How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight

Before starting a weight loss program for your cat, please talk to your vet about how to do this safely. Putting your cat on a diet is not as simple as restricting its food, since losing weight quickly is very dangerous. A cat’s weight loss plan should be a collaboration between your vet and yourself, so you should always talk to your vet before changing your cat’s diet. They will help you create a dieting plan for your cat that supports a gradual weight loss without restricting the food intake too much.


Health Risks Associated With Overweight Cats

A healthy weight is important to a cat’s overall health. Overweight cats are more prone to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other health problems. If you keep your cat at a healthy weight, you help minimize their risk for these diseases and any unnecessary stress on their bones and joints. Your veterinarian is your best ally in keeping track of your cat’s weight, since they can help you understand what is normal for your cat and help you monitor your cat’s weight.


Is Your Cat Overweight?

It may be difficult to put your cat on the scale, however, most domestic cats should weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Besides weight, other factors to look for include their waistline. Your cat’s body should become more slender from the belly to his hindquarters. If you can easily feel your cat’s ribs, he is probably not overweight. However, if you have to press to get at the ribs, he may be heavier than he should be. Also, a swinging pouch between your cat’s hind legs is probably an indication that he is overweight. 


Determining Your Cat’s Body Condition Score

The ideal weight for a cat is determined by their body condition score, which is similar to the body mass index used for humans. The score is an objective measurement of your cat’s body composition based on the presence of a waist, the visibility of their ribs, and how easily their backbone can be felt. Once this body condition score is assigned, your vet can help you establish a target weight and a daily calorie intake goal using a formula for resting energy requirement. 


How to Limit Your Cat’s Calories

A 10-pound indoor cat should be eating about 200 calories each day. Some basic ways to limit your cat’s calorie intake is:

  • Always measure his food and divide his calorie intake into 4-6 small daily meals
  • Only leave cat food out for a limited amount of time so your cat won’t graze all day
  • Keeping their water bowl full allows them to drink, instead of eat
  • Avoid giving treats, or substitute a few pieces of dry food instead
  • Avoid sharing human food with your cat and don’t allow him access to your dog’s food 


How Much Weight Should My Cat Lose?

Cats should not lose more than 1-2% of their weight every week. If you reduce their calorie intake to 80% of their resting energy requirement, you will see a weight loss each week of 1-2%, although this will vary slightly depending on each cat. You should weigh your cat weekly to ensure he is on track with your vet’s diet recommendations. Keep in mind, if your cat stops eating at any point, please have him examined by your veterinarian.


Negative Effects of Quick Weight Loss to Cats

As in humans, food restrictions for cats which occur too quickly causing extremely quick weight loss can make your pet extremely sick. This can possibly lead to a disease in cats called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. Due to the possible negative outcomes of some dieting, all cat weight loss programs should be carefully monitored by the cat’s owner as well as the vet.  


What’s the Best Food for Cat Dieting?

Fortunately, there are many commercial varieties of both canned and dry foods that are palatable and nutritionally sound. Most pet nutritionists recommend a diet of low-calorie canned foods because it has more fillers than dry food and the higher water content can help with weight loss by increasing the volume of food without increasing the calorie count. However, many cat diets will be a combination of high protein/low carbohydrate or high-fiber/low-fat.  A high fiber/low-fat content can increase bulk and support satiety, thus allowing your cat to eat more and feel fuller. Whereas, a high protein/low carbohydrate diet leaves your pet feeling fuller and can delay the stomach from emptying. Your vet can help you determine the right portions, the right food, and the correct feeding schedule for your cat. 


Don’t Forget Cat Exercise

Obviously, calorie restrictions are important for your cat’s weight loss, however, your cat’s activity level is also important. You can assist your cat with his weight loss by also helping him to exercise more! Add cat trees, cat tunnels or cat shelves for your cat to run through and jump on. Or, give him cat puzzle toys which include puzzle feeders. Using food puzzle toys to dispense your cat’s meals can help slow down your cat’s eating while also providing stimulation and exercise. You can also start scheduling playtime with him by using laser pointers and wand toys.


Gaining Control of Overweight Cat Earlier Rather Than Later

Since cats come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and they have different levels of fur, it can be difficult to tell whether your cat is overweight. This is why it’s so important to have these conversations with your veterinarian. Determining a cat’s ideal weight and assessing their overall health, veterinarians will look deeper than simply the number on the scale. It’s much easier to safely and effectively assist your cat if he has a medium body condition score versus a high body condition score because once a cat reaches severe obese levels, it’s much harder to implement and maintain an effective weight loss plan. 



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