these containers however you could easily put your pets meal portion in the container instead of treats.

DogCasino-blaa_2              Dog-treat-Mazes        FUN_EGG

Getting the cat off the couch

Cats can make laziness into an art form: snoozing in the afternoon sun, stretching a little before they plop down on your lap for the night. But as immobile as they seem, they still need to get up and moving on a regular basis. Cats are a bit different than dogs, however–they’re designed for short, frequent periods of intense activity, rather than longer, slower-paced exercise sessions.

There are some wonderful toys you can buy to get your cat active, including kitty trees that will let her climb to the ceiling and mechanical animals she can chase around the room. There’s no reason to reach into your wallet for toys your cat may or may not like, however, when there is endless entertainment around the house. There are a few main ways you can entice your kitty into activity:

  • Things she can bat. Anything light that moves easily across the floor can give your cat a chance to practice hitting and chasing. Balled up pantyhose and paper work well; for some reason the rings that come off of milk jug caps also seem to be irresistible. Just make sure that she’s not batting anything she could chew up or swallow.
  • Things she can chase. The end of a moving string should bring out the predator in even the most sedentary cat. Again, just make sure she doesn’t swallow the string.
  • Things she can explore. Empty boxes and paper bags may get your cat to climb in, out, and on top.
  • Things she can scratch. Scratching stretches and tones the muscles in your cat’s shoulders and back. A scratching post–or even a piece of cardboard or carpet–can keep her active without shredding your sofa.

Whatever game you play with your cat, don’t use your hand or fingers as “bait” or as the object of teasing. This teaches him that it is all right to scratch and bite your hands–a lesson you will want your cat to unlearn in the future.

The key is to find out which kind of toy is the most tempting to your cat and to use it consistently. You may have to try a lot of different activities before you find your kitty’s favorite. Some cats can even be trained to walk outside on a leash.

Exotic exercise

Yes, your pets in cages need exercise as well. Some small exotic pets, such as mice, geckos, turtles, or small birds, can get enough exercise simply moving around their cage. Larger animals, however, may lose muscle tone or become obese if they don’t get enough activity. There are a few ways to make sure your exotic gets moving:

  • In the cage. Some pocket pets and birds can get plenty of activity with toys inside their cage. The well-known hamster wheel is an excellent way for hamsters, gerbils, and rats to burn off extra energy. Also, most pet stores carry sections of plastic pipe that you can attach to your pocket pet’s cage for extra running room. Climbing ladders and hanging mirrors and bells can help keep birds active and moving around their cage.
  • Letting them out. If it can be done safely and you can watch him closely, letting your exotic pet out of the cage is an excellent way for him to stretch and move his muscles. If your pet is small enough, you can put him in a “hamster ball” and watch him roam. Some larger animals like rabbits, iguanas, and birds can safely explore your living room if you watch them carefully; be particularly watchful for rabbits, guinea pigs, and the like chewing on electrical cords.
  • Getting fresh air. Building a small, securely covered outside pen may be a good idea if you have an exotic pet. Most larger exotic animals–including rabbits, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, snakes, iguanas, and turtles–will enjoy some time in the sun and the grass, provided they are protected from predators. You’ll just need to make sure they’re always supervised and that your lawn hasn’t been treated with any chemicals.
  • Swimming. Believe it or not, swimming can be great exercise for reptiles. Many snakes and lizards are thrilled to slither or paddle around in a few inches of water. Because they carry salmonella, reptiles shouldn’t swim in a bathtub or swimming pool used by people. Instead, you can buy a children’s wading pool and keep it just for your pets’ use.
  • Making them fly. If you have an overweight bird that refuses to fly, you’ll need to coax him to walk and to move his wings. One trick to get him to flap is to hold him on your arm and move that arm up and down; he’ll move his wings to keep his balance.
  • Going for a stroll. With training, some rabbits and iguanas can actually learn to enjoy walking on a leash with a harness.

Whatever their species, animals’ need for exercise is just as vital to their health as their need for shelter, good food, and clean water. For help in designing an exercise plan for your pet, contact your veterinarian.

Essentially, if you can think it, you can probably do it, with your pet.

Just for fun we have included this very popular youtube video of a girl with her cat doing agility and other assorted tricks.  Think maybe you can do these with your cat? or maybe with the dog?  Check out other videos from Suki’s owner to see how some of these things were taught.