At first glance, you might think a little extra chub on your cat is cute or endearing, as their cheeks and tummies appear rounder, fuller, and almost cartoon-like. However, it's important that you don't overlook the potential health risks that can accompany cat obesity. As few as two extra pounds on top of the ideal weight for a cat can put them at risk for developing a variety of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, stressed joints, heart disease, and more. If you suspect your cat may have gained a few extra pounds, read on to learn how to help your cat lose weight and stay healthy.
How Do I Know if My Cat Is Overweight?
How do you determine whether you have an overweight cat in the first place? While a typical adult cat weighs about 10 pounds on average, other factors including size, build, gender, and breed can affect the ideal weight for any particular cat. It's important to not only know what a healthy weight range is for your cat, but also how to assess their overall body condition. Your veterinarian will help you with this during a visit, where they can also examine your cat for any other issues or concerns before determining a plan to help your cat reach a healthy weight.
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What Diet Can Help My Cat Lose Weight?
As you create a plan to help your cat lose weight, it's important to consult your veterinarian as you make this change, so you can make sure the process is done safely and gradually, while maintaining the appropriate nutrition levels that your cat needs.
Your vet may suggest a high-protein option with low carbs, such as a grain-free cat food that can help keep your cat feeling fuller for longer, with rich protein as the main ingredient and little to no high-calorie, low-nutrient ingredients like corn or other carb-heavy fillers.
Other cat foods designed for weight management may have a high-fiber, low-fat profile, another way that the food can be made less calorie-dense so your cat can eat a bit more in volume to feel full without exceeding their daily calorie intake.
Feeding your cat wet food or a combination diet, as opposed to only dry kibble, can also be highly beneficial for your cat. Foods with a higher water content not only help to keep your cat properly hydrated, but they are also lower in calories by volume when compared with dry food. This will help your cat feel fuller for longer while eating foods that are less calorically dense and an overall healthier option for them.
How Long Does it Take for a Cat to Lose Weight?
While transitioning your cat's diet should take place gradually over the course of at least seven days, the length of their weight loss journey will depend on how many pounds need to be lost overall. Generally, a safe and healthy pace for cat weight loss is no more than 1% to 2% of their body weight per week. Losing any more than this range can potentially put your cat at risk for dangerous health concerns such as fatty liver disease.
You should weigh your cat consistently to monitor their progress. Speak with your veterinarian to make adjustments if the diet and exercise plan is causing more or less weight loss than the safe range of 1-2% of the cat's total weight per week.
What Else Can I Do to Help My Cat Lose Weight?
Once you have figured out an appropriate diet and timeline for your cat's weight loss with your vet, you can explore some other methods that will help your cat to shed the extra pounds and reach a healthy weight. Try the following:
1. Measure Out Your Cat's Meals
Avoid letting your cat graze on unmeasured amounts of food left out in their dish all day. "Free feeding" your cat in this way makes it difficult to monitor their actual intake, especially if you have multiple cats in your home.
Instead, calculate the appropriate daily intake of calories for your cat, and divide that amount by the number of meals your cat will eat throughout the day. Your cat should be fed at least two times per day, but you may choose to spread out smaller, more frequent portions throughout the day. Then, check the packaging of your cat food to determine how much you should measure out for each of your cat's mealtimes. Also, if you’re changing cat food, be sure to check how much dry food to feed a cat.
Spreading out smaller, more frequent meals and getting your cat on a routine feeding schedule will go a long way in helping them adjust to their new diet.
Don't forget to account for treats! It's perfectly okay to continue rewarding your cat with their favorite treats every once in a while, but keep them limited or opt for healthier, low-calorie treats. Remember that the calories from any treats you give them should still fit within your cat's daily calorie intake for their weight loss to be effective.
2. Try Programmable or Puzzle Feeders
Automatic feeders can be incredibly helpful in feeding your cat the appropriate amount of food at the right time, especially if you can't be home throughout the day to serve and monitor each of your cat's meals yourself. Programmable feeders allow you to specify the exact portion and time of day that food is released into your cat's bowl, conveniently keeping your cat's new feeding schedule in check. Microchip feeders go a step further by only releasing food to the right cat — which is really important if you have a multi cat household with cats who like to help themselves to the others' bowls.
As another option, you may want to try out puzzle feeders or treat balls to dispense your cat's meal. These can help stimulate your cat to "catch" their meal before eating, making mealtimes more fun for them while encouraging some extra exercise.
3. Encourage Exercise for Your Cat
While a healthy diet and consistent feeding schedule are both vital to helping your cat lose weight, exercise is an equally important part of the equation. Indoor cats can be susceptible to unhealthy weight gain, but providing toys and setting aside some time every day to play with your cat can help encourage them to move more and keep the extra weight off.
Offering a variety of toys for your cat can help keep them from getting bored, and keep things exciting by stimulating different types of play. You may have some puzzle toys, kickers, or tunnels that your cat can enjoy playing with on their own. Cats also love dedicated play time with their owners, so spending some time with them every day can encourage more play. Try letting them "hunt" while you maneuver a wand toy with a feathered or furry critter for them to run after, or keep some small toys on hand like mice and crinkly or jingling balls that you can toss for them to chase.
Your cat also needs spaces to climb and jump to encourage more exercise. Cat trees and perches satisfy this need well, but taller furniture or shelves in your home can also be attractive places for your cat to climb. Scratching posts are great not only for giving your cat an appropriate place to scratch, but also for stretching and exercising their chest and shoulder muscles. Making sure you have a variety of surfaces like this in your home that are safe and accessible to your cat will help encourage them to move more throughout the day.
If you allow your cat outdoors, there are even more opportunities for them to get their exercise. An indoor cat can even enjoy some supervised outdoor time. If you are able to provide a playpen or an enclosed section of a patio, this can be a safe way for your cat to enjoy some playtime outside. Some cats even enjoy exploring or going for walks with their owners, so training your cat to walk with a harness and leash may be worth a try!
Just a couple of extra pounds is enough to create a potential risk to cat health and well-being. But helping your cat lose weight and get back into a healthy range can be accomplished by choosing nutritious and balanced cat food, creating a feeding schedule with appropriate portion sizes, and incorporating more exercise into your cat's daily routine. Packed with premium nutrients, PrettyPlease cat food is here to help you get your cat healthy and feeling its best.
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