A higher proportion of Australians live in a house with a cat or a dog than they do with a child. If that doesn’t prove we’re a nation of animal lovers, I’m not sure what does. In fact, more than 62 per cent of Australian households own a pet, and according to the Pet Industry Association Australia, of those, 29 per cent are cat owners. There are around 3.9 million pet cats in Australia, and each and every one of them relies on their owner to take care of their health and wellbeing.
While most pet owners do their very best to care for their beloved critters, some of us may be killing our pets with kindness. The Australian Veterinarian Association estimates almost half of Australian pet cats and dogs are overweight. And we need to do something about it.
A report published by Vet Compass Australia found that obesity is regarded as one of the most Signiant welfare issues in companion animals, and it can have a negative impact on their little feline lives.
BHG consulted Dr Simone Maher, AWLA Veterinarian and Purina ambassador for her advice on doing a health check on your cat at home, and how to tell if your cat is overweight.
“Place both thumbs on your cat’s backbone and run your fingers along their rib cage. If you can’t easily feel the bony part of each rib, this could be a sign your cat is carrying some extra weight,” says Simone.
“Another indicator is if your cat is having trouble jumping up to their favourite elevated perch. Cats are extremely agile animals and excess body weight can really inhibit their mobility.”
Simone says other ways to check if your cat is overweight is by standing directly over the top of your cat and look down at them. If your cat is standing, you should be able to see a slight waistline. “If you notice your cat curving out instead of in, it’s possible that your cat may need to lose some weight,” says Simone.
“If you have concerns about your cat’s weight, or if you need advice on a dietary review for your cat, it’s a good idea to check-in with your vet,” says Simone. “They can provide you with an exercise and diet plan, as well as identifying and addressing any underlying medical issues.”
How to give your cat a health check at home
Skin, coat and eyes
“Take a good look at your cat’s skin, coat and eyes to understand their health. A cat’s soft and shiny coat is something we all love and a significant indicator of health. Flaky skin, hair loss or an unkempt coat may all be signs of poor health. Eyes should be bright and clear without any discharge.”
“Digestion is the process of eating but also toilet habits too, so by paying attention to what happens at both ends, we can understand more about a cat’s health. Cats are creatures of habit so a change in appetite may be cause for concern. Feeding Purina One daily provides reassurance that they are getting their nutritional needs and the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.”
“Just like humans, your cat’s dental health is very important to their overall wellbeing. If you notice drooling, bad breath, a lack of self-grooming or reluctance to eat, this might be a sign that your furry friend is suffering poor oral health and needs to be taken to a vet.”
Bone and joint health
“Bone and joint wellbeing can be assessed through your cat’s mobility. Naturally agile hunters, a cat’s instinctive behaviour will include multiple bursts of activity throughout the day and opportunity to express this is important for physical and behavioural health. Exercise requirements vary with life stage. Importantly, if your cat’s inclination or ability to jump, climb and generally move around has changed, they may need to see a vet.”
“Just like us, stress can take a toll on your cat’s health. Cats generally are not fond of change; this may mean visitors staying over, another animal, a new baby, or even a new couch. Stress can lead to a compromised immune system, so it’s important to keep your cat as calm and happy as possible. When disruption is unavoidable, ensure they have a hidey hole to retreat into and a quiet place to eat and toilet undisturbed. Fortifying the immune system with good nutrition is also important.”