Is your cat gaining weight? It might be time for a diet
Just like humans, it is possible for cats to put on too much weight. This is more common as cats get older and become less active, or if they spend all day indoors.
For many loving cat owners, it is hard to resist urgent “meows” and pleas for treats. Yet obesity is one of the greatest health risks to pets.
Overweight cats face a higher risk of health problems such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiorespiratory disease – problems which could prevent them from enjoying a long and happy life. Luckily, there are things you can do to help your cat shed those unwanted pounds.
Check with your vet
Before putting your cat on a diet, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you to select the right food, in the right amounts, and to monitor your cat’s progress.
It is especially important to avoid crash diets. Rapid weight loss can lead to a serious liver disorder called hepatic lipidosis, where too much fat becomes concentrated in the liver. Instead, aim for a gradual, steady decrease in weight. It can take as long as a year for a severely overweight cat to reach its ideal body condition.
Your veterinarian can draw up a weight loss plan that combines healthy food and the correct amount of exercize. Because it is hard to notice small weight changes in a cat you see every day, regular weighing is a good way to monitor progress. Regular visits to a vet for weigh-ins can help ensure that weight loss is taking place at the right pace.
The right diet
In order to stay healthy, cats need to eat foods that are high in proteins and low in carbohydrates. Some commercial “diet” cat food is actually low in protein and high in carbohydrates, which can cause cats to become ill. Make sure you check the ingredients to ensure you cat is getting all the protein it needs.
Most canned foods will have more proteins and lower carbs than dry foods, but it is also possible to find high-protein, low-carb dry food. If your cat continues to struggle with their weight, you might want to consider the benefits of moving them onto a specially formulated “light” cat food.
Light cat foods are less concentrated, and have a lower calorie content. They allow you to feed your cat the same portion sizes as before, with fewer calories. However, it is important to ensure that any light food you use has all of the essential nutrients your cat needs.
Many cat owners prefer free feeding. This is a healthy way to eat for a cat that is “in shape”, but it is not helpful for weight loss. Instead, consider measuring out your cat’s meals. This allows you to keep track of exactly how many calories your cat is consuming.
It can be difficult to figure out exactly how much food to give. Calories are not always clearly labelled. In addition, the feeding guides given with most cat foods are not geared for cats on a diet. Once you have decided on a brand of food, have your vet calculate exactly how much of that particular food to feed your cat in order to achieve a slow and steady weight loss.
Another way to help with weight loss is to divide the food into smaller, more frequent meals. This will help your cat to feel less hungry throughout the day, and may also reduce begging. You can draw up a chart to keep track of how much, and when, you’re feeding.
If you have several cats, it’s also a good idea to feed your overweight cat separately. This will prevent them from stealing any leftovers.
Cut out the treats
We all love to spoil our cats with little treats now and then. But if your cat eats a lot of treats on top of their normal food, the extra calories will turn into fat. In addition, commercial cat treats are high in calories and low in nutrition, so they are not helpful when your cat is trying to lose weight.
A healthier treat for cats who are trying to lose weight is very small amounts of high-protein human foods, like tiny bits of cooked chicken, or a little bit of scrambled eggs.
However, the best treat for a cat on a diet is actually their own cat food. More of the same food may not sound like a treat to you or I, but your cat will see it as a welcome extra serving of a food they already like. This is also a good way to eliminate excess calories. Simply set aside a small amount of your cat’s food to give them as treats throughout the day.
Whatever method you chose for reducing cat treats, make sure everyone in the family knows the rules. Cats can be very good at pretending they have not eaten in days.
Food is only a part of keeping your cat fit and healthy. Cats are naturally active, but once a cat is overweight, it will exercize less. This, in turn, makes losing weight even more difficult. It is important to encourage your cat to stay active.
One way you can do this is by having a dedicated daily play time each day. Spend time each day waving a ribbon on a stick, or throwing a toy mouse for your cat to chase. Buy or make a climbing and scratching tower for your cat. This will make your cat’s environment more interesting, and will encourage them to exercise.
Put some of your cat’s food into a special feeding ball. These are toys which the cat needs to play with in order to release the food inside. Or, you could place their food at the top of the stairs or on top of a climbing tower to keep them moving.
It might take some time, but the right diet and plenty of exercize will help your cat drop weight and get healthy. Without the extra pounds, your cat will feel better, live longer and be more energetic.