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!