8 Ways to Slim A Cat

Is your cat fluffy or fat? Obesity is defined as exceeding ideal body weight by 20 percent, and today about forty percent of cats are considered overweight. Overweight cats tend to carry a “pouch” of fat low in the tummy, but seem of average size otherwise. If you can’t feel the pet’s ribs, and/or she has a pendulous or bulging tummy, your pet is too plump.

I’m fortunate that Seren-kitty has always been petite, a good eater but not overly pudgy. She doesn’t even have that tummy pouch. In her case, she’s always been very active and I think that’s one reason she remains so healthy even at her advancing age.

So if your tabby is tubby, why should you care? Obesity increases risk for diabetes, and is an aggravating factor in heart problems, arthritis, and skin problems.

Common Causes for Fat Felines

Spaying and neutering won’t make kitty fat, but does reduce metabolic rate—how fast and efficiently food is use—by 15 to 20 percent. So unless food intake and exercise are adjusted after surgery, cats can gain weight.

Middle aged and older cats also tend to gain weight. Part of that may be due to changes in aging senses. While feline appetite is stimulated by scent, veterinary experts say a partial reduction in smell sense prompts cat to eat more food.

Indoor-only cats exercise less since they don’t have to chase mice to survive. Couch-potato pets fed high-calorie tasty foods often overeat either out of boredom or from being over-treated by owners.

8 Ways to Slim A Cat

Your vet should rule out potential health complications beforehand. Kitty crash diets can prompt deadly liver problems, called hepatic lipidosis. It’s best to aim for losing only about 1 percent of kitty’s starting weight per week. Medical supervision or a special therapeutic weight-loss diet prescribed by the vet may be necessary for obese cats. But for moderately overweight kitties, these tips work well.

  1. Curb Snacks. Eliminating or reducing treats easily cuts calories. Instead, reserve part of the kitty’s regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance. Keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when Kitty pesters, or reward with attention, not treats. (Ooooooh I can hear the cats now yowling, “No fair!”
  2. Meal Feed. Rather than keeping the bowl full for all day nibbling, switch to meal feeding measured amounts. Divide the daily food allotment into four or even five small meals keep her from feeling deprived. Multiple small meals increase the body’s metabolic rate, so she burns more calories faster. (Hey, this works for me, too, when I can manage to do it.)
  3. Offer Diet Foods. Reducing diets typically replace fat in the food with indigestible fiber, dilute calories with water, or “puff up” the product with air. “Senior” diets typically have fewer calories, so switching older pets to an age-appropriate formula helps. “Lite” diets aren’t magical and only mean the food has less calories than the same brand’s “regular” food—it might have more calories than another company’s food. Some cats eat more of the diet food to make up for lost calories, so you still have to measure the meals. Be sure to check with your vet before deciding to make major nutrition changes, though.
  4. Go For A Walk.  Make twice-daily 20 minute exercise part of your routine. Cats won’t power walk, but a slow to moderate stroll at the end of the leash once or twice a day around the house or garden will help burn energy.
  5. Schedule Play. Interactive play is the best way to encourage feline exercise. Feather toys or fishing-pole lures that the cat will chase are ideal. Some cats learn to play fetch if you toss tiny wads of paper across the room or down the stairs. Entice your cat to chase the beam of a flashlight. Or toss kitty kibble for the cat to pounce and munch.
  6. Create A Hunt. Put food at the top or bottom of the staircase, or on a cat tree so kitty has to get off her pudgy nether regions to eat. If she can’t manage stairs or leaps, put the bowl on a chair and provide a ramp up so he’s burning a few calories. Setting the bowl across the house from Fluffy’s bed also forces her to move.
  7. Puzzle The Cat. Commercial treat balls and interactive feeders are great options. Place one or two meal portions inside kitty puzzles so he must work to get the food. This can solve portion control, exercise, and the pester factor all in one.
  8. Automatic Feeders. When you must be gone during the day, consider using an automatic feeder. Some have refrigerated units to offer fresh canned food servings from locked compartments at timed intervals

How do you handle your pudgy kitty? Does he or she eat a special diet, or do you try to increase exercise in some way? What tricks work for your clowder, please share! Obesity impacts more than looks. It’s also a longevity issue. Overweight cats have an increased risk for dying in middle age. A slim cat enjoys all nine of her lives.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Comments

8 Ways to Slim A Cat — 15 Comments

  1. My Cody is prone to being a little pudgy round the tummy. The biggest way we try to control his gaining any more weight is by not practicing free feeding. I always free-fed my first cat because he knew how to stop. You could put a 5lb bag of kibble out for Cody and he would eat the ENTIRE bag in ONE sitting! Great tips!

    • Hi Caren, I know some cats are gluttons and others nibblers. Seren (thank goodness!) is a nibbler. Many times I think the kitties that have been strays/lost and then adopted never forget that mindset of no confidence of where the next meal is coming from–so they eat it ALL right NOW!

  2. We got one of those treat balls hoping to get little miss pudgebutt to lose some weight. She ignored it, Anubis LOVES it (of course, the one we need to GAIN weight). So now, Simba just lies in wait to see if Anubis will miss a piece so she can grab it after he knocks it out.

    Thankfully, she does seem to be losing a bit – Anubis has been chasing her around the house more again. LOL

    Of course, in his case, since we need him to STOP losing weight, we’ve started putting more meat in his diet. Found tenderloins at the store for an OKish price and were giving him that for a while, which helped, but not much. Now we’ve found 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters for about $7-8, skin-on, bone-in, with a nice layer of fat. He gets that boiled in a small amount of water so there is a good gelatinous broth too, then the chicken gets pulled from the bone and shredded, and portioned out for the week. He gets about half a chicken a week now (and sometimes those leg quarters are HUGE), so he’s definitely been looking a lot better. There’s a bonus in that the fatty oils are making his fur all extra-shiny and soft. Now if only we could get Simba to at least drink some of the broth… she doesn’t like chicken, but I suspect it would be good for her joints.

    • Yum! Seren would be in cat-heaven with that chicken diet! And yes, it’s always the ones who don’t need it that seem to benefit most, LOL! Love it that Simba let’s Anubis do the hard work and swipes the rewards. :)

      • I have yet to catch her sneaky little butt on video, but when I do you KNOW I’m gonna post it. I do wish we’d remembered to get out the camera sooner when we first put it down, while Anubis was learning how to work it. We did get video starting a few minutes in, though.

        ….doesn’t look like we’ve got it uploaded yet. Need to pester James to do that. LOL

    • Calico and tabby are color patterns (not breeds) but the gene combos that create these colors and patterns are inherited. So I suppose if there are families of people predisposed to easily gain weight (be “fat storers” as opposed to “fat burners”) the same could be true and linked to a color/pattern in cats. But I’ve not seen any study to address this one way or another. Interesting question, though.

      • I’d love to see more research done on this myself. Our calicos were not overweight, but both we had were vastly outlived by the rest of their families. So I do have to wonder if there’s some genetic link between the coat color and certain factors that may shorten life.

        • Interesting thought, Karyl. Of course there are color-connected health issues (white cats and deafness, white or merle dogs, etc). Siamese are known to be one of the longest-lived breeds–so is it something about the pointed pattern (other cats/breeds also can be pointed) or simply the breed itself?

          • Well, they ARE (or have been in the past) a fairly popular breed across the world, so that theoretically means a larger gene pool and less chance for serious defects (though I know it used to be common, maybe still is, for Siamese to have kinked tails). But it’d be interesting to see if other pointed cats live a long time as well.

            Simba is now the ONLY member of her family left alive. Older siblings gone, littermates gone…. mother gone only because she was attacked by a hawk and the resultant brain infection (vet said it ws more likely a coyote bite, but the placements of the holes in her head indicated talons to us, and we knew her well enough to know she very well COULD have had the skill and fight in her to claw her way out of its grip and survive the fall – took her weeks to actually die and she still caught a mouse when she was so off-balance she could barely walk). She’s not really seeming frail at all yet. And Anubis is still running around like a kitten. So I sort of wonder if tabby, being the “wild-type” color, is genetically linkes to longevity as well. They are both mottled mackerel tabbies (though Anubis is definitely mostly brown).

            I really do wonder if anyone’s though to research it further. It could aks give some insight for breeders looking to improve the health of their cats.

  3. My problem, Amy, is that I have two brother cats. One slim, active and who eats all the time and the other who is slow, fat and inactive. How do I control the dry food out when my slim cat has a ferocious appetite? What’s your take on how much dry food measured that a cat needs each day? These cats are indoors and 2.5 yers old. thanks!!

    • Hi Donna, the amount to feed depends so much on the individual cat’s metabolism and the specific food, I really can’t offer a guess. The recommendations on the bag are a starting point only and usually lean to the generous side.

      When you have two cats of contrasting body types (one slim, one fat), try this. Get a translucent storage box with a lid. Cut a “slim-cat-size” hole in the box, just big enough for the smaller cat to get in and out easily but too small for the pudgy kitty. Put the dry food for the slim cat inside the storage container (show it to him) so he can come and go and nibble as needed but the bigger cat that needs to lose weight can’t reach it. I’d also feed the fat cat separately.