Tips For Helping Cats Lose Weight

Weight gain and obesity are big problems for indoor cats. The sedentary lifestyle combined with plentiful food really packs on the pounds. Excessive weight causes a host of health problems including diabetes, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease in cats just like it does in humans. Here are my tips for dieting overweight cats:

1) Feed canned food, not dry. In my experience, dry food does not satisfy a cat’s appetite for long. They gobble it up then return for more in a couple hours. I call these cats ‘dry food junkies’.  Use a brand formulated for weight control to keep the calories down.

2) Practice strict portion control. Ask your veterinarian about the proper amount to feed your cat. Remember, the recommendations on the can or bag are general guidelines.

3) Establish a regular feeding schedule. Cats cycle through a variety of activities during the day. They wake up, prowl for food, eat, groom then sleep again. To burn calories, prolong the time devoted to prowling for food by feeding twice a day. A hungry cat will wander around their environment looking for food. Sometimes this means hunting while other times, it means following the humans around begging. Either way, it burns calories.

4) Stop leaving dry food out. Some cats including two of my own, Roxie and Mauka, can’t handle free feeding. These felines “live to eat” instead of “eating to live”.

5) Schedule exercise sessions every day. Start slow with 5 minutes of active play twice a day and work up to 15 minutes. My cats love chasing feathers or a fake mouse on the end of a string. I play with them until they lie on their sides and pant, give them a 2 minute break, then start again. It’s great fun for all of us!

6) Weigh the cat once a week. To avoid problems such as hepatic lipidosis, I recommend gradual weight loss. To be safe, I recommend a half a pound per month.

Roxie on first day of diet.
Roxie on first day of diet.
Roxie - After
Roxie – 5 months into diet she’s lost 2 pounds.

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.