Just like in us humans, obesity can significantly affect a cat’s health and quality of life. It’s proven that cats with extra weight are more prone to arthritic problems in their joints, and developing diabetes. Overweight cats who suddenly stop eating are at high risk for hepatic lipidosis, a potentially life-threatening liver disease. Overall, maintaining an ideal weight will improve your cat’s quality of life, and potentially increase their life span! So what can WE do to help our feline friends maintain a healthier weight?
First, discuss the appropriate diet with your veterinarian. They can calculate the appropriate kilocalories per day your cat will need to consume to safely shed some lbs, and they can help you keep track of your cat’s weight loss. Allocate a daily amount, and feed it in small meals frequently throughout the day to help increase metabolism. This also may keep kitty happier, because eating often doesn’t “feel” like a diet.
My professional and personal experience shows me that carnivorous cats benefit from a grain-free diet. There are many over-the-counter brands available now, all without corn, wheat, soy, and grains. My veterinary medicine background tells me a lot of cats need more moisture in their diet, so perhaps canned or even raw food may be a better option for some. My cat lost a whopping 5.5 pounds over the course of a year while on a combination of grain-free dry kibble and grain-free canned food. She also had more energy, and her coat was so shiny she was almost slippery to pick up!
Second, increase your kitty’s exercise regiment! Chasing a laser light or a dangly toy can encourage a more aerobic workout for your feline. Teach your cat a few tricks, like jumping, to help keep kitty moving. Climbing and jumping are natural cat behaviors that help build muscle mass and burn calories, so utilize these in your feline’s weight loss program. Provide plenty of perches and climbing trees to keep your cat active. My Kitty was never too fond of playing with toys, so we fed her on top of a 6-foot cat tree — this way, she had to “burn to earn” every time she was hungry. In the photo, you will see Butch (a once 33 lb. rescue cat) working on his weight loss program by climbing homemade stairs in order to eat! We made a blog to track Butch’s weight loss while he was in our care, check out all the progress he made: http://www.butch.blog.com/
There are many interactive puzzle games on the market now too, turning mealtime into playtime, burning more calories while keeping your feline mentally stimulated. Put your kitty’s food into a fun toy, and watch as he has to work to get each kibble out! Also, slowing down the eating process helps your cat feel more satiated, decreasing the likelihood of begging. The favorite toy brands I recommend include the Busy Buddy line by Premier, Nina Ottosson interactive puzzle games, and the Aikiou Food Bowl.
Remember, your cat can’t do it without YOU! Measuring out food daily, and reducing treats and extra snacks is your responsibility. If you have an intolerable cat during mealtime, try an automatic feeder to discourage your cat from begging from you directly. Do not give table scraps, and keep your cat away from your dining area during meals if necessary. Spend more interactive time with your cat, and engage your kitty in exercise daily.
By loosing, your cat is actually winning. Best of luck on your feline’s journey to a healthier, happier lifestyle!