Pudgy Pooches & Tubby Tabbies: How to Slim Down Fat Pets
It’s National Pet Obesity Awareness Day on October 12. Do you live with fat pets? Or maybe you struggle with your weight, like me. A couple of my friends look terrific after they’ve recently lost weight. I found it. *sigh* The problem also affects fat pets, and at my house, that’s spelled KARMA-KAT.
It’s not that I don’t know how to eat right, I do. It just takes more thought and planning, and I’ve let a lot of that slide as I tried to meet deadlines. It’s a whole lot easier to stay on top of the pet’s nutrition and waistline than my own.
Fat Pets & What To Do
Is your pooch pudgy or fat? Are your cats slim athletes or fat cats? Does your dog or cat gobble food? Obesity is defined as exceeding ideal body weight by 20 percent, and today about forty percent of pets are considered overweight. If you can’t feel the pet’s ribs, and/or she has a pendulous or bulging tummy, your pet is too plump. Obesity increases risk for diabetes, and is an aggravating factor in heart problems, arthritis, and skin problems. Puppies are cute when chubby but that puts them at risk as well.
I was fortunate that Magic was a canine athlete. An active canine companion helps humans stay active, too, so now that he’s gone, it’s an extra effort to get exercise. Seren also was always petite and active, even though she ate anything and everything.
Karma-Kat, though, is a picky eater but packs on the pudge. It would take very little for him to become a fat pet. I’ve written about how to slim a fat cat here, but the information works for dogs, too. If you have an overweight fat pet, here are some tips for helping to slim down tubby tabbies and pudgy pooches. Heck, I’m using some of these tips on myself!
How to Slim Your Fat Pets
Curb Snacks. Eliminating or reducing treats easily cuts calories. Instead, reserve part of the pet’s regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance. Keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when your dog pesters, or reward with attention, not treats. In my case, I’ve got some fresh cut veggies prepared ahead. Now, if celery came with chocolate chips, I’d be happier. You can still use treats to enrich your relationship and make cats like you.
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.) Karma-Kat now is fed 5 times a day, and must HUNT for his meals. Read all about this hunting feeding system here.
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 pets 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. Cats don’t do “crash diets” well and can get very sick with a liver condition (hepatic lipidosis) that can kill.
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. Just the excitement of getting “suited up” with a halter burns calories for some kitties. Check out this post on how to leash train cats.
Create A Treasure 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. That’s what we do now with Karma’s “mousie meals.” Setting the bowl across the house from the dog or cat’s bed also forces them to move. Use commercial treat balls, puzzle toys like Kongs or interactive feeders and place meals inside so the pet has to work to get out the food. For pets that eat canned foods, there are also refrigerated feeders or insulated bowls that help keep it fresh.
Here are more tips on how to slim a tubby tabby. Pet Obesity Prevention also has a great breakdown of Body Condition Scores (plus ideal weight ranges & pet weight loss tools!) here.
How do you handle your pudgy fat pets? Pets impact our lives in so many positive ways, it’s important to return the favor. 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. Slim dogs and cats live up to two years longer than overweight pets.
I wonder if they make “puzzle toy feeders” for humans?
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, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
Wow! How timely! Koko really needs to slim down, and this helps a lot. Thank you.
Don’t tell Kiki it came from me! 😍
Amy do you think genetics plays any part in a pets tendency to be pudgy?
Absolutely, it plays a role. In fact, certain breeds appear to have a predisposition to gaining weight, just like people. There are “fat storers” and “fat burners.” So it’s helpful to anticipate so we can help the pet stay at a best weight for them. *s*
My dog Kelly and I both had a few extra pounds, and we both slimmed down together (and wrote the book, Dieting with my Dog). Also, Amy, we’d love for you to join in on FitDog Friday, a new blog hop every Friday co-hosted by Peggy’s Pet Place, Slimdoggy, and To Dog With Love. We’re trying to get people excited about getting fit with their dogs!
Hey Peggy, what a neat idea! I’ll put it on my calendar for the blog hop. *s*
This is an ongoing battle for us every day! The hardest part (for the dog-parent) is giving up the treats! The dogs probably wouldn’t miss it after a couple of days, but we worry about it.
Whenever my husband or I have a meal or a treat, both the cat and dog are RIGHT THERE expecting something. I try to tell them, “You don’t share YOUR bowl with me.” But they have selective hearing. *s* I think you’re right, though, that the dogs get used to routine and if treats are not ever offered, they won’t miss them.
Zora has a tendency to pudge up, so I carefully limit how much she eats (no more free feeding) and walk her daily. The walks are good for me too since I also have a tendency to pudge up!
I suppose that I should invest in a stair master with a computer attachment so I’d get more exercise! It’s all this sitting that’s giving me extra ass-ets. 🙂
Mom is an animal lover above all but she is also a fitness freak and she enjoys snacking, so, us dogs are her fitness buddies. No need for a diet or gym membership when you stay active with your dogs. Just walk or run a bit more and you can eat more chips or dog snacks. In the summer people comment on mom’s toned arms and ask if she is at the gym a lot, um no…she uses heavy leashes, one of us dogs in each hand and it keeps her arms toned, the walking the legs and she tries to work on her posture which helps the abs…take advantage of us dogs, we love exercise and it is good for us all…the fresh air also often keeps you from getting sick
Emma, you are a very wise soul. *s* When I was without a dog, I gained a bunch of weight and then it all came off when we got Magical-Dawg.
The second cat we had was a Russian Blue by the name of Felix. We thought that he was a she until he walked away from me and it became evident that our Belle was a Boe. We left food out all the time and I have a picture of him stretched out full length, hooking a piece of food with his claw. But when he would stick his paw in the water dish and lick it off, that was when we realized that he needed to be fed on a schedule. It was a challenge to convince him that he didn’t need to eat all the time. But eventually we got him on a schedule. Now we save “treats” (actually food in a small plastic container) for when they get their claws clipped. If they let me do it with a minimum of fuss, they get a treat. Positive reinforcement.
LOL Sue, I can just picture the kitty stretched out and reaching for food! It’s ideal when cats are able to “self regulate” so you can leave food out for them to munch. They should only eat maybe a mouthful or two at a time (a dozen kibbles, or a tablespoon of canned). But too many eat mindlessly (sort of like me with popcorn while reading a book, LOL!).
Great idea about the nail clipping! Positive reinforcement works.
Sydney gained a lot of weight and she suffers from arthritis – so we had to be careful about her exercise until we had her pain under control. We cut back on food and treats and took her on short walks. Now she plays with her brothers, has tons of energy, and can manage a 2-3 mile walk.
It’s so much easier to help them lose weight. Wow! Now I workout just to be able to keep up with three active dogs!
Hi Kimberly–you’re very right, that with arthritic pets the discomfort has to be addressed before you’ll get much progress on the exercise front. So glad Sydney is doing so well!