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
  • orange cat in hands of pet parent
    orange cat in hands of pet parent

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    Are You Ready to Adopt a Cat? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

    Introducing a new cat into your home and life is a rewarding and fulfilling decision, one that requires some thought before you head to the shelter. So what should you consider before adopting a cat? Follow our tips to prepare for the best.

     

    What to Consider before Adopting a Cat 

    First, let’s explore some of the commitments you’ll need to make to ensure your new cat is content (and that you are, too!).

     

    Cat-proofing Your Home 

    Make sure your home is cat-safe by eliminating or hiding away anything that could harm or poison your newbie. This includes:

    • Household cleaners and chemicals
    • Medications
    • Toxic plants, including aloe vera, azalea, rhododendron, lilies, chrysanthemum, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettias and tulips
    • Toxic foods, including chocolate, coffee and tea, dairy, raw meat, grapes and raisins, carrots, onions, garlic and alcohol

     

    Cat Supplies You’ll Need 

    You’ll need a cat bed or hideout, toys, scratching mats, a cat tree or climbing tower, food and water bowls, litter and boxes, and, of course, well-balanced, nutritious cat food. IAMS™ provides a wide range of tailored, nutritional cat food to promote the health of your new cat.

     

    Cost of Cat Care 

    Plan to budget for an annual exam (older cats or those with special conditions may need more frequent visits), medication and parasite preventives. It’s smart to save for emergency care, too.

     

    Cat Exercise and Playtime 

    Providing daily play and exercise opportunities can keep your cat physically and psychologically healthy, and help strengthen your bond. Toys, feather wands and cat trees should be part of your regular rotation! And believe it or not, many cats can be trained to walk on a leash.

     

    Cat Socialization 

    Not all cats are solitary or antisocial; however, they can become this way if they aren’t introduced properly to new experiences. Strange sounds, smells and even appliances in your home might make a new cat anxious, as can other family members and pets (more on this later). So be sure to help your new cat get accustomed to unfamiliar people, places and things, and reward and praise them when doing so.

     

    Litter and Litterboxes 

    Make sure you have the necessary box, scoop and other supplies to keep things tidy. If you have a multiple-cat household, provide one box per cat, plus one additional box, to help quell territorial issues.

     

    A Lifetime Commitment 

    Keep in mind that cats often live into their teens and maybe even a second decade if you’re lucky. Know that you’re adopting a true family member for the extent of their lifetime.

     

    orange cat in hands of pet parent

     

    Choosing the Right Cat for You 

    A cat match made in heaven starts by asking some questions about yourself.

     

    What Is Your Lifestyle Like? 

    If you are not home regularly or gone for extended amounts of time, a cat’s independent nature can be a great fit. If your life includes other people or pets, make sure their behaviors, personalities and lifestyles suit having a cat family member — both for their sake and the cat’s. Allergies can be a dealbreaker, so take note of anyone in your home with cat allergies and their or your willingness to take allergy medication, vacuum constantly and groom the cat regularly to alleviate symptoms. 

    Your home should also have the space for play and exercise and shouldn’t harbor anything dangerous to your cat.

     

    What Cat Personality Suits You? 

    Cats offer a variety of distinctive personality types, ranging from puppy-like cuddliness to feigned disinterest. Some cats are constantly on the go, exploring and poking into this and that, while others are certified nap ninjas. Vocally, they can be chatty catties or more taciturn souls. In short, you have a wide spectrum of personality types to choose from — which is what makes cats such fascinating and easy-to-love pets.

     

    Do You Want to Adopt a Kitten or an Adult Cat? 

    Kittens will need a lot of attention, direction and a fair amount of patience. Their size, energy and inquisitive nature means you’ll need to supervise them closely.

    Adult cats often will settle more quickly into a routine once introduced to their new home. An older or senior adult cat may be even more comfortable interacting with children and furniture. And providing a real home for a cat in their golden years is a rewarding and noble gesture you can feel good about.

     

    Fur Better or Fur Worse 

    All cats shed. This will affect anyone with allergies and could also cause health issues for your cat, like hairballs or matting. Long-haired cats need to be brushed more regularly, and not all cats love this, so you may have to train yours to sit through this daily ritual.

     

    orange cat in hands of pet parent

     

    Where to Adopt a Cat 

    There are several reasons adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue organization is preferable to buying. More effort goes into matchmaking when you adopt, because shelters and rescues generally have more information about their cats. Plus, adopting your cat from a shelter or a rescue actually helps two cats: the one you adopt and the homeless cat who takes your cat’s place.

    In contrast, buying can be much more expensive than adopting, and the practice encourages cat mills and increases the number of pets who need homes.

     

    Adopting a Cat from a Shelter 

    At shelters you can often visit with more than one cat and breed. The screening process can be easier (many shelters allow you to take a cat home that day), and adoption fees can be lower than at a rescue. However, the vet services might not cover all that your cat needs.

     

    Adopting a Cat from a Rescue 

    Rescues have some advantages over shelters. They often know more about candidate cats because they may be placed in foster homes and even trained for a home. So you could adopt a cat that is already litterbox trained, socialized with other pets and with kids, trained to keep off furniture, etc.

    Depending on the rescue’s screening process, you might have to make an appointment to see one cat at a time. While the screening might take longer, it’s designed to match you to the right cat. Adoption fees might be a little higher with a rescue, but they often cover more vet care, too.

     

    orange cat in hands of pet parent

     

    The Cat Adoption Process 

    While rescues and shelters have similar adoption processes, they do vary depending on the organization. But you can count on these basic steps:

     

    1. Application

    Make sure to have a valid ID to verify age (most organizations require adopters be adults) and address. You might also need references, so it’s a good idea to email or call ahead of time and ask about the application and overall adoption process.

    Some of the cat adoption questions you might be asked include:

    • Do you own or rent?
    • Have you had a cat before?
    • Do you currently have pets? Are they spayed or neutered? How are they with other animals?
    • Do you have children at home? Are they good with pets?
    • Does everyone residing in your home approve of adopting a cat?
    • Where will your cat be kept during the day and in the evening?
    • What are your care plans for when you have to leave home for an extended period of time, such as for a work trip or vacation?

     

    They might also ask questions about your health, occupation and personal life to help match the right cat to the right parent.

     

    2. Home Inspection 

    A home and family meet-and-greet might be required to see how everyone, including other pets, gets along with your prospective new cat. And the organization will want to ensure your residence will be a comfortable and safe home.

     

    3. Adoption Fees 

    As we mentioned, cat adoption costs can vary, with rescues often being higher than shelters. Fortunately, the adoption fee will take care of basic veterinary services you will need anyway, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.

    Adopting a new cat isn’t just rewarding — it can be life-changing. Taking stock of the commitments of cat ownership, and taking the time to find your perfect feline match, will help set you both up for years of joy.

    orange cat in hands of pet parent
    orange cat in hands of pet parent
    orange cat in hands of pet parent
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