What is the percentage of cats in the United States who are considered overweight?

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According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 50 million cats in the United States are considered to be overweight or obese, and that leads to health problems, including increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain. It can shorten the life span of your pet by as much as 2.5 years.

The formula is simple: Obesity develops when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. The excess energy is then stored as fat. The majority of cases of overweight and obesity are related to simple overfeeding coupled with lack of exercise.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine if your cat needs to lose weight. As always, you should discuss this thoroughly with the veterinarian.

• Look at overall body condition: You should be able to feel the backbone and palpate the ribs in a cat of healthy weight. If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is too much fat. You should also see a noticeable “waist” between the back of the rib cage and the hips when looking at your pet from above. Viewed from the side, there should be a “tuck” in the tummy. The abdomen should go up from the bottom of the rib cage to inside the thighs. Cats who fail these simple tests may be overweight.
• Educate yourself. The problem, say many veterinarians, is that people really do not know what a healthy pet looks like. What many perceive as too thin can actually be a well and sleek animal. If in doubt, talk to your veterinarian.
• If you have a cat who spends time outdoors, you also need to explore your cat’s “hunting” habits: A mouse or bird will add additional calories, so you may need to confine her to the house to prevent “additions” to the diet. Also think about things, such as the possibility of neighbors feeding her.

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