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Concerned about how round your cat has become? It's easy for people to realise they've gained weight when their clothes get a little snug, but when it comes to your feline friend, it’s up to you to watch for the warning signs. If your cat needs to lose weight, follow these tips.
Spotting if your cat is obese
When you see your cat every day, it’s not always easy to spot a change in their weight, especially if they’re a longer-haired breed. For that reason, monitoring your cat’s weight throughout their life is really important. Spotting your cat’s weight trending in either direction gives you a big head-start to getting help before it’s too late.
Believe it or not, your cat losing weight should be a concern, too. Changes in weight – in either direction – can be caused by health conditions. Likewise, your cat’s weight can cause them health problems, too. If your cat shows signs of any health issues, be sure to talk with your veterinarian. They can determine whether or not your cat needs to shed some weight to improve their health, and check for any other health issues that might be a concern.
Lack of activity
Another sign you may have an overweight cat is when they’re less active than usual. Once a cat is spayed or neutered, they start to show signs of a slower metabolic rate, which means they may be less active and therefore need fewer calories. If the amount of calories being fed isn't adjusted properly, the cat may continue to gain weight and become obese.
The age of your cat also needs to be considered when monitoring activity level. Typically, older cats do become less active and therefore may need to eat less food. Sometimes, pet parents who adjust their cat’s food notice activity levels picking up as a result.
Are you overfeeding?
The first step in helping a cat lose weight properly is to control the amount of food you're putting in the bowl. With the help of your veterinarian, choose a complete and balanced food that matches your cat's current age and dietary needs. (Cats should also avoid human foods!)
Unsure about how much food to give your cat? Start by looking on the back of the package for the manufacturer’s recommendations. A few grams either way can make a big difference to a cat, so it may be a good idea to measure the portion with kitchen scales to make sure you’re being as accurate as possible.
Your cat’s daily food allowance should be divided into 4-6 meals if at all possible. This suits their digestion better and helps them to feel full throughout the day. Timer feeders can be really useful if you are out and about, and can even feed your cat while you sleep!
Discuss the exact amount and frequency with your veterinarian. Although the back of food packaging gives a general idea, your veterinarian is ultimately the best one to determine the type of food and the amount your cat should eat to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Once you have the right food amounts on an appropriate feeding schedule, your next step is to incorporate proper (yet entertaining) exercise into your cat’s routine.
Help them exercise away the weight
Food adjustments alone can help cats avoid obesity, but for most, it needs to be a combination of diet and exercise. Playing with your cat is a great way to stimulate them, get them moving, and strengthen your bond with them.
Cats are natural predators so it's important for your cat to find playful ways to tap into this instinct. It can be fun for both cats and cat parents to set up new and creative games, such as hide-and-seek or miniature obstacle courses inside the house. If you don't have simple items in your house that your cat is interested in playing with, a few new toys may help get them engaged and ready to be more active. Check out our list of cat games you can play with your cat to get them moving.
Start by encouraging your cat to play for a few minutes a couple of times a day. Over the next few weeks, try to build up to several bouts of games a day. Cats naturally only like to play for about five minutes at a time, so it’s better to enjoy lots of short games rather than trying to force a marathon session.
Any increase in activity could help your overweight cat get leaner and even maintain a healthy weight consistently. Once they’re eating right and keeping a more active routine, your cat will truly be enjoying a higher quality of life - something all pet owners want for their affectionate companions.
Taking steps to maintain a healthy weight
Keeping your cat within a healthy weight range not only improves quality of life, it can also save you a lot of money. According to the PFMA, pet owners spend millions every year fighting health problems caused by obesity. Whether you have an obese cat now, one who's showing warning signs of being overweight, or just general concerns about their potential for obesity, taking steps to control your cat's food intake and activity level benefits the whole family.
To keep your cat maintaining a healthy weight, be sure to continually monitor their activity level, weigh their daily food intake, and have your vet regularly evaluate their weight and dietary needs. Also, consider asking your vet about a cat food specially formulated for cats after they have been spayed or neutered. This food can promote a decrease in your cat's metabolic rate to reduce the chance of weight gain.
Chrissie Klinger is an educator, mother, and pet owner with a passion for living a healthy and eco-conscious lifestyle.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS