According to statistics released by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in 2018, 60% of cats were considered to either be overweight or obese in the United States. Given that pet obesity is and remains a serious health threat, if your cat is overweight, there’s no time better to act than now.
However, although pet owners know that putting their feline friend on a weight-loss plan is sensible and beneficial for their long-term health, we’re sure your cat won’t feel the same way! That’s why we’ve created this handy guide packed full of invaluable hints and tips to help your cat successfully shed a few pounds whilst simultaneously remaining happy and healthy.
Does My Cat Really Need to Lose Weight?
If your veterinarian says that your cat is overweight, they aren’t saying this as simply an observation – they’re essentially stating that you need to act by implementing a weight-loss plan for your cat. After all, if your cat is overweight, they’re unfortunately at risk of suffering from an array of medical conditions. To go into more detail, we’ve listed and explained a few common conditions below:
- Diabetes: It’s not only humans that suffer from types 1 and 2 diabetes – cats can too. The benchmark treatment for diabetes is insulin which must be injected usually every day. And if your cat is a regular feline, we guarantee that they won’t like needles!
- Intra-abdominal cancers: Although much rarer than the possibility a severely overweight cat will contract diabetes, some do contract abdominal tumors as a result. These tumors are the most difficult to treat before proceeding to an advanced stage.
- Increased chance of joint injuries: If a cat is obese or overweight, inflammation levels may decrease in the body, thereby engendering sore joints. On a more serious note, the cartilage on the end of a cat’s bones may become worn down due to the extra weight they’re carrying. If you’re lucky, your cat will suffer from pain and stiffness in their joints, and many may even develop conditions such as arthritis as a result.
- Heart disease: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common type of heart disease that cats suffer from and affects the size and structure of the heart muscles. Heartbreakingly, if a cat develops heart disease, their average survival time is only between six to twelve months. Plus, cats who are overweight or obese are much more likely to experience a heart problem more severely than cats of a healthy weight.
Read here our guide on the Best Pet Scales.
How do I Start My Cat on a Weight Loss Program?
Unless you’re well-versed on feline weight loss programs, your feline shouldn’t be started on a specific weight loss program without the go-ahead from your veterinarian. You must proceed with caution due to the risk of an obese cat developing a critical liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. To go into greater detail, feline hepatic lipidosis – otherwise known as fatty liver syndrome – is a common ailment that is unique to cats, albeit more commonly found in obese and overweight felines. Although it is treatable with aggressive nutritional support until the liver resumes normal functioning, it will take six to seven weeks for your cat’s liver to return to normal. And this is if you’re lucky – unless you seek urgent medical care for your cat as soon as symptoms of jaundice arise, this ailment could be fatal for your feline.
What Food Should I Put My Cat on to Advance Their Weight Loss?
With the risk of sounding repetitive, any switch to your cat’s kibble and food intake should be discussed with your veterinarian prior to any change. In most cases, your vet will recommend switching your feline onto a high fiber diet. Functioning as a type of carbohydrate, dietary fiber does not get broken down by a cat’s body in the same way that fats and proteins do, so keeps their digestive system moving at a faster pace. This prevents stomach issues – especially issues regarding constipation as fiber ensures water is drawn from the large intestine to soften the stool. To help you shop quicker, our team have carried out the key research for you, presenting the top ten high fiber cat food available to buy in 2020.
Although cat food high in fiber is great for most cats, other felines don’t take well to this kind of kibble. Many cats’ bodies end up storing this additional fiber as fat, thereby adding to your cat’s weight problems rather than solving them. If you’re therefore searching for inspiration out with the fiber food plan, why not consult our handy guide entitled “The Best Cat Food for Weight Loss”? Recently uploaded in 2020, this detailed document outlines a diverse selection of dry cat food recommended for weight loss and even explores how to tell if your cat is overweight or obese.
How Much Food Should My Cat Be Eating Per Day to Facilitate Weight Loss?
Regarding how much food your cat should eat per day to advance their weight loss, this entirely depends upon their current weight in comparison to what weight they should be at. Given that the average domesticated feline should weigh between 8-10 pounds (3.6-4.4 kg) and requires approximately 24 to 35 calories of food a day per pound, your cat should be aiming to eat on the higher end of what a healthy cat should per day – approximately 230 calories per day. Put differently, you must calculate your cat’s resting energy requirement (RER) – the number of calories they require to stay healthy when not partaking in physical activity.
A cat’s RER can be accurately calculated by employing the following formula:
RER in kcal/day = 30 (body weight in kilograms) + 70.
Once you have carried out this calculation, you should plan on feeding your overweight or obese cat 80% of their RER. Remember that although the RER should be used as a guideline, run your proposed calorie plan by your veterinarian first, as your cat may suffer from underlying health conditions that impede them from following a normal weight-loss program.
The work in weighing your cat doesn’t just stop at calculating their RER for the weight-loss program – far from it. It’s imperative that you weigh your cat regularly throughout the process. We recommend popping your cat on the scales to ensure they’re losing no more than 1% of their total body fat each week – any faster could be damaging to their overall health. In fact, rapid weight loss could point towards an underlying, undiagnosed health condition. If you’d like to educate yourself more about the dangers of rapid weight loss, allow us to point you in the direction of our article, “Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss in Cats”.
How do I Get My Cat Used to Being Weighed?
Most cats don’t take well to change, so trying to weigh them at home can be a nightmare for cat owners. A clever way of weighing your cat that won’t discourage them from using home scales again is placing your scales underneath their basket or bed. Once your cat has sat on their basket/bed and been weighed, separately weigh their bed/basket so you can subtract its weight from the weight of your cat. Although this method won’t be as accurate than taking your feline to the vets for a weighing, it’s certainly a clever alternative that will save you time and money.
However, if you’ve exhausted all other solutions yet still aren’t succeeding in weighing your cat, your vet will be able to do this for you. Veterinary practices have scales specifically designed for cats that boast a large, stable area for your cat to sit on.
Any Advice on How to Inspire My Cat to Exercise?
If you’ve already set your cat on a weight loss program but are finding it near impossible to kick-start their exercise regime, know that you’re not alone. In fact, your mission to encourage your cat to exercise goes against this species’ instinctual urges learned over centuries. As the domesticated cats lying around our homes evolved from stalkers who survived by exhausting minimal energy when stalking and tracking their prey – only using their energy reserves when catching their prey – it’s no wonder our cats aren’t keen to use up the energy reserves they’ve been programmed to protect for a game of cat and mouse with us. Therefore, it’s imperative to use your imagination to brainstorm for innovative ways that your cat will be encouraged to exercise without them even knowing it. Here are a few we propose below:
Move their food bowl
If your cat’s food bowl is positioned in your kitchen that your feline can plod over to without using much energy, it’s time to move it away someplace else. How about on the very top floor of your house? This way, your cat will be forced to climb flights of stairs to earn their food. On a similar note, if essential items belonging to your cat such as their litter tray and bed are in close proximity to their food bowl, this is another instance when your feline’s food bowl should be moved to encourage them to move around, thereby burning calories.
Invest in a cat food mat
As well as moving their food bowl, we recommend investing in a snuffle mat for cats. Although snuffle mats are predominantly bought for dogs, trustworthy companies have noticed a gap in the market and started producing them for our feline friends too. Searching for feeding balls amongst the mat is hard work that will see your cat burn vital calories.
Encourage them to play with toys
Sticking to a set playtime may help coax your cat into playing. As creatures of habit who love nothing better than routine, engaging in play at the same time each day will allow your feline to feel safe and confident. Not only will implementing a playtime schedule increase the number of calories your overweight cat burns each given day, these games will also mentally stimulate your cat.
Although cats do appreciate variety in their play times, try to incorporate the same key toys into playtime as much as possible. Your cat will soon develop positive associations with these cat toys and know it’s time to play as soon as they’re brought out.
How Long Does the Average Cat Need to Stay on a Weight Loss Program?
Before your cat embarks on their weight loss journey, remember that healthy cat weight loss should be a slow and gradual process. Although the prevalence of fad diets has distorted society’s understanding of what healthy weight loss should look like, losing weight should span over a period of months, not a few weeks. Following a healthy weight loss program should see most cats achieving their target weight between six to eight weeks. Notice our emphasis on most cats: for some felines out there – whatever the reason – it may take a little more time for them to achieve their weight loss goal. If you find yourself in this position, we recommend reaching out to your vet for advice, staying patient, and joining a feline weight-loss clinic if you require extra support and guidance throughout this period.
Our Final Thoughts
Implementing a weight-loss program for your cat will be tough, that’s for sure. But we encourage you to stick with it. Although the two months of your cat hounding you for food will surely wear you down, your struggles will be worth it when you notice the dramatic difference in your once lethargic and apathetic overweight cat transformed into a spritely creature with bundles of energy to spare. Most importantly, cats of a healthy weight are less likely to develop diseases, thereby extending their life expectancy. We all want to give our beloved cats the best chance at life possible, and weight-loss programs are a clear-cut solution.
- 5 Easy Ways to Help Your Cat Lose Weight – MSPCA-Angell