Pudgy kitten bellies may be the cutest thing ever, but when adult cats pack on the pounds, it can lead to poor health. A clinical study done by Banfield Pet Hospital showed that the rates of obese cats and dogs in the United States have more than doubled since 2010. Some veterinarians estimate that as many as 50% of cats are overweight or obese. Helping your cat lose weight is important for her health and wellbeing.
An extra pound or two on our cats may not seem like a big deal, but overweight or obese cats are at risk for many health problems. These include diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. We all want our furry friends to live long and healthy lives, and keeping them at a healthy weight is a big part of that. Here’s how to tell if your cat is overweight, and, if she is, seven things you can do to help your cat lose weight.
Is My Cat Overweight?
While overfeeding cats will lead them to gain weight, there can be other reasons behind an overweight kitty. Even if you don’t change your cat’s food or portions, she may become overweight over time. As cats get older, their activity level goes down. Since they’re burning fewer calories, they may gain weight.
Some cat breeds are more likely to gain weight than others. Spayed or neutered cats naturally have a slower metabolism and gain weight more easily if overfed. Some cats aren’t as active or energetic as others and may require less food. Some cats may be bored and eat to entertain themselves.
Because every cat is different, it’s a good idea for pet parents to give their cats a monthly once-over to spot any changes. For a FREE monthly health checklist, click below.
Part of that monthly at-home checkup should be monitoring your cat’s body condition. In other words, check to see if your cat is overweight.
First, look at your cat from above. You want to see an indent or waist behind the ribcage – like a kitty hourglass figure.
Next, look at her from the side. Is her belly hanging down and rounded? Some cats at a healthy weight naturally have a little “pouch” hanging down, so feel to see if it’s skin or if it’s fat. If it swings easily from side to side when she walks, it’s probably just skin.
Finally, feel her ribs and along her spine. You want to be able to feel the ribs without pressing too hard. The same goes for the spine. This doesn’t mean you should be able to see the ribs or spine – that would mean your cat is underweight – but she shouldn’t be buried under excessive fat.
If your examination suggests your cat is overweight, it’s important to start helping her immediately.
7 Ways to Help Your Cat Lose Weight
While it can be daunting trying to figure out how to help a cat lose weight, there are many different things you can do. Here’s how to help your cat lose weight and keep it off:
1. Talk to your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian is the best person to determine if your cat is overweight. They also can make sure there aren’t any serious medical conditions that are contributing to your kitty’s extra pounds. If your veterinarian determines that your cat needs to lose weight, he or she can discuss a diet plan with you and also tell you exactly how much weight your cat needs to lose.
Pet parents may be reluctant to spend money on a veterinary visit when their cat isn’t sick, but getting your feline friend help now can save money later by preventing many obesity-related illnesses.
2. Don’t free feed.
“Free feeding,” or leaving food out all the time for your cat to eat whenever she wants, is very convenient, especially for pet parents who work long hours. However, your cat may eat too much if food is always available, especially if she gets bored.
Your veterinarian’s diet plan will likely include information about portion sizes. A timed feeder will let you control your cat’s portions while also keeping her fed when you’re away from home.
3. Play with your cat more.
Playing with your cat is a great way to help them burn calories while also giving you some fun quality bonding time. Playtime should be fun and in moderation – your cat shouldn’t be panting or exhausted at the end.
Cats don’t need long playtimes. A few short playtimes every day that run 5-10 minutes are better than one long one. If your cat walks away during playtime, let her go, as she may be getting overstimulated.
There are countless cat toys to choose from (you can find some of our favorites on this blog post or this Amazon list). Every cat is different, so it may take some experimenting before you discover their favorite way to play.
For more ways to bond with your cat, download the free guide below.
4. Take them for walks on a harness and leash.
It may seem strange to think of walking your cat like you would a dog, but it is possible to take your cat for a walk and let her enjoy the outside world. Unlike when you walk a dog, be prepared to go at your cat’s pace and occasionally take some time to smell the roses – or maybe just watch some birds.
Be sure to buy a harness and leash that are specially designed for a cat. Cats have weaker throats than dogs and can be severely injured if walked on a collar and leash.
It can take some time to get your cat used to walking on a leash with a harness. The younger they are, the easier it will be to introduce them to the harness and all the possibilities that leash-walking can provide. If you need ideas, check out this book on the best adventures to have with your cat!
5. Evaluate the treats you give them.
Most cats love treats, and seeing them get excited for a favorite treat can be a lot of fun. They also can be helpful as positive reinforcement for good behavior.
Treats can add a lot of calories, though, so it’s important to monitor them.
Cutting out or limiting the number of treats you feed your cat can help. If don’t want to cut out treats entirely, look for low-calorie treats like these. Ask your veterinarian what treats are allowed on your cat’s diet plan and how many of them you can give.
6. Add some water to their food.
Just like with people, water can help your cat feel full. If your cat isn’t in the habit of drinking water on her own, making it more enticing can help. One easy way to do this is with a cat water fountain.
Besides making sure fresh, clean water is always available, you can help your overweight cat lose weight by adding some water to her food.
This is especially true with dry food. If you give your cat dry food, adding a little water and swirling it around for a few seconds can make a light “gravy” that your cat is likely to lap up. Keeping your cat hydrated is always good, and the extra water can help her feel fuller.
7. Be patient
Helping your cat lose weight takes time. This isn’t just because it can be hard – it’s because it’s the only healthy way to do it.
If a cat isn’t fed regularly, her body starts breaking down fat for energy. While you do want your cat to lose fat, if too much fat is broken down too quickly it will lead to hepatic lipidosis. This is also known as “fatty liver disease,” and it can be life-threatening. This disease appears even more quickly if the cat is overweight or obese.
This is why it’s so important to speak with your veterinarian about your cat’s weight and weight loss goals to create a safe plan to get your furry friend to her ideal weight.
Being overweight or obese can severely impact your cat’s health and even shorten her life. However, it is preventable and also highly treatable. By speaking with your veterinarian and following the tips listed above, you can help your cat lose weight and live her best life.