Are you living with a fat cat? According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (yeah, that’s really a thing) 57.6 percent of cats are obese. In many cases the difference between healthy weight and obesity can be just two or three pounds.
That amount of extra weight might not be a big deal for humans, but on a cat, it can be devastating. Chronic feline obesity can lead to osteoarthritis, insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, and even cancer. On average, it shortens a cat’s life by about 2.5 years.
So if you want to keep Fluffy around for as long as possible (and would rather not deal with astronomical vet bills down the road) establishing a weight loss plan is mandatory. But you can’t just take her along to the gym, can you? Try these proven strategies instead.
8 Tips to Help Your Fat Cat Lose Weight
1. Know the signs (and ask your vet)
Before taking any action, you need to know if your cat is really overweight (and if he is, by how much). Different breeds have different ideal weights, but the average cat should be between 8 and 10 pounds. Even just two pounds over can be a health risk. The best authority on your cat’s particular weight requirement is a vet, but there are some tell tale signs you can look for, such as: not being able to feel the ribs or backbone, or a rounded/bulging/sagging abdomen.
2. Drop the dry food (and double check the wet)
Just like humans, cats typically eat too many empty carbs and not enough protein. The culprit is cheap dry cat food that’s basically just a big sack of cornmeal. Cats are predators, not grazers. They were not meant to eat grain. Sometimes just dropping the dry food and supplementing with canned wet food can be enough to jump-start weight loss. But be aware that cheap cat food can come with just as many fillers. Look for high protein and moisture content made with low-carb meats, like turkey.
3. Stop free feeding
Yes, it’s easy to just fill the food bowl with kibble, and refill when it gets low. Unfortunately, free feeding is completely opposite of the way your cat’s body and metabolism were designed to operate. Given the opportunity, cats will eat constantly, regardless of hunger. Rather than free feeding, plan to put food out at 3 to 4 set meal times throughout the day.
4. Weather the whine
If your cat has been free feeding for a long time, he’s not going to like seeing an empty bowl. Rest assured, he’ll let you know. Be prepared for extra meowing, leg rubbing and galloping to the food bowl any time you walk in that direction. The urge to give in to his crying eyes will be difficult to ignore, but you must be strong! You might also find it helpful to divide up the day’s ration ahead of time, so that you give exactly the right amount at each feeding, and are sure when the day’s meals are done. This article has a handy equation to help determine your cat’s individual caloric needs.
5. Stop giving treats
This one should be obvious. Many cat treats are nothing but empty calories. Keep in mind that cats equate food with affection, and distract him with a good scratch or a few minutes of play instead. If you insist on giving treats, try tossing them to your kitty one at a time, or hiding them on top of her climbing tower, so calories must be expended to retrieve it.
6. Aim for 20 a day
Not treats, of course, but minutes of play. Toys that can be batted around or chased (like balls, cat nip-filled toys, and laser pointers) tap into your cat’s natural ability to stalk and capture prey. But you don’t need pricey toys to keep kitty entertained. Check out these 10 Easy Ways to Play with Your Cat.
7. Keep ‘em guessing
Another clever way to increase calorie expenditure is to move the bowl to a new location. Moving the food bowl to new locations in the house, such as upstairs or downstairs, means your cat willl have to walk to get to her food bowl. Of course, she’ll soon become used to the new location, so rotate it every few days. You can also try special “feeding balls” that require your cat to roll them around in order to get pieces of food as a “reward.”
8. L-Caratine supplements
When it comes to weight loss, it’s always better to keep it simple. Calories in must be fewer than calories out. But sometimes an extra boost is in order. “L-Caratine is an amino acid that helps the liver transform fat reserves into glucose,” explains Pawnation. “With your vet’s approval, supplementing your cat’s diet with L-Caratine can help kickstart weight loss in an obese feline and keep it healthy throughout its dietary journey.”
What tips do you have for feline weight loss? Share them in a comment!