Help Your Overweight Cat Lose Extra Pounds

How can I help my cat lose weight?

Your first step is to discuss your cat’s weight with your veterinarian and come up with a reasonable weight loss goal. Your veterinarian will then work with you to initiate a weight loss plan for you to follow. Here are some tried-and-true strategies for helping your cat drop those extra pounds:

Calculate calories. If you don’t know how many calories your cat needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed her. And don’t simply go by the feeding suggestions printed on the bag.

Instead, ask your veterinarian to calculate the proper number of calories based on your cat’s age, gender, any medical conditions, and lifestyle. Another good starting point is to use this formula: Divide your pet’s ideal weight in pounds by 2.2. Multiply this figure by 30 and add 70. This number is a general estimate of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered cat — or dog — weighing between 6 and 60 pounds. Again, this is a general rule, and the actual calorie count should be based on your vet’s specific recommendations.

Measure meals. A pet owner’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is the humble measuring cup. Too many pet owners simply fill the bowl or “guesstimate” how much they’re feeding. Even worse, some owners have a “keep the bowl full” feeding mentality, allowing their cats to enjoy an all-day buffet. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has determined that feeding as few as 10 extra pieces of kibble per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats. After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed at each meal — and precisely measure the amount.

Treat tactically. If you’re going to give your pets extra goodies, make ’em count. I prefer single-ingredient treats, such as salmon or tuna flakes, for my felines. And be sure to count those additional calories as part of your pet’s total daily allotment. As few as 30 extra calories per day can become three pounds of weight gain over a year. Focus on praise, petting, and playing instead of treats.

Hustle for health. When it comes to living a longer, healthier life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. Try entertaining your cat with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy, or even a ball of paper for five to 15 minutes each day. Feeding one meal on a raised surface and the next on the floor can also encourage active, mobile pets to get some extra movement.

Cut down the carbs. Most of the cats I treat don’t need a high-carbohydrate diet. Yet that’s exactly what most of us feed our felines. As a general rule, I recommend trying a higher-protein diet first for weight loss. Opinions on dietary strategies vary, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet. If one particular formulation doesn’t work, change tactics within three months.

Weigh in regularly. During weight loss, weigh your cat every one to three months at the veterinary clinic. I recommend a weight loss goal of one percent to two percent of body weight per week. Once your cat reaches her goal weight, weigh in every three to six months to help ensure that extra pounds aren’t sneaking back on.

What if my cat begins begging for food in the middle of the night?

I’ve seen too many cat diets derailed by begging and pestering. Some tips to avoid a 2 a.m. wake-up call include:

  • Feed a high-protein diet. These tend to provide longer periods of satiety than high-carbohydrate foods.
  • Offer bedtime snacks. Offer a high-protein meal or morsel of meat or fish just before you go to bed. This could be the difference between your cat waking you at 6 a.m. instead of 3 a.m.
  • Use automated feeders. Try a feeder that can dispense a measured meal four to six times a day, and nourish your feline’s 4 a.m. hunger pangs.

Our goal as loving and responsible pet owners is to help our pets enjoy long and happy lives. Helping our cats maintain lean, fit bodies will go a long way toward keeping them healthy and active for years to come.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of HealthyPet magazine.

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