The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 25.7% of cats were overweight and a further 33.8% of cats were obese in 2018. That means nearly three in five cats are overweight — and veterinarians are sounding the alarm. Although a chubby cat may seem cute and cuddly, those extra pounds can actually lead to serious health issues over time.
The good news is that you can help your cat lose weight with some simple diet and exercise changes. In this blog, we’ll explain why it’s so important for cats to be at their ideal weight and give you 10 vet-approved tips to get there.
Reasons To Help Your Overweight Cat Lose the Extra Pounds
Cats that are overweight or obese face an increased risk of a wide range of health problems. Tufts University Veterinary Medical Center warns that overweight cats are at higher risk for:
- Feline diabetes
- Urinary disease
- Hormone imbalances
- Shortened lifespans
As you can see, weight is a big determining factor in your cat's health. Learn more about feline obesity and why your cat may be gaining weight so you can “tip the scales” toward a healthy weight for your cat.
Best Practices for Putting Your Cat on a Weight Loss Diet
So what can you do if your cat is already overweight? Make your cat's weight loss a top priority.
The best way to help a cat lose weight is to help them consume fewer calories than they burn through exercise, and this will require some changes to their daily routine. But before you jump into a new feeding schedule and diet, make sure you and your cat are ready. Follow these best practices:
Start By Consulting Your Veterinarian
Before tackling your cat's excess weight, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. Every cat has a different physiology and different needs, and even making small changes to your cat’s diet, food amount, or feeding frequency can make a big impact, positive or negative. Your vet is the best source of guidance to craft a safe, personalized weight loss plan for your unique pet.
Determine the Amount of Weight Your Cat Needs to Lose
Before starting a weight loss plan, you need to determine how much weight your cat needs to lose. APOP estimates the average house cat should weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. That said, you should discuss your cat's ideal body weight with your vet, because factors like breed and age also play a role.
Weighing your cat isn’t the only way to assess their size and health. You or your vet can also examine your cat and give them a body condition score. Here’s how it works:
A body condition score of 3 out of 5 is considered an ideal weight for a cat.
Take Time Transitioning to Your Cat's New Diet (2 to 3 Weeks)
Before trying out tactics to improve your cat's weight, make a plan for how you’ll change their diet, and then slowly transition from their existing diet and exercise regime to the new one.
Many pet owners are guilty of overfeeding their cats and not providing enough exercise, and your cat is going to fight any sudden changes. Move slowly from your current feeding routine (food type, amount, frequency, etc) to your new one.
If you’re switching to new food, for example, you’ll want to take at least two weeks to transition. You can mix the foods together, gradually changing the ratio from mostly the current food to mostly the new one. This helps your cat get used to the change, and you’ll also be able to monitor whether they have any bad reactions to the new food.
Pair Exercise With Your Cat’s Weight Loss Diet
While diet is a major piece of the puzzle, physical activity helps burn calories and fat and improves your cat’s energy levels. So, come up with ways to add more exercise into your cat’s daily life. We’ll give you some ideas in our list of tips below.
For instance, extra playtime with your cat (break out the toys or laser pointers) will get your cat moving and help your cat's diet show results faster. Check out more exercise tips in our blog.
Don't Rush the Weight Loss Process
Finally, be patient. If you cut food or increase exercise drastically, you could actually make your cat sick. For example, cats that go two consecutive days without eating can develop fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). Left untreated, this condition turns into liver failure. This potentially fatal condition is preventable if you schedule a thorough health exam with your vet and create a good weight loss plan together.
Just as weight gain happens slowly, weight loss takes time too. A cat can safely lose about 0.5 to 2% of their body weight each week, so use that as a guide for your expectations. Your vet should also give you a rough timeline.
10 Tips To Help Your Cat Lose Weight
Now, let’s dive into strategies to help your cat lose weight safely and gradually.
1. Hide Their Meals and Litter Box
Indoor cats often want little to do with exercise, and that contributes to their weight problems. Encourage more movement by moving your cat's food bowl and litter box around the space. Place them in a different location each day, so your cat has to seek it out and get some exercise along the way.
If your home has more than one story, you could place them on the floor where they spend the least amount of time, or on separate floors, so they’ll have to go up and down the stairs regularly.
2. Use a Treat Toy or Feeding Ball
Cats aren’t afraid to work for treats. Buy or make treat toys and feeding balls that’ll make your cat trade some physical effort for a yummy snack. Not only do they turn mealtime into playtime, but they provide both mental and physical stimulation, too. Because these toys release food a little at a time, they also help slow down how quickly your cat eats.
3. Spread Out Meals
If you're feeding your cat once per day, this schedule can contribute to overeating. Instead, consider spreading their normal amount of food over several feeding times. Multiple small meals over the course of the day will keep your cat from feeling so hungry at one time of day.
This strategy can also help if you’re gradually changing how much you feed your cat. If you’re cutting your cat's caloric intake, giving them more opportunities to eat will keep them from whining from hunger.
4. Try Using an Automatic Feeder That Opens Based on a Timer
Another tool that pet owners can use to fight cat obesity is an automatic feeder. An automatic feeder releases food at a preset time each day, carefully measuring and controlling the amount of calories your cat receives, even if you aren't home. Use a timer-based feeder, not one that opens based on your cat's actions, to prevent overeating.
5. Add Water or Replace With Water
Add some water to your cat's food, as it will help make your cat feel full, even if they are getting less food than before. If you’re feeding our dehydrated food, you can increase the amount of water you mix in with their meal. Adding water also improves their hydration, as dehydration is a common issue for cats. You can also add water to wet or canned food for the same effect.
If your cat's still begging for food and it’s not mealtime, consider giving them fresh water instead. If your cat drinks when you offer, it can stave off feelings of hunger a little longer and train them to drink more water.
Alternatively, you could offer a low-calorie hydrating snack, like our Instant Goat’s Milk for cats. It helps your cat feel full, is packed with gut-boosting probiotics, and adds a little extra flavor into their routine, and only adds 10 calories per serving.
6. Play for 30 Minutes
Cats are naturally playful creatures. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of playtime with your cat each day using a variety of toys. Not only does this help strengthen your bond, but it also increases their calorie burn. Designate this time on your daily "to-do" list so you don't forget it.
If your cat regularly begs for food, try engaging them in play instead of food. Some cats will forget their desire to eat once they’re getting your undivided attention.
7. Go for a Walk
Pet walks aren't just for dogs! Cats can benefit from a stroll around the neighborhood, too, if your pet has the right temperament for it.
Texas Humane Heroes recommends using a harness and leash, not a collar, for a cat. Train them to enjoy the process with many treats as they get acclimated to the leash. On the first few walks, let your cat take the lead until they get used to the process, and never pull your cat while on the leash.
(P.S. We’d love to see pics of your cat on a walk! Tag us @honestkitchen on Instagram.)
8. Replace High-Carb Foods With Filler-Free Cat Foods
The amount of pet food you feed your cat is just one part of a good weight loss plan. The quality of that food also matters. In the wild, cats are carnivores with diets full of fresh protein, but many modern cat foods and kibbles are full of carbohydrates and highly processed.
High-quality foods, like our line of grain free cat foods, are made with thoughtfully sourced protein as the #1 ingredient. Plus, they’re free of grain and other fillers. Which means each cup is filled with the nutrition your cat needs, without the extra carbs and calories that they don’t.
The Honest Kitchen has a number of tasty, lean, human -grade foods that are perfect for cats. Check out these products:
- Grain Free Turkey Dehydrated Cat Food
- Grain Free Salmon & Turkey Pâté
- Minced Chicken in Bone Broth Gravy
9. Switch to Lean Meat Foods
A great way to help your cat lose weight while improving their nutrition is to switch from fatty or carb-heavy foods to a high-protein diet with lean meats like chicken or turkey.
10. If You Have Multiple Cats, Separate Them During Feeding Time
It may sound strange, but separating your cats during mealtime can help your overweight cat(s) reach their weight loss goals.
If you’re feeding your overweight cat or obese cat a special diet food, you’ll want to make sure they’re the only one getting it. It’s much easier to see what and how much each cat is eating when they aren’t all chowing down at the same time. In addition, cats sometimes overeat because they view other cats as competition.
The easiest way to separate your cats during feeding time is to feed them at specific times and in separate rooms: Place each cat in their designated space and then put out their food bowl. Give them 10 to 15 minutes to eat and then remove the bowls. It won’t take long for the cats to realize they need to eat their food when you present it, or they’ll miss out.
If you can't feed in different rooms, consider feeding them in the same room with the door closed, but at different times. You can also divide up the same room using baby gates.
Recommended Reading: Pica in Cats: What It Is, Common Causes, Tips for Treating It
Try High-Quality, Human Grade Cat Foods That Cats Love
The quality of your cat's food and the amount you feed your cat are two critical components of any successful weight loss plan. But another is finding food your cat actually loves that meets their diet goals.
That’s why our high-quality, human grade recipes are a great fit for cats on a weight loss plan. Our protein-packed, filler-free recipes provide the nutrition your cat needs to stay fit, and our high-quality meats and savory ingredients deliver the taste they need to love it.Browse our cat food meals, treats, and toppers now.
Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet’s veterinarian or other healthcare professionals for specific guidance on this topic.