6 Easy Tips to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
Your kitty is purr-fect. Well, except for the paunchy belly that seems to be weighing her down. Your cat isn't the only one who has some extra "fluff"—according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), nearly 60 percent of cats in the United States are overweight.
The problem? Excess weight is a concern because it leads to life-limiting illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Wondering how to help your cat lose weight? Read on for expert tips, from how much to feed your cat for weight loss to simple strategies that get your kitty to move more.
Does Your Cat Need to Lose Weight?
Being even a few pounds overweight lowers your cat's quality of life. It makes your kitty feel uncomfortable and reduces her desire to move, which can cause even more weight gain. Cats with excess weight tend to have shorter lifespans too.
But weighing your cat isn't the most effective way to figure out if your kitty needs to shed some pounds. Instead, assess your cat's body condition, says Aimee Simpson, DVM, medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia, and look for the following:
- Does your cat have a waist? Look down at your cat while both of you are standing. A healthy cat's body has a slight indent between the ribs and hips.
- Can you feel your cat's ribs? Apply gentle pressure along the sides of your cat's chest. You should be able to feel individual ribs at a healthy weight.
- Does your cat have a droopy belly? Look at your standing cat's profile. The abdomen should be taut and straight, rising slightly upwards as it meets the hips. Overweight cats have a rounded abdomen with no upward tucking.
If your cat's body shape indicates he's overweight, ask your veterinarian for help determining what your cat's ideal weight should be.
How Many Calories Should You Feed Your Cat to Help Them Lose Weight?
To figure out how many calories to feed your cat to help him lose weight, you first have to determine how much your cat is currently eating. Count all food, treats, and table scraps. Then reduce the amount by 20 percent, says Simpson.
For some pet parents, it's hard to establish a cat's daily caloric intake. That may be because multiple family members feed the cat, you frequently switch food brands, or you leave unmeasured food out all day. If that's your situation, don't worry. Simpson recommends using this formula to calculate the number of calories your furry pal should eat for weight loss:
Ideal weight in kilograms x 30 70. Take this answer and multiple by 0.8 to get the number of calories to feed your cat each day.
And remember: Healthy weight loss takes time, so be patient. "Aim for a weekly weight loss of a half to two percent of your cat's body weight," advises Simpson. "Because if overweight cats lose weight too fast it can cause fatty liver disease, which is a serious health issue."
6 Best Ways to Help Your Cat Lose Weight in a Healthy Way
The same weight-loss formula that works for people also works for cats: Eat less and move more. Here are some tips for getting your kitty in shape.
1. Make mealtime a challenge.
Use a puzzle feeder to encourage physical and mental activity. Puzzle feeders help beat boredom and limit the amount of food your cat eats, so it's an all-around win.
2. Keep exercise fun.
Like people, cats get bored with the same old routine. To spice things up, provide plenty of vertical climbing surfaces and rotate a variety of toys. Add in short bursts of play throughout the day. Cats are built for speed, not endurance, reminds Simpson, so aim for five to ten minutes of activity at each play session.
3. Cut back on treats.
Replace food treats with cuddles and playtime. It's a simple way to reduce the number of calories your furry pal consumes each day.
4. Slowly switch food.
Cats are notorious for being finicky. So don't change up your cat's chow overnight. You have to be sneaky if you're switching to a new food for weight management. Start by replacing a quarter of your kitty's kibble with new food for a few days. Then gradually increase the amount of new food over the course of several more days, recommends the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. It should take one to two weeks to make the change.
5. Keep cats from sharing meals.
If you have multiple cats in your household, you'll have to take additional steps to stop your chubby cat from overeating. Feed your cats several small meals at specific times of the day from their own, dedicated feeding bowls rather than letting them graze all day or eat from the same bowl, recommends Simpson. That way cats are more likely to finish their food, which means fewer leftovers for a housemate to gobble up. Use a programmable feeder to provide meals to your cats throughout the day if you can't be there to do it.
6. Consider a microchip-activated feeder.
This type of advanced feeder will release food only for the designated cat. It's a fail-safe option to eliminate the opportunity for your cat to munch on his buddy's leftovers.
"While it may be difficult at times to resist giving in to your cat's desire for extra food and treats," says Simpson. "Remember that weight loss reduces disease risk and improves your cat's quality of life." And that's something every pet parent can get behind!