If you know me and have read through some of my other content, you know how adamant I am in the connection between obesity in cats that eat dry food. You can read more about that here, if you want more about that. I touch more upon how wet food for cats can actually connect to weight loss.
I want to dig a little bit further into the steps necessary in order for your cat to lose weight. In order for this to work for your cat, it is definitely preferred to do this if your cat is already eating wet food when trying these tips, but I’m not stopping you from trying with dry food. The fact is that you are going to have much better results with wet food.
I have seen so many people respond to some of my posts with “Well my cat won’t even touch wet food,” but that all started with YOU. You are the one that conditioned your cat to eat dry food. Cats are not born with the instinct to eat dry food and absolutely do not have a preference to it. They will definitely eat wet food if given when first weaned off of their mother’s milk.
Of course when you are adopting at a shelter, a cat will most likely have been eating dry food since its probably cheapest for them at the shelter. I understand in that regard, but at some point they should learn to eat wet food too!
Anyways, an overweight cat is more prone to health risks, just like any human. For the sake of your cat’s current and future health (and your wallet) its best to start NOW and get your cat to lose weight! Otherwise, your cat is much more prone to developing type 2 diabetes, respiratory problems, non-allergic skin issues, and osteoarthritis. This is only the tip of the iceberg in the dangers of obesity.
Let’s look at some helpful and easy tips to get you started!
1. Get A Scale- Find Out Your Cat’s Weight!
If you are committed in getting your cat to lose weight, you will have to buy or use a scale that you already have. This is key because you’re going to monitor your cat’s weight about every three or four days at the minimum. You have to be at a point where you know your cat’s weight most of the time, at least in the beginning.
I have heard infant scales are idea for measuring a cat, since those will tend to scoop a cats shape a little more, and you won’t have to hold down your cat as much when using a human scale. You can buy these types of scales at stores like Wal-Mart or Target for around $30 to $40.
If you don’t already have a scale to see what your cat weighs and don’t have anything else at the moment, a great guideline is to look at your cat’s waistline from an aerial view.
- Your cat should have a visible waist, but the bones of the ribs shouldn’t be so visible. You shouldn’t be able to feel the ribs too much either.
This is what you should be looking for. Your cat was built to be a lean machine!
If your cat doesn’t have much of a waist, and is also weighing above 11 lbs, 12 at the max, then they are overweight and its time to take action.
If you have a scale, your adult cat should weigh around a healthy 9 to 11 pounds. Some breeds DO have some healthy weight differences, like Siamese cats, which can healthily weigh 5 pounds. Also, depending on the size of a Maine Coon cat, they can weight up to 25 pounds!
2. Get Ready To Be Patient- Your Cat’s Safety Is Everything
Before I go more into detail, I want to emphasize how important it is to do this weight loss plan SLOWLY. Just like humans, cats can become malnourished and unhealthy from losing weight too rapidly. Cats are especially dependent on having protein and appropriate muscle mass to thrive.
To understand better about your cat’s weight, feel around the back of your cat’s head, and where the backbone is. It should feel like there is a lot of mass, or maybe you can’t feel much since your cat is overweight. What you want to know is that if these areas become excessively prominent, this is a sign of muscle mass loss which basically means your cat is not getting enough protein.
- You want no more than 1% to 2% of weight loss per week. If there is anymore weight loss than this, your cat can develop Hepatic Lipidosis, which is what happens to anorexic cats, or if your cat has consumed less than their daily caloric needs over several days.
I’m not saying this will happen to your cat, but you should look at all perspectives of the situation.
- So in about 16 weeks or, your cat should lose 3 pounds or so if done correctly. By the week, that’s about losing 3 ounces. This will be the pace you’re looking for. Slow and steady wins the race.
You are looking for weight loss, but you are also looking for excessive weight loss when you use your scale to weigh your cat. Don’t give up, and don’t let in to your cat’s demands to be fed more! Your cat feeling hungry will not kill them.
3. Set Up Meal Times For Your Cat
Definitely one of the most important steps to make for your cat to lose weight. This is 100% essential and must be done! You will have to put faith in yourself to ignore your cat’s constant demands for food. It will happen, especially if the’they’re not used to having meal times.
This is where it all begins. Everything starts to come together at this point, and you’ll want to keep a close eye on your cat’s weight with your scale.
- To set up meal times, there are no real steps, just start! Depending on your schedule, you can feed twice a day, three times a day, or whatever fits you and your kitty best. I personally do about 4 times a day, since my cat is a senior, and I am trying to actually get him to gain a little bit of weight.
- As long as you are not free feeding (which means that food is in your cat’s bowl all the time) then your plan will work.
How to escape the meows, you ask? Go grab something to eat! Go see a movie, hang out with your friends! Ignore the cries for food. Don’t give in, it will be all worth it in the end and will ultimately benefit the health of your cat.
- If your cat starts to bother you at night about food when you’re trying to sleep, I would do their heaviest feeding time right before you go to bed, to hold your cat over until morning.
Another little tip- if you’re trying to get your cat to transition to eating wet food, the hunger will drive them a little more to want to eat the wet food in front of them.
4. Measure Your Cat’s Food As Accurately As You Can
At least until your cat starts to gain a consistent healthy weight, you will have to measure your cat’s food accurately. Being able to read your cat food can label and guaranteed analysis will be crucial here. I have covered this topic here, and I highly recommend looking into it if you’re not familiar with reading cat food labels.
Just a note: The feeding guideline on a can of food is what you need to feed your cat to maintain that weight, so that is a good place to start for your brand of choice.
You will need to know how many calories (kcals on the cans) your cat needs to lose weight.
- For example, a healthy 10 pound indoor cat needs around 200 calories to maintain that weight. If you were to give them more calories they would gain weight, and if you were to give them fewer calories they would lose weight. Simple, right?
A can of Soulistic Chicken Dinner has 166 kcals in a can. So for that healthy 10 pound cat to maintain that weight, they would need to eat about a can and a half every day.
So a cat that weighs around 20 pounds is probably eating around 350 calories in a day. Yikes!
I would start with 45 to 50 calories less of their normal calorie intake to start losing that weight, and see how your cat reacts. Every cat is different and you must remember to do this slowly.
Here is a calculator for a base estimate on where you need to start.
5. Get Your Cat To Exercise
The idea here is to maximize the calories lost in conjunction with your cat eating fewer calories. Your cat should be spending more energy as well, and this can be a fun part of the process! More energy spent equals more calories burnt.
- There are several ways to do this. You could invest in some toys if you don’t already have some, or find some battle caps and watch your cat run after them as you throw them.
- However, you can also use treats or your cat’s dry food, if you’re still transitioning your cat to eating wet food (it can be your cat’s dry food portion.) Throw it across the room and your cat will run after it in motivation for a quick bite to eat. A few kibbles won’t hurt the calorie count too much, especially if your cat is spending more energy in return.
Maybe you can spread the treats across the room in different spots so your cat can “hunt” for the food. Be creative! Just make sure you play with your cat or get them to exercise some of that weight off.
Doing some kind of exercise is ideal daily for your cat, but if that isn’t possible then try to do it at least 3 or 4 times a week.
6. Take Pictures As Your Cat Progresses
It’s not so much a “tip” as a motivational aspect of the process. Motivation is everything!
Take a picture on Day 1 of your cat’s weight loss plan and compare it to the current day. This is to remind you that progress is happening, even if you don’t notice it right away. Make a journal entry or a log or something and record your cat’s weight and date. Do something to make this process memorable and as enjoyable as you can.
The more invested you are personally in your cat’s weight loss, the more successful you’ll be. It will just make the process that much smoother.
Also, take pictures at milestones. For example, if your cat weighed 17 lbs at the start of this weight loss journey, take a picture at 15 or 13lbs. This is completely up to you, but I feel like taking a picture at every two pounds of weight loss is very noticeable.
Celebrate when you reach that glorious 10 lb or 11 lb milestone! You both deserve it.
7. Visit Your Cat’s Veterinarian More Often
I think its a great idea to involve your veterinarian in the process. You can also get them to accurately weigh your cat as well, if you can’t get a scale for some reason.
Just be wary about them trying to get your get to go on a Hill’s Science diet for weight loss. I would absolutely not recommend this at all because it is dry food, which we are staying away from for this weight loss plan for your cat. Although being “recommended” by veterinarians, it is way too high in carbohydrates and contains way too many ingredients that are not species appropriate.
Use your veterinarian as a “tool” to help guide your cat to appropriate weight loss. They will be able to help you indicate whether your cat is losing weight at a healthy rate.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions either! They are there to help you and really do have the best intentions in mind.
8. Buy only High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Food For Your Cat
This goes without saying at any time of your cat’s life, but it is especially important during the time your cat is trying to lose weight. You could do some research on what food is best for your cat, but I have already compiled a great list of foods that are high in protein, and low in carbohydrates here.
Low fat is important too, but not as much as you might think. Your cat can eat healthy fats and still lose their desired amount of weight. Quality of food is key.
- I would recommend a protein count no lower than 8%, and a carb count lower than 2% for weight loss.
- Fat content should be around 2% to 4%
Your cat needs to eat this quality of food because that is what their little bodies are BUILT to process. Your kitty’s body will return to an optimal metabolization rate once this over feeding cycle becomes reversed. That is once you make it there, however…
Some more food for thought. You’ll never see a cat in the wild searching for grains or plant proteins, which is what lower quality canned and dry foods consist of. Just keep that though in your head.
Overall, this part of the process can be full of trial and error, and there is no correct food I can recommend to you, since every cat has different needs and metabolization rates. Just do your best and everything will fall into place.
9. Get Your Family Involved
Nothing is better than having other people that are familiar to you help you through a difficult project. Why not have them help you out here? Especially since your cat is a big part of the family! It will make everything so much easier if your spouse helps to keep an eye on the kitty if you’re not home, and to help you out.
- Explain what you’re doing and have them help out, the process could be a little faster this way too if its not just you doing all the work. There’s less of a chance of relapse if your family is there to back you up.
Just remember to communicate what you’re doing and where you’re at. Make a chart of progress and stick it on the refrigerator.
Having a dedicated weight loss plan for your cat is also a great way to teach an important lesson with your child, if you do have one. There’s a lot of opportunity for learning here! Measuring portions, basic math, teaching about responsibility, even learning about what hard work and perseverance can achieve.
Everyone has the opportunity to learn and fix their mistakes, because if you think about it, your cat didn’t get to their current weight on their own. A cat will not suddenly become fat on its own.
That was a big thing for me when I realized Shadow was overweight years ago- you have to recognize your own mistakes and accept it.
10. Don’t Stop What You’ve Started!
Most importantly, don’t stop halfway through the process and give up. You WILL get used to the routines and it will be hard at first. But once you and your cat get through those rough first few weeks, the rest is history.
If you give up, you’ll have wasted so much time and money getting everything together. Just see it through, even through the toughest times when it seems like no progress is being made. These instances will happen, but it will be even worse when you lose all of your progress due to your inability to monitor your cat’s health. It will be on you if your get develops a future illness from their obesity.
I know it is hard to keep up with things sometimes when you have your own kids, a job, and other things to do, but that’s why it is so important to integrate your cat’s weight loss plan into your life as early as possible. Find the right time to start and dedicate yourself to help your cat. You owe it to them and they deserve more.
This is sort of where all of that motivation comes into play, and why I think taking pictures of your cat during this process is important. Look back at where you started and find the motivation to keep it moving!
Most importantly, your cat will thank you later, and your wallet as well. You will ultimately save a lot of time and money in the long run if you don’t have to worry about an illness from your car being overweight plaguing you.
I hope this can help you get started. It can be exhausting thinking about weight loss, especially for someone else that isn’t you. With such a tiny little body, a cat’s body is much more sensitive to calories and fat content than you would think.
The months will pass and with some dedication, your cat will come back to a healthy weight. Like I have mentioned, be patient, and be willing to learn as there will definitely be some ups and downs during this process.
What do you think? What are some of your thoughts towards this process? I want to hear what you think. Have you ever had a fat cat in your life before? Cute as they might be, its still a sad situation in my eyes.
Any questions about why I’m so adamantly against dry food for cats? I’m down to talk with anyone about this. And, no I don’t hate you if you feed your cat dry food, I just feel like we can do better for our cats.
Leave some comments below and I’ll get right back to you!