A fat cat is no laughing matter. According to the Pet Food Industry of Australia, 32% of all cats are clinically overweight or obese. Many household cats find themselves overweight due to their owner’s overindulgence: too much biologically inappropriate food, too many unhealthy treats, and not enough exercise can lead to severe medical illnesses and diseases such as diabetes in cats, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and respiratory problems. If your cat is a tubby tabby, it’s time to make some changes and help her drop those extra pounds. These are 5 ways to help your cat lose the fat.
1. Change your cat’s diet.
As obligate carnivores, cats need a high-protein, biologically appropriate diet. Most commercial dry foods, especially budget brands found in supermarkets, contain significant amounts of carbohydrates. For some cats, a carbohydrate-heavy diet leads to weight gain. Additionally, dry food is calorie-dense which leads some veterinary scientists to theorize that carbohydrates influence the development of feline obesity, mainly because dry food contributes to overfeeding and overeating. It’s too easy to fill up the food bowl and let your cat graze at will.
Cats require a balanced, moisture dense, protein dominant diet. Try switching your cat to wet, canned foods, which are nearly 70% water. Your cat will feel fuller sooner and be less likely to overeat. Canned foods also promote portion control. Another option is to feed your cat a fresh food diet either by purchasing the food at or from a retailer or making the food at home.
2. Change your cat’s eating habits.
Many cat owners pour dry food into a large bowl and let their cat continuously eat from it all day; that action is the equivalent of eating at a buffet. Often owners just refill the bowl as soon as it is low instead of keeping track of the exact amount of food they feed their cat.
To help your cat lose weight, you should offer two to three portion-controlled meals a day instead of leaving food out all the time. Offer the food on a consistent schedule. Should your cat cry for food in between feedings, place a few pieces of kibble in his bowl and leave the room.
A cat’s natural feeding instinct is to eat a small meal, followed by a period of fasting, then another small meal and another fast. When a cat knows that food is out and available at all times, he becomes a grazer, which goes against his nature. Grazing cats tend to become overweight because of their constant access to food. You can change your cat’s eating habits by switching to a portion-controlled feeding schedule.
Remember to discuss any dietary changes with your cat’s veterinarian before you switch foods. Changing diets abruptly can distress a cat’s gastrointestinal system, so if you choose to change the food, gradually include it into your household.
3. Change where you feed your cat.
Make your cat work for his dinner by moving his food and water bowls around the house. Consider placing one or two food bowls in higher locations (but not too high for your cat to reach). This strategy will encourage your cat to be active because he will need to climb and jump to get to his food.
Switch the bowls to different parts of the house frequently, once or twice a week, to keep your cat “hunting” for his food, much like his ancestors once did in the wild. Your cat can lose some weight this way and also satisfy his primal instincts.
4. Keep your cats separated at meal times.
If you have more than one cat in your house, chances are your cats have contrasting eating habits; some cats are extremely picky while others will wolf down a bowl of food in minutes. Even if your cats get along with each other, feeding them in close proximity can cause stress to occur, especially when they have opposite eating styles.
Separate the cats at each feeding by setting up their food bowls in different rooms. The cats will feel less pressure to guard their food against the other cat by gorging on it. It also makes portion-control much easier; you can keep an eye out on how much which cat consumed, or if they don’t eat at all. A cat who eats too much or too little might be suffering from an undiagnosed medical ailment, and feeding your cats separately will help you quickly identify the cat whose behavior is off and get him to a veterinarian.
5. Get your cat off the couch.
Exercise is a key component of any diet program, whether you are human or feline. Overweight and obese cats need more exercise in and around the house, and there are many ways to give them the motivation to get off the couch and move. Here are some ways that you can get your cat engaged and active:
- Purchase a cat tower or multi-level cat tree which offers cats the ability to climb up and down such as Tigga Towers
- Engage your cat in play with toy wands or other objects that appeal to your cat’s hunting instincts
- Use laser pointers to keep cats racing around the house and burning calories fast
- Give your cat automated toys to keep him moving even when you are not at home
- Put your cat on a catwalk (large treadmill wheel)
- Walk your cat outside in nice weather (be sure he is wearing a secure, reflective harness)
Make your cat’s daily exercise a habit of your own. Choose two times, one in the morning and one in the evening, to set aside at least ten minutes to play with your cat. Once your cat is exercising regularly, those extra pounds will disappear.
From a Tubby Tabby to a Fit Feline
Employing one or more of these strategies may help your cat drop some weight. In turn, he will be a happier and more active cat. Even better, you will have improved his chances of avoiding chronic diseases and illnesses, many of which become costly to treat once diagnosed. Obesity is a condition that leads to disease and death, so what are you waiting for? Pick up that toy wand, get your cat up and moving, and watch the pounds melt away.