Improve your furry friend's quality of life while losing unwanted weight. Learn how to slim down your overweight cat to give her more energy and a better quality of life. Your feline is not that far removed from his wild counterparts. His body is built for speed and agility to effectively hunt through various terrain and climb high to escape would-be predators. So when you start to notice your cat's figure has started to look rounder, it's important to take action.
The ordinary house cat no longer faces the challenge of physically hunting for food, and sometimes the most exercise a house-bound kitty gets is walking across the room to the food bowl. This inactive lifestyle has probably caused your cat to put on a few unwanted pounds.
As soon as you notice your cat's added girth, you should take steps to help your feline companion lose weight.
What is Cat Obesity?
The Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine reports that about 50 percent of all house cats are overweight and some even obese. When a pet owner first brings their feline to the veterinarian for a health checkup, one of the most frequent questions is, is my cat overweight?
Feline obesity—generally viewed as a bodyweight that is 20 percent or more above average weight—is the most frequently observed nutritional disorder among domestic cats.
Is My Cat Fat?
So how can you tell if your pretty kitty is getting a little roly-poly? For some cats it's obvious. If your cat's belly touches the ground when he walks, or if he has trouble grooming because of his size, then it's high time for some changes.
But not all fat cats are obviously fat. Long fur and body type can make it challenging to catch weight issues early.
Most cats will weigh from 7 to 12 pounds, but there are many breeds that are well above or well below the average weight range for a house cat.
For example, a large Maine Coon can easily reach 15-20 lbs and still be at a healthy weight and muscle range. Whereas the exotic Singapura can weigh as little as 4 lbs fully grown!
Long-haired cats, like Persians, are a larger cat breed already, but their dense coats make them look even bigger. This can make it hard to see weight issues. If you want to learn how to tell if my cat is overweight, then look for the following signs:
- Cannot easily feel the ribs
- Round body shape
- Loss of waist
- Difficulty walking
- Excessive sleeping
- Bad temper
- Shortness of breath
- Slow movement
- Tight collar
If you suspect your cat is getting chubby, or if you are actively working on your cat's weight, then you need to know how to check your cat's weight and appearance regularly.
Body Conditioning Score
One way to check your cat's weight is to rate them using the body conditioning score for cats. The body conditioning score is a way of inspecting your cat visually and by feeling them to see if they have an appropriate and healthy amount of body fat.
With your cat in a standing position, look at your cat from a profile as well as from a top-down view. Look at hips, shoulders, waist, and chest, and gently feel your cat's ribs. Check out our body conditioning score chart for cats below:
How Much Should My Cat Weigh?
Though most house cats are going to fit within the average weight range we mentioned above, some breeds can produce some pretty abnormally sized kitties.
There is a difference between having a big cat and having a fat cat. Look into your cat's breed to find out what the normal weight range should be. This is a good starting point when deciding on a weight management plan for your cat.
Keep in mind, not every cat perfectly fits their breed standards, and mixed breeds can be hard to peg down. Talk to your vet to make sure you know what your cat should weigh.
How to Weigh Your Cat
Regularly weighing your cat can help you keep their weight in check, but how do you weigh your cat? You can't just plop them down on your bathroom scale and get an accurate measurement while your kitty wiggles and squirms.
Instead, weigh your cat by weighing yourself first and then holding the cat in your arms to weigh both of you. Then subtract your weight from the total number to get your cat's weight. This is a fantastic way to see if your cat is overweight.
For the most accurate weight measurements, drop by your vet's office or local pet store to use their scale. These scales will give you accurate weights to 2 decimal points. This will help you track even minor weight loss or gain.
Risks of Feline Obesity
When a cat is overweight, it becomes a catch 22 because being physically heavy actually inhibits its regular activity and eventually affects the animal's quality of life.
Obesity also causes a variety of severe health disorders that can shorten the pet's lifespan. Remember, an obese cat is an unhealthy cat.
An overweight cat can suffer from the following:
With osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to erode. As the smooth tissue within the joints breaks down, the ends of the bones begin to rub together, causing inflammation and pain.
This inflammation and pain will limit your cat's mobility leading to more weight issues as your cat won't be able to exercise appropriately.
A genetic disorder, the incurable condition occurs from a malformation of the thigh bone's femoral head causing it to not fit properly within the socket of the hip bone.
Excessive weight compounds the problem by moving the bone even further out of the socket due to pressure. Every time the pet walks, the joint slips which cause pain and discomfort.
A disease that leads to insufficient production of insulin and the inability to regulate blood sugar. Cats that eat inappropriate diets are more prone to both obesity and diabetes.
Though diabetes can be genetic, obesity is a risk factor and can play a role in the severity of diabetes. Talk to your vet if you notice any of these feline obesity symptoms:
- Increased urination
- Drinking more water than usual
- Sudden or sporadic overeating
- Drastic weight changes
- Weakness or loss of mobility
- Vomiting and loss of appetite
What Causes a Cat to Gain Weight?
Weight gain occurs when the body increases its storage of fat. Usually, weight gain is caused by excessive eating coupled with a lack of exercise. However, sometimes there are other contributing factors.
- Age: Older cats are less energetic and require fewer calories, so they can quickly gain weight if you do not adjust their diet accordingly.
- Breed: Certain breeds are known to gain weight, such as the Maine Coon and the Persian.
- Gender: Female cats gain more weight than males.
- Neutering/spaying: The metabolism of a fixed cat is lower, and they require fewer calories; they are twice as likely to become obese.
- Overfeeding: Keeping the food bowl full 24 hours causes weight gain. Commercial cat foods are formulated to entice a cat with added fats and salt, which improves the food’s taste and causes the animal to overeat.
- Feeding habits: Feeding people food and table scraps can lead to weight gain.
The Importance of Feline Nutrition
If you have an obese cat, the food you feed plays a crucial role in weight loss goals. You'll need to become very food conscious, take the time to read ingredients, and control portions. If you feed the kitty too much, the pet will continue to gain weight or not shed any pounds.
There are many commercial weight loss cat foods available but don't get tricked by clever marketing. Cats are carnivores, so carb-heavy "weight loss" cat formulas often won't help you achieve your cat's weight loss goals.
The best cat food for weight loss is high in protein and low in carbs. While feeding a low-fat and low-calorie cat food may seem like the best option, these diets often don't supply the energy your cat needs to stay active.
Instead, look for foods that are rich in animal protein and have healthy fibre sources to keep your kitty feeling fuller for longer and supply long-term energy for your cat to build muscle.
Fat cats are fat because they are taking in more calories than they are using, so it's important to balance your cat's portions with their daily activity levels.
It's very common to free-feed cats, as they tend to prefer grazing, but obese cats often have poor eating habits and will over eat when food is left out all day. Cats need time to learn portion control.
Instead consider true free feeding, which means allowing your cat to eat what they can in a short period of time and then removing the food until the next scheduled mealtime.
Instead of grazing or overeating, your cat will learn to eat the appropriate amount of calories they need to support their energy needs until the next meal.
This method doesn't work for all cats, as some are just to food driven to portion control themselves. If this sounds like your cat, then it's up to you to feed specific portions for each meal.
Weight Loss Cat Food
Is weight loss cat food really as good as it claims? Well, it's debatable. For some cats, limiting calories can be a helpful tool, but some brands sacrifice quality for lower calories.
Instead of just looking for food that boasts weight loss, look for a food that offers high-quality calories that are appropriate for your cat. For a carnivore, you want healthy animal proteins, healthy fats, and limited, low-glycemic carbs.
When picking the best cat food for weight loss, focus on natural food choices that cut out unnecessary ingredients like wheat, soy, and corn. Here are a few of our favourite high-quality weight management cat foods:
Weight Management Dry Food for Cats
Kibble is the most popular food format for cats and dogs. It's convenient and cost-effective, so it's no wonder so many cats are on kibble diets. So what's the best kibble for weight loss?
Instinct Raw Boost Healthy Weight for Cats
This meaty kibble is a wonderful choice. It is high in fibre for easy digestion and contains real chicken fresh healthy ingredients. Raw Boost formulas contain high-quality kibble in a freeze-dried raw meat coating and have freeze-dried raw nuggets mixed in with the kibble for added flavour and nutrients to support your cat's health and digestion.
Orijen Fit & Trim Cat Food
For true carnivores, Orijen Fit & Trim doesn't shy away from protein or calories. Instead, this low carb and nutrient-dense diet helps to support muscle and long-term energy instead of quick calories that a lazy fat cat won't use. This multi-protein diet offers a wide range of natural nutrients from real food ingredients.
Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Adult Trim Cat Food
As our highest protein and highest meat weight management cat food, Nulo knows that your cat thrives on animal protein. With added metabolism and digestion boosters like probiotics and L-carnitine, this formula is designed to help your cat's body digest and use calories better, so that they can lose fat and build muscle naturally.
Canned Cat Food for Weight Loss
Though kibble is popular, canned or wet cat foods can be a great addition to your cat's weight loss journey. Though weight management canned cat foods are rare, any high-quality canned cat food will be suitable. Here are a few reasons that wet cat food is ideal for weight management:
Moisture Supports Digestion
Moisture plays an important role in your cat's digestion and nutrient distribution. Kibble-fed cats are often dehydrated because instinctually, cats don't drink enough water. They need to get most of their moisture from their diet.
A well-hydrated cat is going to have healthier digestion, and a wet diet will help to move nutrients around your cat's body more efficiently. By using nutrients and calories better, your cat's body will be better at distributing energy to support activity.
Canned Foods are Calorie Dense
Wet cat food is naturally more calorie dense than kibble diets because they require fewer filler ingredients and fewer carbs to create the texture. This allows your cat's diet to focus more on high-quality meats that support a healthy weight.
Canned foods do need to be properly portion controlled to support weight loss, but they are highly palatable and encourage scheduled feeding times instead of grazing. Here are a few of our top picks:
What About Weight Loss Supplements?
Many pet owners are surprised to learn that weight loss pet food supplements can help kitty shed pounds. Digestive aids like probiotics and fibre can boost digestion and help better support appropriate energy levels for your cat. Check out these awesome weight management aids for cats:
Fruitables Weight Loss Supplement
Fruitables Weight Loss Supplement relies on a blend of pumpkin and oatmeal to help your cat lose up to 2% of their excess body weight per week when used regularly. It acts as a great supplement that helps your cat feel full while enjoying the boost of added fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E.
OmegaAlpha Probiotic 8
This blend of healthy bacteria helps correct long-term digestive issues that have led to weight gain and poor health in cats. Omega Alpha Probiotic 8 helps kickstart digestion and metabolism.
10 Tricks to Slim Down an Overweight Cat
Below you'll find a variety of ways to help kitty lose weight. You might want to try several of the methods to get your cat back in shape and keep the kitty at its target weight.
1. Stop Kitty Grazing
All cats enjoy grazing. They will return to the dry cat food bowl any time they get bored. Unfortunately, chronic grazing leads to overeating. You'll need to wean your cat off the grazing habit by only placing the food bowl out for one hour at mealtime and then putting the food away.
2. Say No to Treats
Pet owners encounter a bevy of tasty treats, and you probably love spoiling your cat with the yummies. However, the morsels are high in calories and can quickly tip the scales and shatter your cat's diet goals. If your cat comes to you begging for a treat, try to play with the kitty instead of supplying food. The gift of your time will become your cat's new weight loss treat.
3. Make Your Cat Work for Food
It won't hurt your cat to work a little to enjoy a bowl of food. Cats are natural-born hunters, so move your cat's food bowl to a new location every time you feed. Keep kitty guessing and hunting for food. It's a beautiful way to encourage exercise as your cat hunts your home for dinner.
4. Encourage Energy Bursts
Just like lions and tigers, a cat is designed for short energy bursts. The majority of the time, the cat will spend napping. It would be best if you encouraged the temporary energy boosts with play sessions throughout the day.
Check out some of our best Interactive Cat Toys to Keep Your Cat Active.
5. Use a Feeding Ball
A wide assortment of feeding balls are available that make your cat work for a tasty morsel of food. The brightly coloured balls are designed so you can tuck a little food in the ball. Your cat will enjoy batting the ball around in an effort to dislodge the food from the ball.
6. Take Your Cat for a Walk
This idea might not work for all cats, but some kitties enjoy going outdoors for an excursion. Hook your cat up to a leash and harness and let the kitty enjoy supervised outdoor playtime. No, the cat probably will not walk on the leash like a dog, but if you sit outside with your furry friend, they might play and try to hunt bugs which are all great forms of exercise.
7. Supply Ample Fresh Water
Water gives your cat a 'full' feeling. Most kitties will drink water when they cannot find food, and they are feeling bored. Try a pet water fountain which has been shown to encourage cats to increase their water consumption substantially.
8. Use Climbing Posts and Cat Trees
Many cats are climbers, and most enjoy keeping their toenails in top shape. Providing cat trees and scratchers to encourage the cat to exercise by scratching and climbing.
9. Boost Kitty's Metabolism
The supplement L-Carnitine has been shown to increase a cat's metabolism because your cat liver converts the fatty acids and fat cells into energy. Discuss the use of L-Carnitine with your veterinarian to see if it's the right choice for your animal.
10. Cut Carbs
Many commercial cat diets are much higher in carbs than you think, and these quick and often empty calories are contributing to your cat's weight. Opt for meaty foods and treats instead.
Keep Trying Your Best
Slimming down your tubby tabby is not easy. It takes dedication and consistency for both you and your furry buddy.
You'll need to figure out the best food for an overweight cat on top of learning how to tell if a cat is overweight or not. Maybe your kitty isn't that fat, or perhaps the animal is dangerously fat. The right weight loss plan for one feline might not work for another so some trial and error is to be expected.
Do you have a fat cat at home? Let us know what you do to help slim down your overweight cat. Share what has worked and what hasn't in the comments below!