Obesity is a big problem among cats. Around one in every three cats in North America is obese, meaning they weigh 20% or more above where they should.
These chunky kitties may look cute on Instagram, but there’s a real health risk hiding behind the rolls of feline fat. It’s important to know what those risks are and how to help a cat lose weight so that they can enjoy many more healthy years.
When a Cat Gets Fat: Health Risks
Being overweight can increase a cat’s risk of many serious medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Urinary tract disease
- Osteoarthritis and other joint problems
Fat tissue also causes inflammation inside the cat’s body, stressing the tissues and increasing the cat’s risk of many internal diseases. It's part of why obese cats have lower life expectancies.
Helping a Cat Slim Down
The good news is that obesity in cats isn’t a permanent condition. As with humans, if a cat eats less and gets more exercise, most can shed those extra pounds.
Reduce Portion Sizes
Controlling a cat’s food intake is the first step to helping them lose weight. That means eliminating any free-feeding and switching to regular mealtimes.
The number of meals matters less than cat nutrition. Most cats on a diet will need between 180 and 230 calories a day, but that depends entirely on the cat’s goal weight.
Feeding a kitty too little is as dangerous as over-feeding. Consult a vet for answers to cat medical questions such as daily calorie counts, what foods are best, and whether cat vitamins might help with a diet plan.
Make Mealtime Fun
Cats are hunters. They enjoy working for their food, even if their incessant meowing for breakfast might suggest otherwise. By recreating the thrill of the hunt at home, pet parents can stimulate cats mentally and help them trim down at the same time.
Move the Food Bowl Around
In the wild, a cat’s prey doesn’t appear in the same place day after day. Exercise their minds and their bodies by changing up where they're fed.
Try feeding them in the kitchen one day and in the living room the next, then waiting a few days before moving the bowl to the front hall. Keep the kitty on their toes.
Use Puzzle Feeders
There are lots of cat feeders on the market that “trap” the food inside, so the cat has to manipulate the toy to get it out. These work well with dry food because it turns mealtime into a mental and physical exercise.
VCA veterinary hospitals recommend playing with your cat for at least 10 minutes, twice a day. Cats especially love it when toys mimic prey behaviors.
- Swish a wand-style toy around in the air to make it look like a bird
- Wave a laser pointer to simulate a bug skittering across the floor
Toss a toy mouse or get a mechanized one that moves like a real rodent
Make sure that they get to catch the “prey” every once in a while. With laser pointers, that might mean giving them a small treat when they land on the red dot.
Keep in mind that cats like variety, so don’t give up if they love a toy one day and somehow couldn’t care less the next. Switch it up and keep moving.
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