How to Help Your Obese Cat Lose Weight
How to Help Your Obese Cat Lose Weight

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How to Help Your Obese Cat Lose Weight

This article is part of a series on how to spot signs of a healthy cat. You can learn more about the key signs here.
 

An obese cat is not a pretty sight. Cumbersome and clumsy, they suffer a marked loss in athletic ability and appearance. Decreased flexibility prevents them from thoroughly grooming, which can cause skin problems. Obese cats also have an increased risk for diabetes and are poor candidates for surgery and anesthesia.
 

Obesity results when an animal consistently eats more calories than they need. This can be caused by overfeeding, inactivity, reproductive status, environment, body type, age or genetics.

 

 

Is Your Cat Obese?

Assessing body condition is important in the overall evaluation of your cat’s nutritional well-being and can help in determining feline obesity. Take a few moments to follow the easy directions in the Cat Body Condition Chart for assessing your cat’s body condition.
 

If you suspect your cat is obese, the first step is to consult your veterinarian.

 

 

How to Help Your Cat Lose Weight

1. Visit the Veterinarian

Your veterinarian will probably ask you some questions about your cat, such as how much they eat and how much physical activity they get. Answering these questions honestly will help your veterinarian recommend some simple changes to help improve your cat’s weight. Your veterinarian may also perform tests to detect medical conditions that may contribute to obesity — you want to rule these out before starting your cat on any weight-management program.

 

2. Reduce the Amount You Feed Your Cat

Your veterinarian may first suggest reducing the amount you feed your cat. If so, begin by reducing the daily portion by 25%. Continue decreasing intake by 10% increments every two to three weeks until your cat loses 1% of their starting weight. For example, if your cat weighs 15 pounds, a 1% loss would be 2½ ounces.
 

If you feed one large meal a day, or keep food available at all times, try dividing the daily ration into several small meals (at least two meals a day) and pick up what your cat doesn’t eat 30 minutes after each meal.

 

3. Start Your Cat on a Weight-management Diet

Your veterinarian may suggest changing your cat’s diet to one specifically designed for weight management, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Indoor Weight & Hairball Care. You will still need to control your cat’s portions, but they might be able to eat more than they do on their regular diet.
 

A diet that contains slowly digested carbohydrates, such as corn and sorghum, can result in lower blood sugar and insulin levels than a diet that contains rice as the primary carbohydrate source. Lower blood sugar and insulin levels can also help with maintaining a proper weight.
 

In addition, a diet that contains L-carnitine will help. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like compound that helps with fat metabolism.

 

4. Change Your Cat’s Diet Gradually

Changing diets can be stressful for pets, so if your veterinarian recommends changing diets, proceed slowly.
 

Begin with a daily portion that mixes 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food. The next day, increase the amount of new food to 50% and decrease the amount of the old food to 50%. During the next few days, continue increasing the proportions of the new food and decreasing the amount of old food until the food consists entirely of the new diet. This method increases the likelihood that your cat will accept the new diet and decreases the occurrence of stomach upsets.

 

5. Encourage Your Cat to Play

Another way to help your cat lose weight is to increase their activity. Provide cat trees for climbing, or teach your cat to play fetch or walk on a leash. Buy or create your own toys that encourage exercise. One ingenious owner tosses her cat’s dry food ration across the room a piece at a time!
 

You also can use your cat’s natural hunting instinct to help them lose weight. Hide several small portions of their daily food ration around the house. If you have a multilevel home, make your cat use the stairs.
 

Use your imagination, but be cautious. Don’t let a fat cat get exhausted, overheated or out of breath. Also, keep in mind that a senior cat may not be able to exercise vigorously.
 

Replace food treats with rewards like playtime, grooming, stroking or conversation. If you cannot resist the fat cat who begs for food at the dinner table, keep them in another room during dinnertime. If you have a multi-cat household, the consistent winner of the food competition sweepstakes is often obese. If this is the case, separate the cats at mealtimes if possible.

 

6. Practice Patience

Obesity is easier to prevent than to cure, but it is never too late to reverse it — though it requires long-term patience and commitment. Helping cats lose weight is a slow process. If the amount they eat is severely restricted, the cat risks other health problems.
 

Increased activity, behavior modification (for both you and your cat) and calorie restriction are your best tools for helping an obese cat lose weight. However, it is important to expect a few setbacks and plateaus. It will take at least four months for an obese cat to lose 15% of their starting weight. At that point, have another look at your cat’s body condition and go from there.

 

Tips for Starting a Weight-management Program for Your Cat

  • Always check with your veterinarian first.
  • Eliminate all food treats.
  • Divide the daily food portion into several smaller meals.
  • Feed a diet formulated specifically for weight management.
  • Weigh your cat every two weeks.
  • Cats should not lose more than 1% to 1.5% of initial weight per week.
  • Be patient and consistent!

How to Help Your Obese Cat Lose Weight
How to Help Your Obese Cat Lose Weight
  • Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?
    Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

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    Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

    An upset stomach is more common in cats than you might think. But how can you tell if it's a serious problem?

    Every cat owner recognizes the warning signs of an upset feline stomach: the mournful meow, gagging, and heaving retch. But in a flash, the cat seems to snap back to good health while you're left scrubbing the carpet.

    The scenario is a familiar one for Cynthia Bowen of Cleveland, Ohio. As the owner of four Maine Coons, Bowen has cleaned her share of messes. "It would happen every couple of months or so," she says. "Otherwise, they were perfectly healthy."

    Although it's not a pleasant subject, vomiting is something cats seem to do almost on cue. Many cat owners accept this as a natural part of owning a pet, but it doesn't have to be that way. Knowing what triggers an upset stomach and what you can do about it will make for a better relationship with your cat.

     

    Cause for Alarm?

    Repeated cat vomiting should never be ignored because it can lead to dehydration. But, because vomiting is common in cats, how do you know what's normal? "A general guideline is that if the cat is vomiting one to three times a month, we consider this 'normal,'" says Dr. William Folger, a DVM from Houston.

    He considers it serious if the vomiting occurs twice daily for two or three days. If your cat stops eating, seems to have stomach pain, or retches continuously, or if there's blood in the vomit, take her to a veterinarian. And, as always, if you're suspicious that a lingering problem could be harmful to your pet, call your veterinarian. A visit to the office can help relieve your cat's discomfort and your worries as well.

     

    Why Cats Vomit

    Many owners attribute their cat's vomiting to hairballs, but that's not the only culprit. "It's careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs," says Dr. Folger. Two other frequent causes of an upset stomach are:

    • Eating too fast. Cats sometimes eat too much, too fast. When the stomach wall expands too quickly, a signal is sent to the brain to cause regurgitation. In these cases, the mess on your floor is from regurgitation, not actual vomiting. When a cat regurgitates, he brings up fluid and food from his esophagus by opening his mouth–unlike vomiting, where there's gagging and retching. Regurgitated food is still formed, and may smell fermented. "Cats that eat too quickly because they are gluttonous or stressed by food bowl competition can regurgitate right after eating," says Dr. Sara Stephens, a DVM from Montana. But don't assume regurgitation is always a case of eating too fast. It could be caused by esophageal problems, obstruction of the digestive tract, hairballs, or dehydration. If you've forced your cat to eat slowly and he still has problems, contact a veterinarian.
       
    • Curiosity. Grass, carpet, and toilet paper are just a few things cats may digest and later vomit. The vomiting is a protective mechanism–nature's way of cleansing your cat’s system. Sometimes, though, curiosity can lead to more serious problems. String, toy parts, and feathers are favorites of playful felines and can lodge in the stomach or intestine, causing repeated vomiting and severe distress. If your cat exhibits these symptoms, take her to a veterinarian immediately; surgery is often necessary to remove the object.

     

    Preventative Measures

    Often, owners accept their pet's vomiting as a natural part of their behavior, but just because cats seem to have more than their fair share of tummy troubles doesn't mean you have to sit idly by.

    One simple preventative measure is to get your fast-eating cat to slow down or to simply eat less. Stephens recommends smaller portions, elevating your cat's food dish slightly, or putting an object, such as a ball, into the dish. The cat will be forced to eat around the ball, and thus her intake will be slowed. If you do this, make sure the ball isn't small enough to swallow. And you may need to feed cats in a multiple-cat household at different times and places to reduce competitive eating.

    If simple solutions don't work, watch your cat's eating behavior and reactions. Bowen, for example, tried changing her cats' diets. "Since switching to IAMS®, they rarely throw up," Bowen says.

     

    "Usually, when you change to a higher-quality diet, there is no problem," Stephens says. Here are some tips for helping make sure your cat's change is as successful and comfortable as possible:

    • Go slowly. Make the transition gradually to allow your cat time to adjust. "Make sure the cat eats something every day," Stephens advises. "A cat that quits eating suddenly can develop liver problems."
       
    • Add appeal. Switching from wet to dry or vice versa should also be done gradually. Many cats find canned food more palatable. If you switch to dry, add water and warm it slightly for more appeal. Discard uneaten food after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage.
       
    • Measure up. How much should you feed? Your cat's age, sex, breed, activity level, and overall health need to be taken into consideration. Talk with your veterinarian, then read the manufacturer's recommendations. Premium foods like IAMS cat foods are more nutrient-dense than many non-premium diets, so don't be surprised if the recommended amounts seem low.
       
    • Pay attention. Beyond careful measuring, also regularly weigh your cat and adjust the feeding amount accordingly after switching to a premium food. Your cat may appear happy if you overfeed him. But over time, he may become overweight. Tummy troubles can be in the past with your veterinarian’s help and a little effort on your part.

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