It has been conservatively estimated that at least half the domestic cats in this country are overweight. This is a situation which real pet lovers should take seriously, rather than brushing it off. In fact, it’s very unhealthy for your cat to be overweight, and it can seriously affect its overall health, as well as the cat’s expected lifespan. Excess weight is relatively easy to identify in your cat since pouches of flesh can protrude on both sides. A healthier, slimmer cat will have a ‘straight-line’ profile down to the ground, rather than the saddle-bag look characteristic of an overweight cat.
Given the fact that your cat’s health and longevity can be severely affected by being overweight, as a pet owner, you should do what you can to help your cat lose weight so that it can enjoy better health and greater longevity.
Manage Calories and Fat Intake
The healthiest foods for cats are highly digestible, with a high meat content. Domestic cats have evolved over centuries from predators in the wild which were obligate carnivores, creatures with digestive systems adapted to extracting their nutrition from meats. Domestication has changed many of the habits of house cats, but not their natural digestive systems.
A great way to control fat intake for your cat is to feed it canned or raw foods. If your cat’s primary diet consists of dry foods, make sure that the dry foods you’re feeding it are specially formulated to promote weight loss. These kinds of dry foods will include sufficient levels of nutrition, with only small amounts of calories and fat.
In general terms, the most beneficial approach to feeding your overweight cat is similar to the ideal eating approach for humans – feed them smaller and more frequent meals. Most packaged or canned cat foods will include guidelines for how much to feed your cat each day, and in some cases, will even recommend measured portions.
This is a good idea, because these recommended portions do follow nutritional guidelines on how to maintain good health. You can go a step further by calculating the total recommended food portion to be given your cat each day, and dividing that into five or six smaller portions. This way, the total amount will be the same, but smaller portions each time will space out the meal times, and keep your cat from feeling too hungry.
Keep Your Overweight Cat Active
Studies have shown that pet owners who play with their cats frequently, and who encourage their cats to play on their own with toys, will generally have healthier pets that are less prone to being overweight. There are of course, other benefits to frequent playtime with your cat, such as bonding more with family members, but keeping it more active with increased play is one of the most beneficial for its overall well-being.
It may take you a while to find out which kind of toys your cat prefers, but start out with toys that look like prey, such as a mouse, a big insect, or a bird. Many cats also have favorite colors, and with a little experimentation, you might be able to find out if your own cat has a favorite, which you can then exploit by purchasing toys of that color.
You can also increase your cat’s interest in any particular toy by including a dab of honeysuckle or catnip on the toy, which will appeal to its sense of smell. If you want to get creative, you can build your own indoor obstacle course or fitness trail, where you create little tunnels, plank ramps, chairs, and tables for your cat to navigate. By including healthy treats along the way, you will encourage participation, and increase the likelihood of their continued interest.
Cater the Environment to the Cat
In some cases, you may need to adapt your home environment somewhat to encourage more active behavior from your cat, especially in situations where you have multiple cats at home. It’s typical in such cases for one cat to be more dominant, and to eat a larger share of the food provided. You can prevent this by feeding the larger cat on the floor, and create feeding areas more elevated for the other cats, or you can feed the less dominant cats in separate rooms entirely.
In single-cat homes, you can add to your cat’s enjoyment of the home environment by providing empty boxes or bags, paper towel tubes, or toilet paper tubes, cat trees, or scratching posts to make your cat more comfortable and more active. When a cat feels less anxiety or stress at home, it will generally be more inclined to participate in fun activities that represent good exercise and healthy activity, all of which contribute to helping your overweight cat shed pounds and enjoy better health.