A 2018 survey revealed that about 60 percent of cats in the United States were overweight or obese. Obesity is the most frequently observed nutritional disorder in domestic cats, and the consequences can be serious. Our team at Just Cats Clinic wants your cat to live a long, healthy life by your side, and provide tips to help keep them fit and trim.

#1: Realize how excess weight can affect your cat

Overweight cats typically have shorter life spans than cats who maintain an ideal weight. They also tend to interact less with their families, and be less active and energetic. Overweight cats are more likely to develop serious conditions, including:

  • Type II diabetes — Overweight cats are three times more likely to develop this problematic disease, which causes elevated blood glucose concentrations and an inability to use the glucose as an energy source.
  • Heart disease — Excess weight places an extra burden on a cat’s heart and vascular system, which can lead to heart disease.
  • High blood pressure — If your cat is overweight, their heart has to work harder to pump blood through their body, which strains their arteries, and results in high blood pressure.
  • Cancer — Overweight cats are at increased risk for certain cancers, especially intra-abdominal cancers.
  • Arthritis — Excess weight puts additional stress on a cat’s joints, exacerbating arthritis. 
  • Joint injuries — Overweight cats are at higher risk for developing joint injuries.

#2: Know your cat’s body conditioning score

Knowing your cat’s body conditioning score (BCS) can help you gauge their weight status, and make tracking their progress easier if they need to lose weight. Assessing a cat’s BCS involves a rib check, a profile check, and an overhead check, using a five point scoring system.

  • 1 — The ribs are visible on a short-haired cat. No palpable fat is present. The lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones are easily palpated. A severe abdominal tuck is present.
  • 2 — The ribs are easily palpable under minimal fat covering. The lumbar vertebrae are obvious. The waist behind the ribs is obvious. Abdominal fat is minimal.
  • 3 — This is considered the ideal body weight. A well proportioned waist can be observed behind the ribs. The ribs are palpable under a slight fat covering. A minimal abdominal fat pad is present.
  • 4 — The ribs are not easily palpable under a moderate fat covering. The waist is poorly distinguished. The abdomen has an obvious rounding, and a moderate abdominal fat pad is present. 
  • 5 — The ribs are not palpable under a heavy fat cover. Heavy fat deposits are present over the lumbar area, face, and limbs. The abdomen is distended, and no waist is present. An extensive abdominal fat pad is present.

#3: Feed your cat canned food

Canned food typically has a higher protein and lower carbohydrate content than dry food, and is lower in calories. Canned food is 70 to 80 percent water, so this will also increase your cat’s water intake.

To avoid overfeeding your cat, use Pet Nutrition Alliance’s calorie calculator, and divide their daily allowance into several small meals you dole out throughout the day. 

#4: Schedule your cat’s feeding time

Your cat should have a scheduled meal time, as opposed to free feeding, which allows them to eat too much. Feeding canned food has the added benefit of encouraging distinct meal times.

#5: Make your cat work for their meal

Feed your cat in a food puzzle toy. Making them work for their food will encourage movement, and also keep them mentally engaged. These devices slow down your cat’s eating while providing physical and mental exercise.

#6: Exercise your cat

Getting your cat to participate in physical activity can be difficult. Try to play with your cat at least 10 minutes twice a day. Use laser pointers and wand toys to get them moving. Some cats also enjoy chasing ping pong balls or squeaky toys. Change out your cat’s toys so they don’t get bored, and add vertical spaces so your cat can climb and jump, to help keep them active. 

#7: In a multi-cat household, ensure your overweight cat is fed appropriately

If you have multiple cats but only one is overweight, you will need to ensure the overweight cat does not overeat. Methods to accomplish this include:

  • Feeding the cats separately — Designate a room for your overweight cat, and one for your other cats. At mealtime, feed them separately, and remove any uneaten food in both rooms after 15 to 30 minutes. 
  • Using a microchip feeder — If your cats are microchipped, you can use a microchip feeder, which will open only for the cat with the designated chip.

#8: Schedule frequent rechecks for your cat

Your cat’s weight loss should be supervised by a veterinary professional. Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Just Cats Clinic will be glad to help oversee your cat’s progress. Consistent weight loss is ideal, because weight loss that occurs too fast can result in severe liver disease (i.e., hepatic lipidosis). Your cat’s weight should be monitored monthly, to ensure the program is effective. 

Weight loss is never fun, but your cat can be fit and trim in no time if you follow these tips. If your cat could lose a few pounds, contact our Cat Friendly practice, and we will devise a weight loss program especially for them. You can find additional information abou feline nutrition on the Pet Nutrition Alliance website.