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.