The “F” BMI — No, it Means F-eline
Dr. J offers his irreverent, slightly irrelevant, but possibly useful opinions on health and fitness. A Florida surgeon and fitness freak with a black belt in karate, he runs 50 miles a week and flies a Cherokee Arrow 200.
I think it’s pretty apparent to most of us that not only are more of us getting obese, but so are our pets! It is estimated that up to 45 percent of our dogs and 57 percent of our cats that are living in our homes are overweight or obese, defined as 30 percent above their ideal weight.
The FBMI to the Rescue
How can you tell if your cat is overweight? The standard way of telling whether your cat is a healthy weight is to feel around the ribcage while your cat is standing. You should not be able to see the ribs, but you should be able to feel them. If you can not feel your cat’s ribs easily, your cat is overly fat, not to be confused with being big boned, thick or sturdy.
We have an impressive veterinary medicine center at our university. It is only slightly smaller than the human medical center. The expansion of veterinary medicine has outpaced almost any other field that I can think of, to the point of a pet insurance industry that may necessitate pet health care as part of our next presidential election platform.
It is not surprising now that veterinarians have devised a formula to calculate if your cat is fat: The Feline Body Mass Index (FBMI).
How to Determine Your Cat’s FBMI
While your cat is in a standing position, with the legs perpendicular to the ground and the head upright:
- Measure the circumference of your cat’s rib cage. (The level of the 9th rib is ideal.)
- Now measure the length of the lower back leg from the knee to the ankle and write down both numbers, because with what is coming, you probably won’t remember them.
Calculating the FBMI
- Divide the rib cage measurement by 0.7062 and subtract the length of the leg.
- Divide that answer by 0.9156.
- Subtract the leg length from that number, and that is your cat’s BMI.
What were they thinking? Perhaps some veterinary statistician had a little too much time on their hands!
For someone who was not, shall we say, impressive in math, I would also suggest taking an aspirin, probably before attempting to do this calculation, but certainly after I did!
For comparisons’ sake, the BMI calculation for humans is weight in kg / (height in m x height in m) = BMI.
Helping Your Cat Achieve a Healthy Feline Body Mass Index
Veterinarians currently feel that a cat with a body mass index of 42 or higher needs to lose weight, i.e. a fat cat! Most vets still use the Body Conditioning Scores to determine if a cat is overweight, because, have you ever tried to take those measurements on a feral cat? These scores are somewhat like a combination of the ectomorph/mesomorph/endomorph concept for cats and dogs with a little apple or pear shape thrown in.
Interestingly enough, some of the same concerns about human BMI values are being voiced by the “I can have a fat but fit cat, right?” crowd.
After all, FBMI also does not take into account the different body types of various breeds. To say nothing of all that mouse lifting our cats may have done to bulk up.
If you find that your cat really is overweight, they say “it’s not difficult to put together a plan of action to help.” I would not be foolish enough to say that myself, but here are the “simple and easy” recommendations:
Quality of food. Cheaper pet food and too many treats are linked to higher body fat percentage. This means that the first step towards a leaner cat should be a high-quality food, typically one that can be purchased at a pet supply store rather than the supermarket, and go easy on the treats.
Feeding schedule. Free feeding cats are also likely to have problems with their body composition. Instead, three smaller, regular meals a day are likely to have a better effect on your cat’s health.
Increased activity level. More activity and exercise will help your cat get back into a healthier condition. Some have even suggested introducing catnip to your pet’s diet. Most cats increase their activity after ingesting catnip. They may roll around incessantly or run laps around your home, and you can chase them.
By changing the quality of your cat’s food and increasing their exercise levels, your cat should reach and maintain an optimal weight and achieve a healthy Feline Body Mass Index, if you are ever able to calculate it. The obese cat lifestyle can be stopped easily if you take the time to make these changes.
Interesting how the answers are the same for every species isn’t it? Too bad our pets can’t initiate these simple and easy recommendations for us if we happen to need them!
Speaking of answers, I didn’t know how to answer her the other day when she asked me, “Do I look FAT in this fur?”
What do you think I should tell her?