Ensuring your cat has a healthy weight is essential for his physical well-being.
And the most important way to ensure this is by providing a balanced diet. Without it, a cat can become overweight and even obese.
As with human beings, obesity can lead to all kinds of health issues including heart disease, diabetes and joint problems
So for those of you concerned about your cat’s weight, we’ve put together this guide. It will take you through each step of the entire process of putting your cat on an effective, sustainable diet.
Before we begin though, we’d like to emphasise the importance of speaking to your vet before implementing any weight loss program for your cat.
Understanding Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
Before setting up a diet plan, it’s worth learning about your cat’s specific nutritional requirements.
Your veterinarian will be the best source of information about this.
The vet will make an evaluation of your cat and may consider the following factors.
Like any animal, cats have different nutritional needs at different life stages.
Kittens require more protein, fat and certain nutrients for growth and development.
Adult cats on the other hand require a more balanced diet to encourage a healthy weight.
Senior cats may have different dietary requirements based on age-related health conditions such as diabetes or decreased activity levels.
Underlying Health Issues
Underlying health issues can have an impact on the kind of food you should feed your cat.
Conditions such as diabetes and kidney problems require specially formulated cat food.
Choosing the Right Cat Food
Selecting the appropriate cat food is vital for weight management in cats. Here are some tips on how to go about this.
Specially Formulated Cat Food
Specially formulated cat food is often labelled with terms such as “weight management” or “reduced calories.”
Although there are plenty of dubious brands out there, these are terms that you should obviously look out for.
But be sure to go with trusted brands.
Check the Ingredient List
Check the label’s ingredient list for quality protein sources such as fish and chicken.
Avoid foods that list fillers like wheat or corn.
Pay Attention to Calorie Content
A weight loss diet should provide fewer calories than your cat’s current food. Your veterinarian will help you determine the appropriate calorie intake for your cat’s weight loss goals according to weight, age and activity levels.
Use the Food Labels as a Guide
Be sure you understand and use the cat food labels. A lot of cat products have feeding guidelines on them.
These guidelines can provide a really useful starting point for determining the appropriate portion size.
Transitioning to New Cat Food
As mentioned elsewhere, cats are finicky eaters. So it’s advisable to transition your cat to the new weight control diet gradually to prevent digestive upset and stress.
Start by mixing a small amount of the new weight control food with your cat’s current food.
Over a period of 7-10 days, gradually increase the new food while decreasing the amount of old food. A typical schedule could be:
- Days 1-2: 25% new food, 75% old food
- Days 3-4: 50% new food, 50% old food
- Days 5-6: 75% new food, 25% old food
- Day 7 onwards: 100% new food
This schedule can be adjusted depending on your cat’s acceptance and tolerance of his new chow.
Monitor your Cat’s Reaction
Keep an eye on your cat’s behavior, appetite and stool consistency during the transition.
If your cat experiences digestive issues or refuses to eat the new food, slow down the transition process or consult your veterinarian for advice.
Portion Control and Feeding Schedule
Once your cat seems comfortable with the new diet, it’s time to optimize portion size and set up a regular feeding schedule.
Use a digital scale or measuring cups to accurately measure the portions out according to your vet’s recommendations or the guidelines on the cat food label.
A digital scale is more precise, but measuring cups are fine.
Daily Food Allowance
Split your cat’s total daily food allowance into multiple smaller meals to manage hunger.
This will prevent your cat from grazing throughout the day, while also helping to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
2 – 4 meals are day are usually sufficient although this may vary according to age and activity levels.
Establish a Feeding Schedule
Feed your cat at the same times every day to create a routine. Consistency helps your cat understand when to expect meals and reduces the likelihood of overeating.
Resist the temptation to leave food out for your cat to graze on throughout the day, though.
Free-feeding can lead to overeating and make it difficult to monitor food intake accurately.
Treats and table scraps can add extra calories making portion control less effective.
So limit them to no more than 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake and avoid putting out human food.
Monitoring Your Cat’s Weight and Progress
Regular weigh-ins and body condition assessments are essential for tracking progress.
With proper monitoring, you’ll be able to adjust food intake and diet plan as required.
Weigh your cat regularly, ideally once a week, using a digital scale. For accurate results, use a pet or baby scale.
Should you encounter problems in getting your cat to stand on the scales, just weigh yourself while holding your cat.
Then subtract your own weight to determine your cat’s weight.
Gradual and steady weight loss is the goal here.
Keep an Accurate Record
Keep an accurate, regular log of your cat’s weekly weight.
This will help you identify trends, notice any plateaus or fluctuations and make necessary adjustments to the diet plan.
Pay special attention at the speed at which your cat loses weight. Keep in mind that rapid weight loss can lead to medical issues.
Monitor Changes in Body Condition
Along with weighing, evaluate your cat’s body condition regularly.
A healthy feline should have a visible waist when viewed from above, a slight abdominal tuck when viewed from the side and a thin layer of fat over their ribs.
Your veterinarian will be able to guide you on assessing your cat’s body condition score (BCS).
Monitor Appetite and Behavior
Keep an eye on your cat’s appetite, energy levels and behavior throughout the weight loss process.
Sudden changes or loss of appetite may indicate a need to adjust the diet. However, in such a scenario, you need to contact your vet.
Record your cat’s daily exercise and playtime to ensure they are getting enough physical activity to support their weight loss goals.
Arrange Regular Vet Check-Ups
Maintain open communication with your veterinarian and seek guidance for any necessary adjustments to the diet plan.
Encouraging Physical Activity
Regular exercise is essential for weight loss. Without it, your cat will not lose that tummy!
If your cat’s prefers to laze on the windowsill, there are a couple of things you can try to get him active.
Interactive Play Sessions
Schedule daily play sessions, using toys that stimulate your cat’s hunting instincts.
These include things like feather wands, laser pointers and motorized mice.
Aim for two or three 10-15 minute sessions per day, or as recommended by your veterinarian.
Remember to rotate the toys every few days to maintain interest and engagement.
Offering a variety of toys with different textures, shapes and functions can also keep your cat entertained.
Install Climbing Structures and Scratching Posts
Place climbing structures in your house, such as cat trees, scratching posts and such like to encourage movement and exercise.
Puzzle Feeders and Food-Dispensing Toys
Make mealtime more engaging by using puzzle feeders or food-dispensing toys.
These devices require your cat to work for their food, encouraging physical and mental exercise.
Monitor Exercise Progress
Keep track of your cat’s exercise habits, including the duration and type of activity.
Adjust the exercise routine as needed to ensure that he’s getting enough physical activity to support his weight loss goals.
As your cat becomes more active and loses weight, he may be able to engage in more intense or longer play sessions.
Tailor Your Cat’s Play-Time
Observe your cat’s play preferences and tailor their activities accordingly. For instance, some cats prefer chasing toys, while others enjoy stalking or pouncing.
Offering activities that your cat enjoys will increase the likelihood of them engaging in regular exercise.
Be patient and Consistent
Some cats may be hesitant to engage in physical activity, especially if they’re overweight or have been inactive for a long time.
Be patient and consistent in offering play sessions – eventually they should come round.
Gradually increase the duration and intensity of the exercise as your cat becomes more comfortable and fit.
Addressing Potential Health Issues
It’s important to be aware of the impact weight-loss diets can have on felines.
To begin with, try to ensure that your cat doesn’t lose weight too quickly.
This may give rise to conditions such as epatic lipidosis, while also placing strain on the heart.
Also make sure that your cat has access to fresh water throughout the day.
Reduced food intake can lead to insufficient water consumption and dehydration.
A change in diet and routine may also cause stress, potentially leading to behavioral issues. So pay attention to his behavior.
Remember that regular veterinary check-ups are crucial, not only in monitoring your cat’s progress on the diet plan, but also in keeping tabs on his health.
Tips for Handling Challenges and Setbacks
Your cat may initially resist diet changes or engage in persistent begging behaviors. If this happens, stay firm and avoid giving in to his demands.
For weight-loss programs in multi-cat households, separate feeding areas and individualized meal plans can help manage different dietary needs.
Like human dieting, patience and perseverance are essential during the weight loss process.
Just accept that setbacks are common and can be overcome with dedication.
Preventing Weight Regain and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
To prevent weight regain, continuously monitor your cat’s weight and body condition.
Adapt feeding routines and exercise regimens as needed to maintain an optimal weight.
You should also keep a close eye on portion sizes and avoid overfeeding.
There might be a temptation to discard the measuring cup or scale in favour of estimating portion sizes.
Don’t do this. Keep using a measuring cup or scale to ensure accurate food servings.
Also remember to engage your cat in regular physical activity to help maintain a healthy weight and limit those treats!
And once again, we should underline that ongoing veterinary care will help you to continue implementing a balanced, sustainable diet plan.
Jackson Galaxy – Tips to Help Your Overweight Cat
In summary, putting your cat on a diet involves understanding their nutritional needs, choosing the right food, implementing portion control and a feeding schedule.
Monitoring their weight and progress is absolutely essential, as is encouraging physical activity.
Armed with valuable information from your vet and a little patience, there’s no reason why you can’t help your cat reach and achieve a healthy weight.